Saturday, February 27, 2010

Not Good Enough?

As part of the Daisy Troop Cookie Drive, my daughter, her friend A, and the mothers sold cookies at Old Navy today.  As all mothers do, we began chatting away on a variety of topics. (Both of our husbands travel extensively for work, so I've found another mom who identifies with me!!) Our conversation turned to school, and I soon became saddened by what she shared.

She volunteers as part of the school Kids Reads program, and mentors a young kindergarten child.  As her meetings progressed, she felt the child was reading okay and had a conversation with the teacher.  What transpired,  bothered and saddened this mom.  Because the school district has a high achieving clientele, the gap between those working on grade level and those above grade level is so great.  This kindergarten child was one at grade level and the teacher was using the mentor to help bridge that gap.  My heart cried for this young child.

This mom also shared that her daughter, A, is one of those students.  Her teacher is asking her to frontload A with material at home so that she can be ready when those concepts are introduced.  A is doing homework all the time.  I gave the mom my favorite educational website that A can do at home, which is more fun than paper/pencil worksheets.

All afternoon I've been marinating this notion that "on grade level" is not good enough.  What are we teaching our students at the young age of 6 or 7?  Where is the differentiation?  If a true workshop model was in place, wouldn't kids like A succeed along their own continuum?  Children need to be cherished and honored for the work they do.  When I think of all the great leaders of our time, were they told they were not good enough?


  1. My heart is cringing as I read this. Too often in society today this appears to be the message. "On grade level" is not good enough anymore. Children must feel the pressure from their parents to be above and beyond average and thus the joy of learning has the potential to be lost. We, as educators, must work towards helping students realize that they will all succeed and that through a love of learning their greatest potential can be met!

  2. Oh, that makes me sad. In this test-driven society our perception of what is acceptable has changed drastically. How sad that this little girl's first experience of school is one of constant pressure to always do better. As teachers, we need to continue to stress the importance of always learning and finding the joy in learning new things. I'm glad you were able to have a conversation with the mom and help her have a new perspective.

  3. Thanks for sharing, I am always debating & defending this very point, our kids are where they should be when they should be! They need to be 5,6,7 etc. when they are actually that age! It is challenging as educators when we see kids being pushed and hand feed to do more & look smarter. I often ask myself am I expecting enough? My kids work does not look like Mrs.So and So's kid's or my kids aren't doing that independently, what am I doing or not doing? Then I take a deep breath, I look at my kids, I look at the standards, I pull out a few of my friends from the books on my shelf and I see kids where they should be then I hear Ann Marie "It takes a lot of slow to grow" then I celebrate all my right where they are!

  4. The part that most concerned me was the fact that the teacher is requesting the parents to frontload concepts...this child must be working all the time! Surely kindergarten is a time to begin the process of viewing learning as a joyous adventure? As a middle school teacher, I have parents who focus on "why is my child not getting A's?" rather than celebrate their child's progress as readers, writers and thinkers. So much pressure is placed on our children these days - they're expected to be scholar/athletes from such a young age...I think our kids miss out on so much in this pursuit of "academic excellence".

  5. This really resonated with me. I moved from the upper grades down to first grade last year and I feel the 'on grade level' push much more intensely now. I struggle with it even.

    It seems like kids don't have the chance to develop naturally. We have decided they must be 'here' at the end of kindergarten and 'here' at the end of first grade, etc. But we know that every kid is different. It seems cruel to set so many kids up for failure so young.

  6. This is a powerful statement of the reality I often see as a reading teacher. Teachers and parents are always trying to bring children up to the highest achieving students in the class. I appreciate and try to share my excitement with y peers on the growth children make on a daily basis. Children are not race cars trying to get there first. They should be enjoying the journey as they go along the way.