Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Taking time to get to know our students

Yesterday a friend contacted me on Facebook. She has a friend whose son just started kindergarten and by day 3 the teacher had decided that the student needed to be evaluated for special education because she wasn't adjusting well.
It is day 3.
As educators we think we can pick out the kids with needs immediately. I know teachers who like to joke that in the grocery store they can say "typical, autistic, LD, ID" just by watching the kids for a moment. It's one thing when we keep it to ourselves. It's a totally different story when we are the teacher and we are making decisions that will impact how a child will access school for the rest of their life.
When I worked at the think tank we joked that the first month of kindergarten was rocking these little ones lives. Because of the background of our kids we knew that the kids we got in September were not the kids who would be leaving our rooms in June. Our kids had never been in any sort of school setting before. They had never been around so many kids in one room, they'd never had to listen to an adult that wasn't family, they'd never gone so many hours away from their parents. The first month of kindergarten is hard. Those are big transitions. At the think tank we knew that we couldn't make assumptions on any kid in September. It wasn't fair to the kids and it would totally collapse our screening process if we tested kids too early. We would end up testing everyone.
Now that I no longer work at the think tank I realize not every school operates this way. When you have a class where most students went to preschool and have similar socio-economic backgrounds then individual kids may stick out more. This doesn't mean those kids shouldn't be given time to transition into kindergarten. They still need to be given time to become comfortable with a school setting, being around large groups of kids, and the fast transitions that happen in school. 
We have to give our kids time. Still not adjusting in October? Ok, time to talk. But give kids time. You never know what amazing individual is hiding behind the scared, overwhelmed September 5 year old.

1 comment:

Julia said...

Wow! I can usually tell if something is up during our 15 minute home visits before school even starts, but I would never say anything to the parent! Very rarely do we bring up potential issues with parents before our first conferences in early November (almost two months into school). And if we do need to address concerns with a parent before conference time, it's usually through an administrator who can help walk the parent through the process (and so they don't see the teacher as the bad guy).