When my 5 year old son started school here in America he seemed too small to be getting on the big yellow bus by himself. He didn’t think so! He loves it! He doesn’t seem to mind school when he gets there but there have been a few teething troubles. Not least that he would have been in Year 1 in the UK but in America they start a year later. My first letter, written to his teacher within 2 weeks of him starting, explains some of the challenges and differences. (Warning – this letter- like this whole blog today- isn’t funny or entertaining but it is true and it does illustrate some of the differences in this strange land that some of my learned readers might find fascinating! Otherwise you can skip the blue bit!):
Dear Mrs (Battleaxe)
I am concerned that my son hasn't had the best of starts to Kindergarten. There have been several comments regarding poor behaviour. Whilst he needs very firm discipline and can be easily distracted we have never had poor reports regarding his behaviour before.
He attended a very formal Kindergarten in the UK (age 3-4) within a class size of 20. This was similar to US Pre-school but more structured and within a school environment. In England Children start school in the year of their 5th birthday so he was at school last year. He was in a class of 10 students. This school is huge in comparison to his last school and will present many social challenges for him and new learning experiences but I would really like his prior experiences to be taken firmly into account.
I know we had a brief corridor discussion regarding his zero score on the reading test and I made clear my concerns that different teaching methods must not hold him back. He has been taught phonetically and can blend 3-4 letter words and identify all letter sounds. Naming letters is not taught first in England. This is something I can teach him very easily in order to 'catch up' on the difference in teaching.
I was concerned today that there was a note on his 'counting coconuts' activity that he 'was off-task and needed to be re-directed several times'. There may be several reasons for his distraction - not least because he can be simply not trying or paying attention. I also appreciate the need to 'recap' on learning continually. He may, however, have been off task because the work presented no challenge or interest to him given he did such activities last year and the year before and his work books from the UK were focused on double numbers and simple addition by the time he left in May.
For the first time since he started school at the age of 3 he said he did not want to go to school this morning. I don't think my son is super advanced or gifted but he has always been inquisitive and bright. His prior learning and experiences need to be built on. He also needs to experience some successes and positives as he has been through a massive change this summer.
I hope this helps in your continued assessment of him.
Read as- you are a witch and you are mean and my son is an angel and you are boring him! To be fair to her she did contact me later proclaiming a miracle – within a month of being in her class it seems he could read (something he had been doing for over a year before she stunned him into stupidity). Funny – that her first assessment was 0! I wonder if she is on performance related pay?!
6 months in and I think I need to reassess. It might be that there is something wrong with my son. They have a colour-coded behaviour system – traffic lights. He is rarely green by the end of the day. Here are some of his misdemeanors – all exactly as written by Mrs B with my own interpretation, queries and excuses where needed:
· Playing with shoelaces during morning meeting
Yours or his?
· Pulling faces whilst pledging allegiance to the flag
(this is done every morning via a piped message from the head teacher into every classroom. When my son first pledged allegiance at home I pulled such a funny face it is possible he was mimicking me! He said it with such an American twang!)
· During snack, lifted his shirt for all to see
(I was relieved it wasn’t him dropping his trousers and getting his willy out as he had done at the dinner table the night before)
· Play fighting at recess turned in to real fighting at discovery centre
Good jawb! Progress!
· Stuck sidewalk chalk into his mouth at discovery center- unsanitary
For him or the chalk? Just be be on the safe side I sent in some Clorex (anti-bac) wipes - they ask for them on a weekly basis. I wonder if they ask the other parents?
· Called another student ‘not a nice name’
I asked him what name he had used – he said ‘idiot head’. I asked if it was a fair assessment of the other student – he said it was.
· Talking out loud- making sound and noise- pretending to shoot guns. He was supposed to be cleaning up
Is child labour allowed in schools? Maybe hi was cleaning toilets like his sister …and I thought guns were a constitutional right!
· Acting silly- moving arms up and down. He should have been reading
…but according to you he cant!!!
· He put his mouth on someone’s water bottle at lunch. That is bad but the child has a severe allergy and it took him some time to admit what he had done. This could have been dangerous. Please remind him not to touch other people’s lunch. It is unsanitary and can be dangerous.
I think he may not have admitted it because he was sat there wondering what the F**k all the fuss was about! Maybe the other child is allergic to small English boys. I sympathise – I have a slight intolerance to them myself!
Obviously there is something wrong with my son. There must be a reason for his naughtiness other than because he is naughty! I did some research and realised that he has caught ADHD! (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). In the
the average % of ADHD children is between 3-7%. In the US it is around 1.5%. It is on the increase here. The % of children with a parent-reported ADHD diagnosis increased by 22% between 2003 and 2007. Boys are twice as likely to be diagnosed as girls. By state the highest number of parent reported ADHD was none other than UK with a high of 15.6% (compared to the lowest state, 5.6% in North Carolina but that may be because children are not allowed in casinos!) Given all those statistics I felt sure he must be in with a chance. I checked a couple of the symptoms to see if I could 'parent diagnose' him – seems the trendy thing to do (it also depends on which medical insurance you have apparently!) Symptoms: Nevada
Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat when sitting still is expected.
Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected.
Often excessively runs about or climbs when and where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may feel very restless).
Often has trouble playing or doing leisure activities quietly.
Is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor".
Often talks excessively.
Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished.
Often has trouble waiting one's turn.
Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).
Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks
Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace
Often has trouble organizing activities.
Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn't want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time
Often loses things needed for tasks and activities
Is often easily distracted.
Is often forgetful in daily activities.
When I read this I was very alarmed. It is clear that I have ADHD! As far as my son is concerned, since I know him to be an angel, I guess there is no alternative but to pray I have the right medical insurance, get him some Ritalin and take it myself – I’ve heard it really is very good!