We had Callie’s parent teacher conference a few weeks ago. As usual, I was anxious to hear how Callie was doing in school. It took her awhile to transition into kindergarten, as she’d went to preschool in the town that I worked, and then started school in a different town where we lived. It was heartbreaking having her come home day after day when she first started and tell me how much she missed her preschool teachers and friends. I knew it would pass, but getting through it was definitely tough.
Callie’s teacher is younger than I am, and has no kids. I try not to judge because I know how much I hate when other’s judge me; but it was hard. I wondered how a girl fresh out of college could have the patience to teach my precious 5-year-old. Little did I know, I would be proven wrong…which often happens when I make assumptions about something prior to research.
Since the day she started school, Callie came home showing extreme interest in learning. She’d recount the things she’d been taught with pride. “Mom, the center of my tongue is telling me this food is salty.” When she was eating. Or, “Mom, here’s where my tailbone, my lungs, and my heart are.” Pointing to the correct body parts. I was impressed! These people were teaching her things, and she was actually retaining them! She was listening! Amazing!
We showed up at Callie’s first parent-teacher conference and her teacher went through a folder of things Callie had learned, and showed us her progress. It made me proud to see how much she’d been taught. They’d learned about the body and it’s functions and parts, and they’d learned the full alphabet and were nearly reading. They’d even learned how to count in spanish. I was even more impressed! She waited until the end to tell me the only part they were having trouble with was associating the right sounds with the right letters; a process that’s essential to reading. She assured me there were just a few letters Callie was having trouble with, and that while I was welcome to work with her at home; she’d likely have them down in a few weeks.
Ha! If that lady only knew Katrina Epp. I went home that night and implemented something new into our nightly reading routine. Prior to reading a book, we’d go through several pages of the book and Callie would sound the letters out. I quickly found the letters she was having the issues with and we tried to work on them the most.
Within a week, Callie had zero trouble sounding out any letter in the alphabet. It was amazing how much that ten minutes a day contributed to her reading skills. Her teacher even sent home a note saying to keep up the good work. I felt proud of my very spastic, crazy self for taking the small amount of time it took to ensure Callie wasn’t behind everyone else.
The process made me realize all it takes is a little determination to give your child the confidence they need to make it through everyday struggles. One of the reasons Callie was having issues with certain letters was because she felt pressure to make a decision quickly when she was tested by her teacher. Because I know her, when I worked with her I’d see she was rushing. I’d point to her head and tell her to think it out. There was no hurry. Each time she learned to think over the trouble letters rather than blurting out an answer (all the while, pointing at her own head). This was something I feel could have really only been taught at home. Teachers have a dozen or more children to teach. While I do expect them to give my child extra attention when needed; I understand there’s likely not enough of that to go around all the time.
As parents, we are the ones truly responsible party for our children’s learning. If they aren’t learning enough, we are responsible for picking up on that and addressing it with their teachers. If they are behind, we are responsible for working with them outside of school and getting them caught up. I think too often our automatic thought is; well, if they’d give my child more attention, she wouldn’t be behind.
Take responsibility! Each child is different and is going to have different struggles and strengths. If you’re willing to take those few extra minutes it takes to work on whatever it is they need; you’re not only contributing to their future success in school and life; you’re building a bond of trust by showing them early on they can always count on you.