Please help us decide! (Sorry, long)

sadiesmomAugust 15, 2002

DH and I need to make a decision about my DD's school/ classroom placement for next year and we are so conflicted I need some outside advice! DD is going to be in 2nd grade. Currently, she is in an a accelerated class (mixture of academically gifted and highly motivated students) for 1st 2nd and 3rd graders (yes, an all day program with all three grades). We are considering pulling her from this class and putting her in another "regular" 2nd/3rd grade combination class.

DD is EXTREMELY outgoing, very bright, and also EXCEPTIONALLY empathetic (she has seen the school counselor on several occasions in an effort to convince her that she is not responsible for solving everyone's social problems.) However, DD is only borderline gifted and definitely does not fall into the "highly motivated" category where academics are concerned. The other issue is that while her teacher is fabulous in many respects, she has been doing this for 30 years, seems to be "burnt out" and is not the most encouraging or affectionate teacher there is. She is not mean, just very business-like. Generally, other parents really like the other teachers/classroom that we are considering although most complain that the teachers are not very organized.

My daughter really wants to stay in this class because she likes the other students, though I know she would make friends anywhere. Another issue is that my DS (10) and she are very close and he is in the companion 4th, 5th, 6th grade class that adjoins hers. The two classes have the same theme for the school year and do MANY activities, projects and field trips together. This makes my volunteer time very rewarding and convenient and dinnertime conversations and family outings great because there is a common topic that we can focus on.

There are other issues to consider: 1)surprisingly, her current teacher doesn't teach reading in a formal way she figures these kids are already good readers and they have to turn in lots of book reports so she knows they are reading a lot at home. 2)There can be a lot of homework?usually not more than 45 minutes but sometimes over an hour. (Usually none on the weekends though) 3) I know my daughter would have more fun in another class but she also would not be learning as much as she is capable of.

Finally, if we decide to take DD out of this class she will attend a different school, (only 2 minutes away). The "regular" classes have many more behavior issues--where there are basically none now. (About the worst thing that ever happens in her current class is talking out of turn.) That in itself seems like a pretty big issue.

I know this is long put please help me see things more clearly!

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It sounds to me like you pointed out many more positives than negatives about your daughter's current class. I am sure she would make new friends at a new school, but it might be distracting to meet all new people, and by staying where she is she might be able to focus more easily on academics. I know what you mean about a burnt-out teacher, I had several of those myself, but as long as they are not mean, they usually do a good enough job. I think it is really neat that your son and daughter go to the same school and have lots of things in common to talk about. My brother and I went to the same school for years, then started going to separate schools, and after that we had much less to talk about and didn't know each others' friends very well, and we weren't as close as we had been. I think it is really important to keep your children in the same social structure that they have been in, as long as they are doing well. I also think that classrooms with a mixture of grades are great, and that being with the younger kids this year could maybe help your daughter express her empathetic tendencies by letting her help the younger kids. As far as the teacher not teaching reading, I can see how you might think that is kind of weird. But it is true that some kids can learn all the grammar and spelling they need just from reading and writing on their own. Others need more help. Just keep an eye on how your daughter's reading is progressing and if you think that she needs extra help, ask the teacher for suggestions.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2002 at 2:42PM
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Let me clarify--the main problem with the class that she is in now is that DD is easily frustrated. If she thinks something is going to be difficult for her, she will often "shut down" or get upset. She and I often butt heads (maybe once a week) because I KNOW she has slopped through something and could have done a better job. Do you think that, given the other drawbacks that I mentioned, it would be better to have her in a classroom where she would feel really smart and the level of work she is comfortable doing would be considered great? I know I mentioned many more positives about her current situation, but maybe this attitude/confidence issue negates all of those other positive factors?
Also, just so you are aware, her current teacher does hit English--spelling, grammar and writing VERY hard, she just doesn't teach reading.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2002 at 4:53PM
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If she is smart enough to keep up with the work, shouldn't she work on learning how to cope with difficulty? It would be different if she was really struggling because she wasn't intelligent enough. But her attitude about challenging work is something that she can learn to change.

It would be easier for her to feel like the smart girl in class. But, not to sound like the smart girl in class or anything, but I WAS the smart girl in class often when I was in school, and it feels good but it doesn't prepare you to work hard. It prepares you to do just what you can to get by, which often is very little. I am glad I can rely on my god-given intelligence but sometimes, these days, at 2 AM when I am up finishing (or starting) a paper for graduate school, I wish that I had learned a little more about how to rise to meet a challenge instead of how to weasel my way into an easy A.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2002 at 10:51PM
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Frustration, lack of motivation, etc. That is a con, but not enough of a con to outweigh all the pros. There are many big pros there that will enrich not only her life but yours, too.

I say she's going thru a phase that will pass - the first of many. Work with her on the attitude and make sure she knows you're listening. it sounds as if she's doing great, and just needs your guidance through this time. It's also the beginning of the year, and she's going to have to get back into the swing of things.

As a neutral observer reading your posts, I am led to recommend staying the course.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2002 at 7:39AM
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I think the big question is the degree of her difficulties. Only you know. Is it immaturity? Will a year at a slower pace help her? Is the empathy thing seriously affecting her? If you think she needs a year to slow down, then try another class. I also wonder about the degree of misbehavior in the other school you are considering. Is it serious--is learning slowed because of the behavior of some?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2002 at 9:45PM
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Thanks for your opinions. You definitely did shed some clarity on the situation. Anita, you are right, one of our primary goals is to encourage and teach her to be a hard worker. If we put her in another class, what she will learn is that life and school are easy. Karen and Sheilajoyce, I think you are right also--this is a phase that I am confident she can work through. I didn't tell you that one of the things going against her is that in her group of now-2nd graders, she is the youngest one by 6 months and I think that some of the differences in maturity level (even though everyone, including teachers/counselors tell us that in many ways, she is VERY mature for her age) will be less pronounced or nonexistent in 2nd and 3rd grade. And yes, the the empathy thing does affect her, but this is a gift that we want to foster--we are just helping her learn to manage and deal with her concern for other people in a way that is healthy for her. I am afraid though, that if she did go into a "regular" class that she would be even more distracted by the higher numbers of kids that are getting in trouble.
So, as is stands now, I think we are going to "stay the course". Still willing to hear other's insights though! Thanks again for your help! Sadiesmom

    Bookmark   August 20, 2002 at 1:14AM
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