Back in March I wrote about a little one I worked with one on one every single day on her letters. From August to March she struggled to learn the letters in her name- 9 letters- 7 months. Day in and day out. My Partner-in-Crime and I assumed we had to retain her- if it was taking her 7 months to learn 9 letters there was no way she'd be ready for first grade.
In the beginning of those 7 months I felt like we kept stepping backwards. I'd try something I knew worked with other kids only to realize there was no way she was ready for it. We'd step back and try something smaller. When that didn't work we took another step back. We ended up just working on the difference between the letters e and c- so similar but for that line in the middle of the e. Then we branched out to n, r, and h. And we kept branching. Yet it was weeks before we could move on to n, r, and h. I can't tell you how many days I said, "This is an e. Point to the e" and she'd point to the c.
But we got there. And then, the first week of March, she expertly identified all the letters in her name correctly, 3 days in a row.
The end of the year rolled around with it's end of year assessments. She blew past our expectations. We'd been planning on retaining her but we realized we couldn't- somehow from March to May she'd started to catch up. She wasn't on grade level yet, but she wasn't far enough behind to do another year in kindergarten.
So we passed her to first grade, scared about what would happen over our long summer break.
On Friday her first grade teacher emailed. She'd just finished giving her a beginning of the year assessment and our friend had gone up 2 reading levels from the spring. She went up TWO levels. Over a summer when she wasn't in school, wasn't hearing English, and most likely doing nothing but watching television all day.
I wanted to cry.
She is such a rock star.
We could have pushed her along with the others, teaching her the curriculum- not taking those steps backward- the steps she needed to build a foundation. I feel like we are so tempted to do that with so many kids- we push, without looking at the foundation we might be skipping as we breeze through our curriculum. We might get them to teeter on the brink of passing the end of year assessments, but that's when we see regression.
With this friend we didn't worry about her end of year assessment- assuming she'd fail it anyway we just focused on giving her the tiny building blocks we knew she needed.
And yet, she did better than kids who we'd pushed on, assuming that with pushing they'd get there- meet our high expectations.
Not every child can have the one-on-one I gave my friend, but we can teach every child where they are, making sure they've mastered one step before moving on to the next one.