Friday, October 14, 2011

Progress Report Bragfest

*Disclaimer* This is a proud mommy brag post

Last night was our parent-teacher conference with Pepper's teacher. I was really curious going into it, because Pepper has been going through a stubborn phase recently. I knew his teacher had some problems in September getting him to complete his class work, and I wasn't sure if that was stubbornness or just adjustment to kindergarten. I really didn't have a clue what to expect from the conference. I didn't need to be concerned. From his teacher I learned that...

  • Pepper is extremely bright. She thought I'd spent a lot of time working with him on academic stuff. The reality is that I do only the normal amount of work with him. I don't want to put any pressure on him. He gets great instruction at school, and he doesn't need a second school day when he comes home. We read together every day, I help him with his homework, and I am working with him on forming his letters correctly when he writes. Other than that, I don't do any school stuff with him. He is just really bright, and he absorbs everything that is going on around him.
  • Pepper is very advanced in his literary skills. He scored as high as he could score on his placement tests.
  • Numbers are, as I expected, his strongest ability. He only missed 4 questions on the diagnostic math test of skills they need to have mastered by the end of kindergarten. Seeing as how he took the test one month after school started, I'd say he's doing pretty darn well.
  • He is already starting to write sentences, which surprised and pleased his teacher.
  • His progress report grades were all 100%. I didn't realize that those percentages were based on actual test scores. All our past schools have not given percentage and letter grades until 3rd grade. They have done the E (excellent), S (satisfactory), and N (needs improvement) style of grading for the younger grades. This school gives actual grades starting in kindergarten. A+ in reading, language arts, social studies, science and math! WHAT?!? That is one smart cookie of a 5-year-old that I have!
  • His behavior in class is outstanding. He listens well, doesn't speak out of turn, participates in discussions and activities, speaks respectfully to his teacher, and is consistently kind to his friends. The only area he needs to work on is time management and completing class work in a timely manner. After this discussion with the teacher, I suspect Pepper doesn't care about his class work because it is boring to him. It is time to talk to the gifted teacher and get him going in the talent development program. It will provide additional challenge for him.
Needless to say, we are very proud of our little buddy. He isn't outspoken like his sister is, so it can be hard to tell what's going on in his head. I realize now that there's a lot going on in his head. He is very bright, and I know now what he's capable of. Time to develop it!

Snapper has never had an ounce of trouble in school. Her kindergarten teacher was the first to recognize her potential, and she has continued on that track, consistently landing at the top of her class with very little effort. This year has been a bit different for her. She has surprised herself and us by bringing home her first C on a  test, and consistently scored B's on her reading tests. We've been frustrated because the tests are open book tests. There has been no reason to get low grades (a B is low for Snapper who has only ever scored lower than an A on one test) when the answers are right in front of you. After this morning's conference, we learned that...
  • Snapper's ADD combined with her giftedness is a factor in her lower grades this year. She overthinks everything, and asks a lot of unnecessary clarifying questions. Her teachers told us that Snapper reads deeper into questions that she needs to, and she has difficulty taking questions at face value. For example: Mrs. Jackson orders 10 pizzas for her class party. Each pizza has 8 slices. There are 20 students in Mrs. Jackson's class. How many slices does each student get? Snapper wants to talk about different scenarios. What if some students only want 1 slice? Does Mrs. Jackson want any pizza? What if a student is absent? What kind of pizza is it?
  • The reading and social studies tests require that the students pick out important information to determine the answers to the questions. To Snapper, all the information is important. When she underlines pieces of important information, she ends up underlining everything. It is all interesting and important to her. For Snapper, whose recall ability is incredible, an open book test is overwhelming. She can't pick out what information is most important. The teachers gave us some great strategies to work with Snapper on this. It means I will need to spend more time with her, reading with her and teaching her how to discern what information is important, and what it not.
  • Snapper is an amazing writer. Her writing teacher is delighted that she is using what she's learning in class--vocabulary, voice, similes, grammar--and applying it to her writing. She packs her writing with detail and variety, and her teacher says she is going to go far with her writing.
  • Snapper has an A+ in science, and is barely shy of A+ in Language Arts and Math. Her math skills are advanced, and she has already mastered 58% of the 4th grade math standards. This percentage is among the highest in her grade!
  • Her behavior is excellent. She has developed a wonderful circle of friends, she loves to help and serve in the classroom, she uses good manners, and she is an enthusiastic participant during class projects and discussions. 
I am very pleased with how both the kiddos are doing in this new school. I am proud of their hard work and excellent grades. I just have to gush about their teachers, too. They know my kids, and they are working hard to meet their individual needs. I always have a tiny smidgen of guilt in me when I talk with most of my family about having our kids in public school. I always get the feeling that they are less that pleased with us for going this route and not homeschooling. But after today, I am reassured that this is absolutely the right thing for my kids. Snapper is receiving the support from her teachers for her special needs that I would not be able to give her. Consistently working with other gifted kids challenges the way she thinks and makes her a stronger girl. Pepper needs the structure and interaction with other adults. The growth in him in the last 14 months since he started going to school has been remarkable. I am so thankful for our school and our wonderful teachers. And I am proud of my kids.

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