Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Kindergarten Readiness

Let me just say that the sentiments expressed in this entry may not necessarily reflect those of all educators out there, but, come on, let's be real...they probably do. So with a clear conscious I'll begin.

A girlfriend of mine asked me if, in my opinion as a former teacher, her child was ready for Kindergarten. "Oh, most definitely." I answered. You see, some schools give parents a little handout-a quick little checklist-to run through before they enroll their child in Kindergarten. Specific social, physical, emotional and cognitive areas are addressed. Things like: Does your child know his name? Can he count to 10? Does he know colors and shapes? Does he play well with others? This checklist is for you Mom. Trust me when I tell you that the teacher will know by the end of 'Meet the Teacher Night' if your child is Kindergarten Ready. Basically, if he doesn't throw fecal matter or come to greet her brandishing a switchblade, he is ready. (The parent's of fecal throwing and knife wielding children don't show up to the school until the 2nd or 3rd week of instruction.) Those other things like 'getting along well with others' and the ability to 'identify geometrical shapes' will fall into place at some point during the year. Besides, kids at this age are little geniuses. Some may have been exposed to more educational concepts than others; and any good teacher worth her chalk will tell you that children learn in different ways and at different rates; but essentially, they are all going to learn-and bucketfuls- at this age.

The real question your Kindergarten teacher wants to ask is....Are YOU Kindergarten Ready? As a mom, a parent, a co-educator of this young person, ready to embark on your journey into the world of public school?

If there was a crash course out there for parents in Parent Kindergarten Readiness the world of education would be a much more pleasant place. The curriculum would look something like this:

Avoiding Drama Drop-off : In this course the caregiver/parent will learn to bring his/her child to the assigned area at the correct time on an ongoing basis. The caregiver/parent will receive instruction on entrusting her offspring to the person assigned to educate said child with a kiss goodbye and will not linger at the door or play peek-a-boo in the window with mascara streaming down their face. The caregiver/parent will also be instructed on the merits of being truthful with his/her child (not pulling the old-'I'm just going to the restroom and I'll be right back' scam) sneaking away like a thief in the night. Avoiding these pitfalls, will save anxiety for all parties involved.

Teacher Appreciation Appropriateness : This course is designed to bring the parent to an understanding of who a teacher really is. The parent will be coached on the fine art of acceptable genres of appreciation. I realize that most Kinder teachers convey a cartoon-like effervescence-smiley, bright eyed and equipped with catchy little quips like, 'criss-cross applesauce' or 'one, two, three, eyes on me!' But trust me, she wears this persona like a rubber glove and is all too relieved to peel it off at the end of the day gleefully disposing of it in the nearest garbage receptacle, so that she may partake at Happy Hour exuding a more mature dialect. Your teacher is a real person-no matter how she seems in the classroom. She doesn't need to be reminded that she teaches letter identification by wearing ABC block earrings. When you feel it is the appropriate occasion to give your teacher a gift, do so with an open mind and an open heart. Do this as often as you feel it is warranted. No need to feel like you must appreciate her only on the week of April 7th -11th (the official Teacher Appreciation Week).

Appropriate tokens of gratitude can range from the most simplistic to the extravagant, but all of the following are acceptable:

1. A note of praise to her principal stating that you are satisfied or even happy with the level of education your child is receiving in her classroom. (You may even carbon copy it for the teacher since the original note may never be shared with her.)

2. A verbal 'Thank You for helping my child open his cheese stick everyday at lunch."

3. A gift card to the movies.

4. A gift card to Starbucks.

5. A gift card to anywhere.

Do not try to empathize with the teacher by giving her a book entitled, "Chicken Soup for the Teacher's Soul" or anything as kitschy as a bookmark illustrated by Mary Englebreit.

Once, a student gave me a can of hairspray and a brush. I honestly cherished this gift because the youngster had really taken into consideration my needs and showed real compassion for me. (Her mom was also a Kindergarten teacher).

If you do feel that your teacher is in dire need of additional clothing or accessories, save yourself a trip to Hobby Lobby or Gifts Etc. to shell out $30 for an embroidered t-shirt or necklace made out of No.2 pencils. The term "School Marm" went out circa 1932. Give her a target gift card or simply leave a bottle of wine, tucked into a basket of fresh fruit at her doorstep. (Don't bring the wine to school or they will have you arrested.)

A teacher will not [read as] should not, favor your child if you follow these simple guidelines, but, it can't hurt either.

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