Yesterday, I had a parent teacher conference with Sara's teacher.
It was a rescheduled conference because I totally spaced on our original conference time last week. By totally spaced, I mean I only remembered when the teacher sent a note home that I had missed it.
Sara is a super smart young lady. However, Sara is not a fan of being told what to do. If you know us or if you've followed this blog, you'll know that Sara has been strong-willed from birth. And, while I deeply believe that someday this strong will of hers will serve her well, I am equally positive that someday is down the road and not in second grade.
Since she started school, I've only heard great things about her behavior and attitude in class. For this, I'm especially grateful. All her teachers describe her as sweet, helpful, kind, and excited to learn. I've seen this side of her too, and I'm immensely proud. If she is going be short-tempered, moody, and shouty, I would much rather her be that way at home, Let's face it, I think she's amazing and awesome and I'm going to love her no matter what. Other people (and I think Sara knows this) may not be so tolerant.
However. She had the fortune of being in amazing preschools and had an incredible kindergarten class in Illinois. When we moved here, she tested really high in all categories. Illinois used a different approach in teaching. Not better, not superior, just different. When I enrolled Sara in kindergarten in NC, the material being covered was material that she had in pre-k in Illinois. So things were super easy for her for the remainder of her kindergarten year and for first grade. So easy, in fact, that she actually lost ground in most areas. She also got really used to doing really well with minimal effort.
Last year at a parent teacher conference, her teacher recommended a remedial reading program for Sara because her reading comprehension wasn't where it needed to be. I was in favor of that for several reasons. 1) I remember struggling with reading comprehension when I was her age. 2) Tucker was the same way in 2nd grade, so it didn't surprise me that Sara was having trouble too. 3) Sara tends to rush through things she doesn't want to do, and reading comprehension exercises bore her to tears.
I recognize that she's learning foundations right now that will only help her in school and in life. I support the importance of this. Hence, the remedial reading program. The only thing is, it isn't really helping, per se. When Sara feels like doing a great job with reading comprehension, she does. If she's not feeling it, she doesn't. Her testing and class work completely support my theory. To me, that's not a comprehension issue, that's a Sara focus and attitude issue. I don't feel particularly concerned because I know she CAN do it, if that makes sense. The issue is getting her to WANT to.
At my first conference this year, her teacher expressed surprise that Sara was put in remedial reading at all. At today's conference, I discovered that Sara has slipped a level in reading since the last testing period, and her teacher was concerned since her class work and home work have actually been much better.
And then I had to go put my over-sized foot in my giant mouth. While trying to explain that I feel like Sara has been able to sort of skate by on minimal effort for the last couple years, I managed to somehow put her teacher on the defensive. It wasn't intentional. I wasn't being bitchy, snotty, condescending, or making excuses for Sara. On the contrary, I was trying to explain that I know Sara can do the work and do it well. It's getting her to want to that's the problem. You can lead a horse to water, you can even put water in the horse's mouth if you are so inclined, but you can't make it drink. Sara needs to find her own motivation to do well. All I can do, all a teacher can do for that matter, is give her the tools she needs and show her how to use them.
Sara's teacher and I had what I thought was a really good conference. It ran over by a few minutes, and as I was standing up to leave, I joked with her, 'Now you can add counselor to your resume!" And she looked me in the eye and said something to the effect of, "Well, as a teacher, I am used to trying to help kids that have a bad home life."
Bad home life? My first thought was to wonder what in the world Sara had said in class. She told a friend of hers in kindergarten that she never had to brush her teeth if she didn't want to. (Again...what?!?!?!?!) She's told plenty of people that I'm really mean, and from a kid's perspective, I guess I am. I don't let her have cookies for breakfast, or mac and cheese twice a day, or unlimited ice cream. She doesn't get something she wants because she has a tantrum. She has to go to bed at bedtime and sleepovers are rewards for good behavior at home, not just on a whim (like she'd prefer). She has to shower and brush her teeth and write thank you notes. If all of that creates a bad home life, I can live with that.