one of the aspects i love about my job is my ability to "loop" with some of my kiddos- or follow them into their next grade level. not only do i love not having to leave them after being attached to them for one year, but i love the perspective it gives me on all the children i work with.
after a few months of having a student i always (naively) feel like i know them pretty well. i feel confident in my ability to read the child's body language- know what will be too hard, too easy, what may set them off and make them overly excited. but when we get secure in our knowledge about our little ones we can forget that their brains aren't fully developed adult brains yet and we forget that children change and grow.
chip wood's book yardsticks is one of my favorites to re-read every summer because it is such a great reminder of where the children will be when they enter the classroom- but it also serves as a reminder for how children change. recently wood posted tidbits on each age on his blog-
at five 1/2 children are more oppositional, and possibly have more tantrums than they were at 5 because of their cognitive growth. at 6 they are more likely to want to be first at everything- and will rush through their work for a love of quantity over quality. they talk in order to process what they are learning. at 7 they slow down a bit- becoming focused on the details and perfection in their work. they're more likely to ask to work by themselves in a quiet place. they appreciate routines more than ever before.
after reading wood's book and blog posts i am fascinated as i watch the children i knew so well as a five/five and ahalf year old slowly develop into six year olds, and then seven year olds. what once motivated them does not anymore- and what use to distract them and send them into a tantrum now barely gets noticed. they grow, change, and mature as they test their surroundings in order to become the grown up person we want them to one day be.
a good friend of mine who is a fourth grade teacher at another school frequently complains about how after a week or two of school the fifth grade teachers come into her room demanding why she didn't "stop john from _____" or "why did she let sara get away with that______". i cringe every time i hear stories about how attacked she is by the teachers she's passing her beloved students onto. she worked so hard with each student- (i know, we share many cups of coffee discussing our little ones)- yet the new teachers overlook how children grow and change. they forget those students came into my friend's room a year younger, less mature, and less knowledgeable about the world. after a year of hard work they grew in my friend's classroom- but while they were improving their bodies and brains were developing as well. new habits were forming, new developmental milestones were being met.
beyond the lack of professionalism her co-workers show and the lack of respect for how teachers should work together- they show a lack of understanding about children that makes me cringe. every year each teacher is adding to the building blocks of the child. the idea of turning around and attacking the teacher the year before seems almost lazy. what kind of destructive working environment is it creating?
then again, it's easy to make the same judgements about the teachers we're passing our children on to. sometimes we smugly think, "he never did that with me!" when in reality, he was at a different stage in his development.
i know how the kindergartners sit on the carpet as early fives, wide-eyed and quiet. then i watch the first graders become more active, more eager "to be first", with a tendency to push more, forget to raise their hands more and be more talkative. i know it's not last year's teacher's fault, nor the new teacher's fault. it's developmental. i watch as the late fives and sixes turn into sevens, who want to be left alone, are able to sit for longer periods of time investigating details, or put more time and effort into their work. it's not that the first grade teacher "accepted bad work", it's that in first grade the child was performing first grade work- in second grade he's seven- developmentally ready to move on.
having children for two years in a row is always serving as a reminder of how different our children can be from year to year. it allows me to step back and look for the small changes in the personalities, trying to always keep the student in mind and not my own preconceived ideas.