Thursday, July 17, 2014

Today's Anxiety

Anna June is desperately worried about who her teacher will be for first grade. Our previous principal allowed us to request specific teachers that would match with our child's style. Last year, we weighed the options and discussed it with her pre-k teacher, but we got who we requested.

This year, there's a new principal and, rather than requesting teachers, she wants to know about the kid. This is probably a more well-rounded approach.

This week, since AJ made The Request and there was a lot of discussion about her and what she's like, it reminded me of this letter. AJ said that I should have put that she is "silly" as to get matched up with the teacher she wants. I didn't. She is stressing about this, especially when we drive close to the school or talk about FIRST GRADE.

This is what I emailed to the principal, a month or so ago (with names shortened to initials):

Dear Mrs. N,

Welcome to Avondale! Thank you for your announcement on the AES website. I would like to give you some input about our child to help you select her teacher for first grade.

Anna June is an extremely bright child. I am sure you will hear that from every parent, but based on feedback from her teachers in Pre-K (Mrs. D) and Kindergarten (Mrs. B), she is at the head of the class. While they don't have achievement tests for such young children, her STRIDE scores were at the top of her group. She is a very fluent reader, and enjoys being asked to read to the class. She was the winner of Avondale's Kindergarten Math Derby. Because she is so advanced, I would like to pair her with a teacher who will provide a lot of academic stimulation, possibly over and above the regular class work. I realize the GATE program does not begin until later grades, but I expect she will be there when the time comes.

AJ is very mature for her age. It was not uncommon for Mrs. B to leave her in charge of "taking names" when she had to step out of the room or to have her assist with various errands. She got a sticker on her daily report indicating excellent behavior every single day of this school year.

We are aware that our child is not perfect. She does not handle changes very well. While her behavior may have been technically good, her emotional responses were not necessarily the best. She had a couple of "meltdowns" that were so bad I had to come pick her up from school. One was because she had a terrible case of stage fright when rehearsing for the talent show, causing her to drop out, and the other was that there was a substitute teacher. Although we never figured out exactly why, AJ developed a kind of phobia of subs. I even spoke to the counselor about it. It got better as time went on, but for a while, every time Mrs. B had to be out (even for the monthly WIN meeting), AJ was in tears. I think AJ has a tender heart, and I would like to see her with a teacher who will be understanding of that - not to baby her, but to keep things upbeat and consistent when possible.

Anna June is an only child. At school, she seems to get along very well with other kids and has many friends. At home, she is mostly happy. She loves to work independently on art projects, and enjoys reading and playing games. My husband and I like Avondale's motto "Expect the best!" and try to parent that way.

In case it figures in to the equation at all, AJ attends Avondale's After School Care program, and Mrs. M worked with that group last year. AJ adores Mrs. M! However, a full day of the same teacher may be too much. I just wanted to mention that in case it influences your decision either way.

Thank you so much for your consideration! We are looking forward to working with you for a great year at Avondale in First Grade!
Laura Gallitz


Anonymous said...

I Know that Anna June gets anxious. I know that she is precocious and really smart and responsible. I WONDER IF the responsibilities that she accepts are sometimes rather burdensome for her. She often wants to be just a kid! I wonder if that was behind her request to you to describe her as " silly " to the principal. I saw her very unhappy with the way that the hair chalk turned out----her eyes filled with tears and she kind of disappeared, and would NOT let herself cry or even acknowledge her unhappiness. ( stating instead that she was upset that she couldn't find her headband. But that headband was right out in the open.) I just held her and told her that it was okay to feel disappointed , and to cry if she felt like it . And then a few tears fell, but not many. It made me wonder about the pressure she puts herself under. I wonder if she is TOO smart. And we are all so affirmative about her accomplishments, and her intelligence : I think that could be a pressure upon her too. Ah, what is the right balance to strike? between praise and inadvertent pressure, since she seems to interpret it that way ?I do not know. All I know is that I want her to be relaxed and happy and be a silly kid as much a s she can while she is so small. Most of my time with her, I felt like I was in the company of a tweenager.I love her so.

Laura Gallitz said...

Yes, I need to get back to praising the effort she makes rather than her actual accomplishments. It is more important to try than to be successful. I don't handle disappointment very well, either, so I hope she can learn it from someone else.