We made it. We're in the last week of school. It will include 2 early release days (thank you, Arlington County!), an awards day (where Connor has predicted he will get an award for being so well-behaved. Confident little dude - don't you think? [edited to add he received the award of class mathemagician]), a game day (where hopefully he will find someone who loves Monopoly as much as he does, I'm looking at you, A!), and a picnic in the park. This seems like a pretty fine wrap-up to me. Only thing better would be if school was already out.
Today was the award ceremony and picnic. During the award ceremony, Mrs. H. showed a slideshow of class photos and a photo of Helen was included. Nice touch, I thought. Helen could not have been more pleased. When her photo came up, Mrs. H. announced "honorary member". And at the picnic today, Helen spent her time bouncing from friend to friend in first grade.
I looked back at the post I wrote to start the year, and what strikes me is that what I wanted most was for Mrs. H. to recognize that she had a great kid in front of her. She did that in spades. From start to finish, Connor has felt loved. She challenged him when he needed to be challenged, she called him on a piece of sub-par work when it was necessary, and wow did she give it everything she had, particularly in those scary first days. Connor's teacher was as steady as could be with him. She was gentle, she was kind, and she absolutely recognized that though his background was different than most, it was not inferior.
I learned that it's a hard thing to drop your kid off in a classroom knowing that your child (my child), because of the background I had chosen, was going to struggle with reading. This, followed with the realization that Connor did not know how to hold a pencil. There was, most definitely, a moment or two when my stomach flip-flopped, and I questioned my choice to keep Connor at the Waldorf school - and for reference, I regularly tell people that sending my children to a Waldorf school was the best parenting decision Ed and I ever made. Those were hard days for me, and though Connor never came home mad at me, I'm guessing they were pretty hard for him, too. Now? I'm totally giving myself a pat on the back. As it turns out, that year of Kindergarten at Potomac Crescent was the perfectly right year for Connor. But I'm well aware it could have ended up being disasterous, if Connor had another first grade teacher. One day, I asked Mrs. H. how burdensome it was for her, and whether I should consider sending Helen to Kindergarten at public school. She was so cool. She told me things always worked out and there was no need for me to change course with Helen.
I learned a few nights ago at an evening event with adults from Connor's school about something else Connor's teacher did those first few weeks. She specifically instructed another parent when the parent was helping Connor with work that she should only discuss letters in terms of their shapes - that he came from a non-academic background. Does she even know that's how the alphabet is taught at a Waldorf school? It's as simple as straight lines and curved lines. That's a little gift Connor's teacher gave me without Connor or I even noticing.
The most important thing Connor's teacher did for Connor - and I'm sure she does it for all the students in her class - was to recognize that things change. So while he started out in the worst reading group (and I'm using the term "reading" very loosely), when he finally caught on to reading, she advanced him right up those reading groups until a few weeks ago when she announced to me Connor was reading at the 6th grade level. Connor is, for the most part, a very easy going kid - and he never would've protested a placement in a reading group. His teacher could've easily left him to the side of the road and not watched his advancement, but she didn't. She was on it the whole time.
In the end, kids stuggle. People struggle. It's probably where we find our humanity. And from beginning to end, Connor was supported by a great teacher. She may, in fact, be the one he remembers for a long time.
We won't be doing a single academic thing this summer. We'll be playing and painting and vacationing. We've earned it!
I sent this kid to school in September:
I'm getting this one back for the summer: