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Friday, March 16, 2012

Difficult Parent Conferences

Today our school district had a half-day, so we could meet with parents for parent-teacher conferences. We had three days in the Fall, in which we met with ALL the parents. Today's conferences were tough, since we met with only the parents whose kids we have concerns about.

I had five conferences today. One mom cried, two moms were frustrated, and a mom and dad were utterly confused.

I teach kindergarten. And in today's conferences, my concerns with these five students fall on the fact that they are not yet reading. Yes, not reading. They can not decode simple 3-letter words.

One of my students has made wonderful progress. He never went to preschool. During my conference with mom in the Fall, I was telling Mom how he wasn't able to write his name, how he was only able to identify one or two letters, and he was very distracted and couldn't sit at our meeting area. Today, I applauded Mom at his progress. He can now write his first and last name, knows all of his uppercase and 24 lowercase letters, and all of the sounds. He is able to follow routines, and is a diligent worker. But, he is not able to fluently decode 3-letter words, and scored in the red on our DIBELS test.

The other four students- the same kind of stories.

I think right now I am finding Kindergarten to be a different kind of place for our young learners. Is developmentally appropriate even a word anymore in education? What about play? What about social skills?

I feel like the 90 year old kindergarten teacher, who doesn't want to change with the times. I want kindergarten to be fun with art projects, units of inquiry, thematic units- all of that. Instead, our district has changed so much. We adapted a reading program... (I really miss Guided Reading) We have a math program (Go Math) which consists of lots of pencil and paper work (4 sheets a day to be precise), and I'm having a hard time changing with the times.

Today at my conferences, I had to tell my parents that their children need to be readers by the end of the year, and if they are not, then they do not meet end of the year benchmarks. I wanted to kick myself under the table for saying that, because that's not what my philosophy is...

I did tell each parent where each of their students started the year off at, and look at their progress (because each of these kids has made so much).

I'm just having a difficult night tonight. I'm not liking the direction education is going; not even in Kindergarten.


  1. I feel your pain on this. Hang in there!

  2. Being a fellow K teacher, I can echo your frustration. All kids have their own journey and I feel very discouraged by the need to put everyone on the same path. It just doesn't work. We all have different needs and everyone gets to different milestones at different times. BUT THEY ARE STILL MILESTONES! I wish we could still look at reading like we do walking or potty training...they get there eventually. Sometimes it is hard, frustrating even, but they get there when they are good and ready. We can't make someone be any different, we can just encourage and give the best opportunities for them right where they are. Glad to find your blog K teachers gotta stick together!

  3. I feel your pain..... Why can't children be children for a little longer??? There is still time to read and write after kindergarten!

  4. ahhhh...........Kindergarten is no longer the Kindergarten it was many years ago. Sadly, developmentally appropriate, it is not uttered by the powers that be anymore. Hang in there...I feel your pain. I teach K too!

  5. Maybe if all the kindergarten teachers stand up and shout loud and long, someone would listen. It frustrates me that we push, push, push. I know how difficult it is to tell parents that the light of their world is not lighting the world up with their brilliance.

  6. You are right to feel sad, but it's not your fault. Sadly, your district has made you a messenger for THEIR standards. :( You know your kids. You know they've made progress, and you cheered them on for it. You could sneak in the fact to parents that most children are caught up to each other by the end of 3rd grade, that developmentally, kids are all over the place at this age. You love your kids - that's visible in your post. Hang in there.

  7. First, Amen! I wanted to stand up and cheer as I read your post! Well said. Second, I once heard a wise retired teacher say that we sure do expect a lot out of kids now days. Sometimes we can celebrate all that a kindergarten student is able to do and sometimes we should step back and remember that they are only 60 months old! What happened to art projects and play time indeed?

  8. Of course reading by the end of the Kindergarten year would be fabulous, but c'mon. Really?!? Does it need to even be a benchmark? As a mom, by the end of Kindergarten, I want my daughter to love books (even if she can't read them by herself, yet), socialize with others in a caring manner, remember to wash her hands after she uses the bathroom, and say "please" and "thank you." Let's be more realistic, and remember that teaching our kids about appropriate social interactions and enjoyment of life is JUST AS important as learning to read at a young age.

    I believe you are doing a wonderful job, and those students of yours are progressing just as they should.

    I hope your headaches are getting better, by the way. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Thanks for all your comments. Reading them made me feel better, and made me feel like it's not just me feeling this way. I know Kindergarten is the "New First Grade," and it's just the way it is, and I HAVE kids reading in my class and that are ready. But we K teachers all know that we have some that, especially those who didn't go to preschool (and I have 7 this year), those kids missed a whole year of letter learning, pasting & cutting, and playing. I think parents need to be informed and they need to understand how important preschool is. They are comparing kindergarten to when they went, or when older siblings went, and it's a much different place!

    Thanks again- you guys made me feel better!