I love to share my favorite tech tools for teachers or tips for back to school night, but today I want to share something that I don't love. I don't love standing in front of a full class when absolutely NO ONE is ready to think about gerunds or character development. I don't love to be the adult they are looking at when their heart is breaking. Unfortunately, as teachers we are likely to be put in this position at least once in our careers. I'm talking about teaching the first classes after tragedy. My school has experienced this twice in the recent past and in both circumstances I was completely unprepared. A few years ago, one of my school's most beloved teachers passed away suddenly and then last week, a popular and outgoing student from my school committed suicide. These losses hit us like a ton of bricks. I wish that I could say that they are part of rare, tragic occurrences for teens in school, but here are some staggering statistics to the contrary:
When my daughter missed the kindergarten cutoff by three weeks, I made an appointment with her teacher and principal of her school. She had attended private preschool since she was 3 years old, after I realized that she was too active and curious for me to entertain her all day at home with just the two of us. (She would sit and do 48-piece puzzles on her own at age 3) At 4, she entered California’s new ‘Transitional Kindergarten” program, reinforcing what she had already learned at her excellent private preschool, and learning even more. By the time she turned 5, although she was not reading, she knew all her letters, numbers, could write them, her name, and could slowly sound out many words, and add and subtract basic numbers. When I met with her teacher and the principal, frustrated that she would have to spend yet another year “learning” her letters and numbers, I was concerned that she would be bored and lose interest in school – be a lost sheep forever, setting the tone for her entire school career. Her teacher was open to the idea of moving her into first grade after doing some testing, but the principal flat-out refused. I was sent a rejection letter a day after the meeting, with no explanation other than advancing her would not be “what is best for her.” I was an advocate for my child, who had no voice. I saw my child’s “best interests” and knew that their brief assessment (where she missed two items) was not an accurate assessment of her needs. Was I being a helicopter parent? Or was I advocating for my child? Today, the lines seem more blurred, and can often become overwhelming for teachers and administrators.