Saturday, August 3, 2013

I Hate Kindergarten!

The new school year is nearly upon us, and I admit, I'm feeling a bit more dread than the kids are.

Last year was Kamrin's first year at "real school." Around this area, kindergartners are rounded up, and placed in one building. Five hundred 5 year olds? What could possibly go wrong?

I was hopeful for Kam. He was very social, had no problems to talking to people, and he was excited to go. For about 2 weeks.

But I should've known when Kam and I met the teacher at open house, it wasn't going to be a good fit. We walked through the door and introduced ourselves, and that was it. She didn't talk to Kam, but rather looked toward the door for the next parent to greet. On our way out, she didn't remember his name. Now don't get me wrong, there are some AWESOME teachers out there, I had some myself, but she was young, and I didn't get the feeling that she loved what she was doing.

Kamrin is a special kid. I mean that in many ways. He started talking early and hasn't quit since. He can't sit still. There are few things that will keep him focused. And he's not for the faint of heart with all that energy he has pent up inside him.

Color charts suck. I hate them. This teacher had hers pinned to the board at the front of the room. For those of you who aren't familiar, a child starts out (in our case) on green. If you don't behave, you are "pinned down" to subsequent other, purple, and the dreaded pink. If you do well, you "pin up" to yellow, orange and the coveted red. If you made it to red, you got special privileges. It's a form of public humiliation if you ask me. Oh sure. If you have that perfect kid, you'll argue that it's a good way to get kids to WANT to behave. But to Kam it was a label. He was constantly being asked to clip down. He tried so hard. I tried not to make a big deal about it. His first words to me when I picked him up after school usually involved what color he was on at the end of the day. I went as far as telling him that "it didn't matter to me what color he was on as long as he tried his best." A good day for us was when he managed to stay on the color he started on.

They had a calendar in their school folders that were brought home every day. In them, a circle was colored in with the color corresponding to where they were that day. The things that Kam gotten pinned down for were trivial. Humming in class (which he does when he knows he's not supposed to talk), not coming back from the bathroom on time (really? since when do 5 year olds know how long 10 minutes is?), not keeping his hands to himself (he likes to hug). Typical behavior of a hyper-active little boy. She would always write a note by the 'bad' colors, but once, when he reached yellow...there was nothing. So I wrote, "GOOD JOB KAM!" No positive feedback.

Unfortunately, this meant that ALL the teachers and the principal knew who he was. He was a behavior problem. And if something went wrong in the lunch line, they looked for Kam.

And the kids that made it to red? They were allowed to clip other kids down. Want to set kids up for being tyrants? That's the way to do it.

Since the clothes pins on the color chart had the kids' names on them, everyone in the class (and parents too!) would know who was constantly being "bad."

Don't get me wrong. Kamrin had a hard time adjusting. In his world, things are black and white. He knew what the rules were at school and he did his best to follow them. When he corrected a friend for getting out of line, and they pushed him, Kamrin got in trouble for trying to pull that kid back in line. He didn't understand why he was being punished for what he thought was doing the right thing, by a teacher who was the authority figure. He didn't handle it well. He would run and hide. 2 times, it wasn't in the classroom and an all out search was required. Didn't sit well with his teacher. She referred him to a counselor for 'anger management.'

Her solution? Tape a chart, on the TOP of his desk, giving him options to "cool down" instead of running. Another label. No other child had this taped to their desk. Singled out again.

One thing I noticed was that Kamrin's work that came home from school was sloppy. On the back of each page were elaborate pictures. Ones that he drew. Unfortunately, most consisted of zombies, or people with guns. More fodder for the counselor. By the way, the work was sloppy, but it was correct.

He once brought home a 12 page booklet, pages front and back consisted of pictures with 3 boxes under each picture. The home work was for the parent to cut letters out, then give them some to choose from, so the could write what the picture was. Parents were encouraged to give them a hint and provide the first letter. So I cut out all the letters, and tried to persuade Kam to participate in completing the home work. He absolutely refused. It wasn't due for a few weeks, so I told him no Sponge Bob until we did at least three. Well, that lit a fire. He sat down, pencil in hand, and looked at the first page. He completely ignored the pile of cut out letters, and started writing. He wrote the name of every. single. picture. On all 12 pages. In 10 minutes. He missed one, "yak." I don't think I know a 5 year old that knows what a yak is.

I emailed his teacher on several occasions. She basically told me that she didn't have the time to give Kam "special attention." At conferences, when she pointed out his sloppy work, and told me that Kamrin will sit and draw until until she tells him that he has to get it done or risk being clipped down. At that point, he'll flip it over and blaze through it. Boredom? I think so. I pointed out to her, that it was all correctly done, even if it was sloppy.

It broke my heart to drop him off at school, shoulders slumped and feet dragging. He was a trooper though.

The last straw was when I received an email from the principal telling me that Kam had 'gauged' a fellow student in the arm with a pencil. What?! That wasn't my good-hearted Kam. I asked Kamrin what had happened. He told me that he was sharpening his pencil and the as he was finishing, the kid behind him pushed him, so when he turned around (sharpened pencil in hand) he 'scraped him' (his words). I went to the principal, fully expecting to have to meet with this kids' parents. I asked him if the kid was okay. He informed me that the child was fine. Didn't even need a band aid. So I said that I didn't consider that a gouge, more like an abrasion. I also found out that since they didn't actually SEE the other kid push Kamrin, they couldn't punish THAT kid. So apparently, until my child is pushed and suffers injury, he will not be believed.

I finally decided to have Kam tested. My mind was thinking everything, hyper-activity, autism, just something to explain why he couldn't relate to school. And then I found the school psychologist. I love her. Mostly because she loves Kam. It turns out that Kamrin can't focus because he takes in everything.

Here's how she explained it to me. When you or I are talking to someone, we are looking at them and hearing them. Kam does that too, but he's also very aware of how his butt is sitting on the chair, feels his arms on the table, ingests everything that goes on in the background of the person. He is bombarded with information and can't filter it out. This information overload causes him to become distracted. (I'm sure the humming sometimes acts as his filter.)

They decided to try 'sensory breaks.' Apparently Kamrin isn't the only one with problems. These breaks allow him to leave the classroom for 10 minutes a day, and spend some time with his counselor, just doing calming activities. Like filling jugs with sand, playing with texture oriented toys, or swinging. It seemed to help. The psychologist also suggested that Kamring be tested to see if he needs to have more advanced learning, as he seems to be bored in class.

This discovery came within the last 2 months of school, and it seemed to be working. But now we have the transition to 1st grade. He has to ride a bus. THAT could be interesting. I'm hoping his teacher will be able to 'tune in' to him more.

Now that this rant is incredibly huge, I also want to add that I find it sad that we herd our young students through the system. Can't slow down for some, can't speed up for others. This has become my slogan.


Get rid of these stupid charts. Or make them more private. Quit labeling my child, and making him believe he's a failure because he doesn't make it to "red." His best was yellow, and I'm proud of him. I'm color blind.

No comments:

Post a Comment