Kindergarten update / musings on teaching. So, Anand was having a really rough time with school discipline the first few weeks of kindergarten. They have a chart in the classroom, and over the course of the day, you can move from green down to yellow (make better choices) or red (parental notification), or even up to blue (awesome!). Everyone starts at green, and Kavya was basically green all through kindergarten, with maybe an occasional yellow.
Infractions are things like talking in line, wiggling out of your chair, not raising your hand, etc. -- all things that are challenging for many five-year-olds to remember, but if we're going to put them in a classroom of 25-30 (mostly indoors) and ask a single teacher to manage them (a system I have my doubts about, but that's where the public will for funding lands, in my geographic region, at least), I think it's not unreasonable for the kindergarten teacher to spend the first month or so of the school year mostly teaching the kids how to be in that kind of school environment in a way that makes classrooms at least semi-manageable. (I think her job must be *exhausting* at the best of times.)
I've twice now been in the classroom with her (first day, and Anand's birthday, which I read the class a book), and both times, Anand was quite challenging to manage. Lots of interrupting the teacher (or me), talking excitedly and loudly, wiggling around, falling out of his chair (which is distracting to the other kids too), etc. I was really impressed by her patience with him (and the other kids who were behaving similarly, though honestly, Anand was the most challenging...).
So, anyway, Anand was bringing home about an equal amount of greens, yellows, and reds for the first two weeks, which was worrying to us and upsetting to him. (Some were small infractions like the above, some were bigger -- there was also apparently some throwing away of snacks he didn't like (on the floor, sigh), and a lunchroom spitting / kicking incident.) I'm mostly posting about all this because his teacher came up with something that helped almost immediately.
She said she thought Anand was having a hard time trying to 'be good all day' -- that that was a too-big and too-stressful goal for him. So she made up a sticker chart for him, breaking the day into its eight segments (lunch, free play, Spanish, etc. and so on), and letting him earn stickers for each segment. If he got most of the stickers, he got green -- if he got all the stickers, he got blue.
Since starting the sticker chart a week ago, there have been no reds, one yellow, several greens, and yesterday, a triumphant blue, which Anand was *so* excited about. (He says he wasn't good in music, but he got a blue anyway, so apparently, he doesn't need to be *perfect*, which is also nice.) We'll see how it goes, but at least for now, I would declare the sticker chart a rousing success. Anand's much happier about school overall, and more willing to talk to us about his day, too.
If I had my druthers, half the kindergarten day would be an outdoors play-based curriculum, because it is *hard* for little people to sit still for very long. You should see Kavya reading -- over the course of half an hour, she often ends up almost upside-down in her chair, eyes somehow still glued to the page. (And sitting still for long stretches does seem to be harder on the boys (averaging out, there are of course plenty of exceptions); I don't know if their bodies inherently have more energy at that age or what, but regardless. And if that's actually the case, I don't like that boys / girls / teachers are going to tend to get the idea that boys are more likely to get yellows / reds and be mentally tagged as 'troublemakers' or not good students).
Also if I had my druthers, kindergarten teachers would have far fewer students to supervise -- I know when I have a class of thirty, I don't get to know all my students nearly as well as when I have a class of twelve; if we really want teachers to be able to help each child maximize their abilities and learn in the best ways suited to their temperament, then it's not fair to give the teachers more students than they can possibly manage optimally.
I'm not saying one-on-one tutoring is best either; sometimes it's helpful, but I actually think students get a lot out of a classroom environment, working collaboratively, seeing what their peers are doing, helping each other, etc. I'm not sure what the optimum size is for kindergarten, but I'd start with around 8-10 students / class, I think.
But regardless of how I'd like to reform the American public elementary system (and, by the way, completely separate it from property taxes!) -- for now, for the classroom we've chosen to put our children in, Anand's teacher has found a solution that a) makes him happier to be in school, and b) hopefully makes it easier for her to teach the whole class, without him being quite so disruptive. Win-win. I am tempted to send her chocolate.
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