Friday, September 5, 2014

First Week of First Grade

Kai has finished her first week of first grade.  And it was a good first week.  She describes her teacher as "magical", which seems like a great thing for a 1st grade teacher to be.  Every day, Kai has been excited to share about how her classroom works.  It's all about the positive discipline (duh! I feel like sending a note to her kindergarten teacher and letting him know that letting students hand out discipline and rewards and using an authoritarian classroom style are not the ingredients for a successful year).  Anyway, her new teacher has a jar that collects "warm fuzzies" which she hands out to the kids when they do something kind for one another.  When the jar is full, they get to have a class party.  Then there is a ladder for the kids to climb -- everyone starts off in the green (aka "ready to learn"), and they move their clothes pin up or down depending on their behavior in class.  They can go up to "engaged learner" and then to "star student".  Or, if they are acting out, they might end up in "teacher's choice" or "contact parents".  Kai has already moved up to engaged student in just a couple of days.

These classroom practices encourage teamwork, community involvement, participation, good behavior, and kindness.  And, Kai is extremely motivated by the structure and the opportunity for reward.  Her kindergarten classroom was so haphazard.  Mr. Thompson had the idea of some of these practices, but he completely fell down in their implementation.  It turns out an idea is only as good as its implementation -- a mantra I often repeat to my colleagues at work, too (so many people work to pass legislation and never bother to work on the implementation of those bills -- only to find that a few years later, the problems persist).  I am so happy that it appears that this teacher understands how to use positive discipline techniques in a consistent and structured way. 

Kai has also been really excited about the clubs after school.  So far, she has done drama, building blocks, sports, and science.  Today she has cooking club.  It's a good mix of activities. 

Personally, I am also feeling more connected to this school.  It helps so much that ALL of the kids participate in the after school program.  It's not for the kids whose parents can't get them at 3.  It's a central part of the environment.  Yesterday, we went to pick Kai up early to give her a bit of a break and she told us to come back at the end of the day.  After all, she had science club to get to!  And, it also means that it's a school that attracts a lot more working parents. I've really enjoyed the folks I've met so far.

Selecting a school for Kailey was a major project this spring.  We visited about a dozen schools.  Interviewed principals and staff.  Met with parents.  Had Kai sit in on classes.  It was really stressful and I'm so glad that her first week has gone smoothly.  Fingers crossed for the remainder of the year!

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