Jared Felkins: The continuing saga of adventures in kindergarten

So the end of the first nine weeks has arrived and what have we learned so far in kindergarten? I learned I now have a rep among the teachers at Castle Heights Elementary School, and things are much different from my days of watching Spot run.
Nov 2, 2013
Jared Felkins

“I was coming home from kindergarten – well they told me it was kindergarten. I found out later I had been working in a factory for 10 years. It's good for a kid to know how to make gloves.”

— Ellen DeGeneres 

So the end of the first nine weeks has arrived and what have we learned so far in kindergarten? I learned I now have a rep among the teachers at Castle Heights Elementary School, and things are much different from my days of watching Spot run.

It seems a column I wrote just about nine weeks ago appears to have landed in the hands of said teachers of my two girls, Bryley, our kindergartener, and Bailey, our middle child and fifth-grader.

In fact, I can almost picture that very column carefully cut out of The Democrat and placed in a glittery macaroni-encrusted student-made frame hanging in the teachers’ lounge with darts piercing the image of my head.

I’m quite sure it didn’t do a whole lot for those kindergarten teachers who painstakingly go through the riggers each day of teaching our children how to read and write. And thank goodness those kindergarteners can’t read…yet.

So there I was sitting across from Bryley’s teacher a few nights ago as she laid out her course plans for my wife and me for the next nine months.

“I know you’re not a big fan of this,” she said rather matter of fact, “but we’re going to really be starting an intense period of learning over the next nine weeks,” as she handed me three full pages of curriculum.

Apparently my reputation precedes itself. Apparently I underestimated the number of people who actually read my column each week. Apparently somewhere in that school there actually is a copy of that column from nine weeks ago hanging somewhere for all to scowl at daily.

OK. So I was a bit critical of the new standards by which kindergarteners are taught these days. OK. So maybe it really wasn’t fair to compare my kindergarten experience from 32 years ago to that of today’s learning.

But boy, kindergarten sure does appear much tougher these days.

Over on the fifth-grade side of the school, we really have the exact opposite situation on our hands, at least where my two girls are concerned.

While the curriculum is tougher, our kindergartener can’t seem to learn fast enough. On the other hand, we would prefer our fifth-grader just do something. And let me tell you, we’ve tried just about everything as motivation.

“Now, I know you’re not big on testing…” one of the fifth-grade teachers told me during Bailey’s parent-teacher conference. What? I never said…wait…that stupid column.

OK. So I’m not a fan of putting the majority of a child’s grade and the livelihood of a teacher’s future in the balance of whether my fifth-grader is mentally prepared to take a state-mandated test just as a squirrel plays by the window outside.

I know my daughter, and those are odds even Vegas wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.

Well there are some highlights of my popularity these days at the school. Everyone knows my name, at least, and we’re not even in a Boston pub – although I bet that’s a pretty popular place to be right about now.

Although for some reason, my speaking engagement calendar seems to be wide open where the school is concerned. My last stop on that junket was a few months ago when I read to a class of pre-kindergarteners. And do you know, I didn’t even warn them about tests in their future, not even once. I figure they’ll find out soon enough.

I will say this. Whatever is going on in that kindergarten classroom of my daughter’s is really paying dividends. She’s actually reading, and I don’t mean a little bit either. It’s even getting tough when her mother and I want to spell out things like Christmas gift ideas during conversations with her in the room.

So I guess I’m going to keep an open mind about all these new teaching and learning techniques. After all, that kindergartener is my retirement plan. I just hope she picks out a good nursing home for her dear old dad.

Then again, when she actually does master the art of reading and discovers her old man’s columns, I’m probably looking at the doghouse.

In the meantime, at least the teachers now have a new dartboard.

Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s director of content. Email him at jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins

 

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