So last spring, when my school board cut us from 6 kindergartens to 4, and I got moved out of Kindergarten, I had to divide my Junior Kindergarteners between the remaining classes. (We have a two year Kindergarten program with Jr and Sr Kindergarteners in the same room). I made sure to put my kids who were handfuls with teachers who I thought would suit them best.
Then the new crop of JKs came in. One of the Kindergarten classrooms was now overloaded with challenging kids. The decision was made to move one of my old students to a different class. It’s been a disaster.
He runs away from class constantly. He always had difficulty following instructions, but he’s not listening at all. I do not think that he and his new teacher are a good fit. She has an extremely regimented program.
The thing is, her program is not in line with the Province’s vision for what Kindergarten should be. It’s a very old fashioned program. They have work board with centres and rotations. Once they complete their work, they can take their name tag, and put it in a chart beside a “free choice” centre they want to go to. The board limits the number of children at each centre, so kids who are done first get blocks, kids who are done last are left with things like the writing centre.
Also, she will say things to them like “Children how do we sit?” And the whole class will chant “Criss-cross, apple sauce, with our hands in our laps.” They each have their own personal square on the carpet they have to stay in.
I have taken a couple of specialization courses in Kindergarten, and I have to say, were where given classrooms like this as scenarios to do “rethinks” on. A big part of the Kindergarten program is teaching them to self regulate. When the teacher provides this much structure the teacher is regulating them, which is counterproductive to that goal.
Last year we had our Board’s Early Years Coordinator come in and do a workshop. The Coordinator is veteran Kindergarten teacher (the teacher I am ranting about was new to Kindergarten last year, and was put in to it at the last minute) who ran a program much more in line with the Province’s intentions (Which in a nutshell is that the kids get a lot more choice, and fewer restrictions.) before she took the Coordinator job. She tried to convince this teacher (and a few other colleagues who employed similar programs) that this is not the intention for Kindergarten, but they were very resistant to change and just argued with her. This teacher in particular kept arguing that we have to get the kids ready for Grade 1.
(This drives me nuts, because the Best Start Expert Panel on Early Learning deliberately designed the Kindergarten program around best practices for early learners (and early learning encompasses birth to age 8) Grade 1 should be adapting to Kindergarten, not the other way around.)
So anyways, in her frustration that this kid cannot fit the rigid expectations she has for him, she has turned her frustration on me. Twice today, she lashed out at me, telling me that this is all my fault. According to her, if I had taken him to In School Support Team last year, they could have put him in a special program for this year.
First off, his behaviour last year would not have warranted a special placement this year. He could be a handful, but we worked around him. We had a “take a break” area in the classroom where kids could go if they were mad, sad or just overwhelmed, with fidget toys, a tape recorder and headphones with soft music, etc. It even had a canopy over it to separate it from the rest of the room. He would spend a lot of time in there because he needed to. (When I described the take a break area to his new teacher as a strategy we used help him calm down, I literally saw her eyes glaze over.)
We also had an open snack table, where most of the day if the kids were hungry they could just go to the table and eat a snack from home, or a snack provided by the school. He spent a fair bit of time there, too. (He was always hungry. His Mom provided adequate lunches, but he was a bit of a bottomless pit. But at the same time very skinny.). His new class has designated snack times. In the morning they must all eat the school snack, and if they don’t want it, they can’t have anything from their lunch.
We also had no restrictions on how many kids could be at a centre. The philosophy is that they need to negotiate the social situations involved themselves.
In this context he was far more manageable.
Secondly, last year we didn’t even know this special program she is going on about existed. I had a student last year whose behaviour was a far greater concern (we’re talking biting other kids in the face because they have a toy he wants level of concern) who was taken to team, and no one breathed a word that this special program was even an option. Basically all we got was told to give him some toys to play with at the carpet to keep him quiet. From our perspective taking the second kid to team would have been a waste of time, because they would have repeated the same advice.
Thirdly, he came to me halfway through the year. He had two kindergarten teachers last year, both whom indicated his behaviour was sometimes problematic in his report cards, but neither of whom took him to team.
Funny thing is, today I was covering her class while she went to the team meeting, and he managed ok. He played in the home centre for a while, where he was signed up to be, but then decided to go to the building centre which was full. The other kids complained to me so I went over and quietly and calmly asked him to leave the centre because it wasn’t his turn. He came right out. He then sat down and cried because he couldn’t play there, but he did listen. I sat beside him and waited for him to finish. Then I told him I was proud of him for listening because I could see it was very hard for him. Just then a girl came over and asked him if he wanted to go to the playdough centre with her. There was space, and they both went.
Then his teacher came back. As soon as she was in the room, he ran out into the hall. Curious, no?
What especially pissed me off about being lashed out at though, is that at one point when I was talking to her, I had a stutter. It is not something I do frequently, but it does happen on occasion. As I was struggling to get the stuck word out, this went down:
Me: His behaviour was documented last year in in in *pause with my mouth open trying to form the word*
Her: Where? Where was it documented? Finish your sentence!
Holy hell. How uncollegial can you be? I am giving prep time to the Kindergarten teachers this year, so I have to work with her.
Another thing that annoys me is that she has another kid in her class who had problematic behaviour last year, and she is blaming this kid’s behaviour on my old student as well. According to her, this kid is following my old student. While there is an element of the other kid being jealous of attention my old student is getting that isn’t the only thing going on. This other kid has been causing me grief when their class to gym. He has been demanding to play basketball (the baskets in the gym are way too high for the Kinders to use, for starters) and when I say we are doing something else, he gets distruptive. Last time he ran around the room hitting all the other children who were playing the game I had chosen. He also ran out of the gym, out of the building and on to the playscape for the older children. My old student followed him, but when their classroom teacher tells the story, it was this other kid following my old student. I think she is scapegoating my old student for problematic behaviours this other kid is showing, that would have surfaced after the “honeymoon period” with or without the addition of my old student.
Oh, and incidentally, the kid who was biting other kids in the face last year? He’s like a different kid this year. He was just so overstimulated last year, he was out of control. The turning point for him was when his parents started taking him home for lunch, so he got a break in the day. Unfortunately that’s not an option for the other kid.