Back to basics

I want my life back.  I have to get to the gym, and I have to blog.  By way of catching up, I’ll describe something that’s been bothering me all year:  Eila’s schooling has been abysmal.

Last year, when she was in first grade, the teacher tested all the kids to diagnose their levels and taught them accordingly.  This meant that Eila was mostly doing second grade math and that her spelling words were things like “eclipse” and “gravity.”  This year the teacher also did diagnostic testing but seems to have ignored the results, explaining to me when I asked for harder work that she’s a “believer in drilling the basics.”  This means that Eila is re-doing math she mastered more than a year ago and that her spelling words include “to,” “an,” and “for.”  I have trouble getting to her to do homework, as she’s lost all respect for assignments, in class and out.

Eila’s class is a one/two split, which means it includes both first and second graders — and there happen to be 17 first graders to 8 second graders.  So I can see why the teacher might be focused on easy material.  But split-level classes are one of the things this school is famous for, and they are supposed to ensure that a teacher doesn’t follow the curriculum by rote but instead finds the students’ levels.  The policy of the school is that in a one/two split, kids should be doing work that ranges in difficulty from K to fourth grade.  I know for sure that no one in Eila’s class is asked to do any work above second grade level.  But even worse:  as far as I can tell the work that the second graders are doing now ought, by the curriculum, to have been done in around October.  Right now, at the beginning of the spring semester, we’re about a third of the way through the fall semester math workbook.

Each week a little newsletter goes out to parents.  Here’s a bit of this week’s.

“Reading:  Please talk about “character” when reading and personification.  Math:  We are working on all kinds of things.  Please continue to help with money & time.”

I find the teacher an enormously pleasant person.  And everyone is entitled to a fallow year every now and then.  Still, I’m distressed.  Elementary school teachers should teach to the curriculum if they can’t teach more.  And they should have a grasp of basic grammar.

Notice, btw, that I leave double spaces after a period.  In fact I feel strongly enough about them that I do them twice:  WordPress corrects them in my draft and I have to go in and put them all back.  Take that, Mr. Manjoo!


5 thoughts on “Back to basics

  1. That happened to my kid, too.
    When speaking to the principal and guidance counselor, emphasize that Eila is disengaging with academics.
    They don’t like to hear that their school is not challenging enough. But emphasize that they are creating a disciplinary problem where there formerly was none. Keep making this point that disengagement w/ academics can dog a child for years or forever.

    They responded by putting our 2nd grader in a 3rd grade classroom during math time. By January, the 3rd grade teacher suggested that our daughter stay w/ her the entire day. The following year, they put her in 4th grade.

  2. You write beautifully, Oona, just what I’d expect from the daughter of Sam Ajzenstat. I had you as a passenger in my Blue Line cab many years ago. We had a nice conversation.

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