Thursday, September 03, 2009

9/3/09 Back To School Night

This morning, when I dropped Julian off, I chatted with a Dad who was wearing running clothes (a clear invitation to be nosy). Turns out, he's training for a marathon, and his wife is the one starting a Yahoo!Group for Julian's class. I met her at pickup and really liked her as well.

To my surprise, in our brief conversation, the dad mentioned that he lamented the lack of diversity in the kindergarten. He wants his (Indian, of course) daughter to integrate, be around....I forget his exact words, but the jist was the predominating culture. He said something also about how competitive the middle schools are, but that's as far as it got, since class was just starting. I was fascinated...I thought for the most part, Indian parents were focused on the schooling and academics and if they thought at all about the cultural mixture at the school, that they'd be relieved that it's mostly theirs. But I guess there's more to this than I thought.

Gabriel asked me today if home-schooling was "strict." I explained that it depended on the teacher, which is mostly Mom or Dad. He asked if I would home-school him, and I said off the top of my head, having never thought of it before, that I really liked his being in a regular school -- being around other kids, getting to know other grownups, working in groups, learning to work within schedules on his own, seeing other kids' work -- and then the peripheral things he gets from school, like Running Club. I have to give this more thought, but I found myself saying that I thought home-schooling would be too focused on, of all things, "learning."

Tonight we did the big back-to-school juggle. Back-to-School night involves a 45-minute presentation by a classroom's teacher, with parents squeezed into kid-chairs. No kids allowed, so our bunch went to the CDC, which had a special back-to-school night also.

I really wanted to seethe presentations by both Gabriel and Julian's teachers, but the K and 2 classroom times were at the same time. So I went to the K presentation, which started exactly on time and finished early. I came away really liking Julian's teacher, she seemed very efficient and on the ball and talked often about spending time with small groups of kids as needed according to ability. Since she finished early, I had time to catch the tail end of Gabriel's class presentation, which ran over slightly, and I left to get to the CDC by 8 to pick up our little monsters.

I was intrigued by Gabriel's teacher's description of the book report project his class has due in a month. There's a paper display they have to do, with drawings, descriptions, excerpts, and an original 5-sentence paragraph the kids have to do at home, then they present the report in class. Gabriel's teacher (one of them) said they (two of them) don't grade on the report itself, adding carefully that the degree of help kids get from parents varies a lot, so instead they grade the presentation itself. They look at how the kids make eye contact with the audience, do they project their voices, do they speak clearly, are they animated and engaging, do they offer interesting things about the book they've read. That's what gets a "6" on a scale of 1 to 6, she said, "because I know parents are very concerned about how to get a 6." Oh.

I was glad to hear that they don't grade based just on work that's done at home, but sorry to hear that judge the work primarily based on presentation skills. Not all kids are good at stuff like that, and seems to me it's harder to improve performance skills than the more traditional academic ones. Or, maybe for the first time I have to develop a skill in my kid that's not in his top 10 of natural abilities or inclinations. Plain old-fashioned regular sit-down paper-and-pencil math tests are more my .... er, I mean, Gabriel's element.

I was also more than a little put off by the discussion of grades at all, but, I guess that's inevitable in school life. Or maybe it was the teacher's repeated mentions of how concerned parents were about how to earn the higher grades.

OK, you made it through all that blather, you've earned yourself some photos. This morning I found a great photo-op for one with all three, but Katrina has adopted Gabriel's old habit of putting her fingers in her mouth at picture time. This was the best I got when I was trying.

I did a lot better when I wasn't trying.

I took this photo seconds before Julian fell off and landed so hard I thought for a second he'd broken his arm, but it was just a nasty scrape on his elbow.

Good thing parents don't get grades.



Louise said...

I lurve that little green butterfly dress! So cute! Let me know if you see it in my size :-)

Louise said...

Also, I would imagine that Gabriel's presentation skills will blossom when he is talking about the highlights of a book he really loves...maybe something with a science theme? I'm sure you already know this, but making eye contact with a group isn't hard to learn: say one sentence, pause, smile, look at one kid in group, take a breath. Repeat four times with different kid each time and the five sentence paragraph is done.

Practice at home with stuffed animals/family members. Underline one word in each sentence to emphasize...that forces voice modulation and facial expression changes. Leaning forward on toes while emphasizing that word also adds tension and interest.

It will seem stilted and even goofy at first, but good presentation skills learned early is a great way to be better at everything. It's actually really terrific that he's learning it in 2nd grade!

By the way, "goofy" is my trademark presentation style. I may not be suave, but at least I'm not dull. I have to make tons of presentations/teach classes in my Red Cross work and I love it. I wish it hadn't taken me over 30 years to figure that out.

mommieN. said...

Actually, they start working on presentation skills in kindergarten, with "sharing"! I agree, it's a good thing for all to learn, perhaps even moreso for those to whom it doesn't come naturally.

But despite what you say, clearly speaking in front of groups engagingly is among your many natural talents. Some of us are real snoozers onstage! Lots of great tips though (I've seen Sean do the toes thing many times!) -- thanks. My future audiences will appreciate it!

(green dress: Old Navy!)