29 Days.

Wow, this one is interesting. I was quite naive in my early kindergarten days. I've learned since that almost every child, no matter what they come in knowing, can meet our benchmarks. Am I an amazing teacher? Not really... the kids are just sponges and they make my job easy. Kind of. Chris is doing well in first grade. I remember fondly how excited I was after this assessment... it's awesome to feel like you've made a difference.

In my classroom, we have a calendar routine. Each day, we add another number to our chart, where we keep track of the days we’re in school. There are many reasons why we do this, most of which revolve around building number sense. It’s a good way for the kids to apply what they’re learning (reading and writing numbers, and counting) to a real-world situation.

One day, however, I realized that the routine is also for me. Each day, when we chart how many days we’ve been in kindergarten, it helps me reflect on what we’ve done and how much farther we have to go. I had this epiphany on day twenty-nine, and I’ll always remember it fondly.

That morning, we took a field trip to the local public library. It was a blast for the kids and filled with many amusing moments, but those aren’t what I’ll remember about day twenty-nine. I’ll remember something that happened in the afternoon.

Towards the end of the day, while the kids were working independently in Choice Centers (blocks, dramatic play, puzzles, etc.), I pulled a few of them aside to assess them for upcoming parent conferences and report cards. Before each report card is prepared, I have to assess each child’s understanding of letters, sounds, numbers, and some other basic skills. I began with Chris, who had begun school knowing only eight letters of the alphabet. I had been worried about him from the start. He was quiet and a little slower than the other kids; mostly, he just seemed very young. (I know, they’re all young in kindergarten, but Chris was really young. Honestly, I wasn’t sure he was ready for school.)

When I assessed Chris that day, however, he knew twenty-five letters. Twenty-five letters. Out of twenty-six in the entire alphabet. In twenty-nine short days of school, he had gone from knowing barely any letters to almost all of them. I was surprised when I realized this—and pleased beyond belief. I tried not to overdo it with the happy dancing, but I was on cloud nine. My school has a set of benchmarks, or standards, each child is expected to meet by the end of the year. As I assess each child throughout the year, these benchmarks are like a target we’re trying to hit by the time June rolls along. All along, I’d been pretty sure Chris would never meet the benchmarks by the end of the year (many kids don’t) but now, after such a short time, I felt quite confident that he would not only meet them but perhaps surpass them. Whatever I was doing, I thought, it was working!

Day twenty-nine was a Friday, and Fridays are tough sometimes—we have no specials, such as Library, Music, P.E. or Art, and therefore I have no planning time. Chris’ assessment was a gift that I needed at that moment.

If you ask yourself what you’ve truly accomplished in the last twenty-nine days, what do you come up with? I did, and I’ve never been so pleased with an answer.

1 comment:

Theresa Milstein said...

I love how much their triumphs are your triumphs. Your enthusiasm sustains these kids, I'm sure.

Great teachers can get students to meet their benchmarks. It's what they lose each summer. And it's how much the curriculum accelerates as the students get older that make it more and more of a challenge. That's why I get kids in 8th-grade who are 2-3 years behind in grade level. But we have to keep trying.