Beginning of the Year Update

We’re two weeks into the school year and it’s so far, so good. I admit to being a bit nervous about sending Rowenna to two different schools. That’s two environments, two teachers (and sets of staff), two sets of rules and expectations…I could go on. I want to challenge Rowenna but  structure has become more and more important to her as she gets older, and I was concerned she wouldn’t respond well to two different structures.

So two days a week, I bring her to our district’s Head Start building where she is in a class of 4 children, all of whom qualify for special education services of some kind. The other three children take a bus, so I haven’t had an opportunity to meet the other parents yet. And since I drop Ro off outside with her teacher, I also haven’t met her classmates. I’m sure all three of them are delightful and charming, I’m just nosy and like to know who my kid is spending a few hours with twice a week.

We got off to a bit of a bumpy start, partially due to my guard being up and looking for trouble. I’ve been told, nearly since Rowenna’s birth, that this public school thing is going to be a struggle at best, adversarial at worst. And for many families, that’s the unfortunate, unjust experience. I don’t know yet if that will be our experience, and I certainly hope it’s not, but I own up to my feeling of constantly looking for the fight.

Back to the bumpy start. Before school started, I had some significant communication issues with the district, including not receiving Rowenna’s placement until two weeks before school started. On Rowenna’s very first day, the report I got from her teacher is that Rowenna didn’t want to sit still during circle time. My internal reaction was something along the lines of “It’s nuts to expect full compliance in the first 10 minutes of the school year, especially dealing with 3 year olds.” What I said out loud was “well, it’s her very first day and there was a lot to see and explore. Let’s give her time.” Her teacher sort of smiled and shrugged, and I did the same, and I left wondering if this is the kind of thing we’d be talking about all year when really I’m more interested in whether or not my child is engaged and curious.

I joked about it on facebook a bit, talked it over with hubby, and let it be. The next week, her teacher happily reported that they came up with an accommodation. Ro gets to sit in a tiny rocking chair during circle time. Perfect compromise: she is sitting in the circle, but her body also gets to move.

The fact that they did this without making a big deal out of it, or trying out some consequences first, makes me feel better about Ro attending public school this year. I know it’s just one instance, but to me it shows a willingness to meet Rowenna where she’s at, rather than dragging her to where they think they should be. I’ve received great reports other than that first day.

Montessori is also off to a good start. Her teacher reports that Rowenna has fallen right back into the rhythm of the classroom and seems to remember the majority of the rules and expectations. She’s enjoying some favorite activities while also trying new things, and has also demonstrated much more patience in cleaning up after herself. (The students are expected to return all the pieces of an activity to its box or tray before moving on to the next thing.)

Her teacher also told me that she’s made some changes to the classroom based on what she knows Rowenna enjoys. (Primarily, the changes involve creating spaces for quiet, private moments – something Ro often seeks in order to decompress.) Turns out that many of the children in class enjoy these changes. I love that Rowenna has had a positive impact on her classmates and her environment.

Perhaps the most interesting change is in Rowenna’s socialization. Last year, Rowenna spent most of her time interacting with the youngest members of class. This year, she is showing a keen interest in her same-age peers. I asked her teacher what her peers thought of that, and she said they have been patient and kind while a little perplexed as to how to play with the girl who is their size but doesn’t talk. This is music to my ears – that Rowenna is challenging herself, reaching out, trying to interact, and that her peers are being kind and patient and trying to understand. I can’t wait to see where all this ends up at the end of the school year.

All in all, we’re on a good trajectory here. Hopeful that this will be a great school year for Rowenna!

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