Friday, September 21, 2012

Third Grade Blues

Up until this point school work has come very easily for Caroline.  She's had the occasional bump but for the most part it's been easily resolved.  Even last year when her teacher, Ms. A, was challenging them, she always "got it" even if it was hard at first.  I guess because of that, I wasn't worried about third grade even though I've heard that it's a big change from the earlier grades.  So here we are four weeks in and there is a definite change.  Caroline struggles with her homework, brings home some classwork assignments that she didn't finish in the allotted time, and has even started saying things like, "I hate math!"  I'd raised some concern on the unfinished classwork with her teacher, Ms. Bo, and was happy to receive a call from her one afternoon this week.  She said that sometimes Caroline has trouble focusing and starting her work right away.  Obviously, I'm concerned.  I talked to Caroline about it to find out what's changed from this year to last year.  The only thing I can come up with is this ridiculous way that the older kids are in "open" classrooms (4 classrooms in one big space with 3/4 walls).  Caroline's class even has another class walking through hers since they don't have a door.  Yeah, seriously!!  I'd really like to kick the person in the groin that designed schools like this in the 1970's.  (The nearest high school has some spaces like this too and it was built around the same time.)

Anyway, Ms. Bo, didn't sound overly concerned given that Caroline really hasn't had issues before and that she's going to keep working with her to help her along and get focused.  Caroline told us sometimes she gets bored but based on the fact that she's not completely mastering the school work, it's not boredom out of the fact that she's not being challenged.  I think perhaps, this new rigor in preparation for the state-wide standardized tests in March is getting to her.

I've been really concerned about it the past few days especially considering one of the things Caroline said in regards to our neighbor, Joey, who is in her class.  "Joey is so smart, he finishes all his work fast and knows everything."    Well, then last night I saw Joey and his mom and I asked him how he liked third grade.  Without pausing he said, "It's really hard, especially the math."  To which his mom piped in, "Yeah, his dad has to help him with it almost every single night."

I took a huge sigh of relief.  Joey and Caroline were both some of the brightest kids in their class last year and it made me feel good that Caroline's perception that Joey was having an easy time was untrue.  Clearly, the new rigor of third grade is hard for a LOT of kids.  Another kid in their class who Joey is friends with said the same thing to Joey's mom - more support that this is a really big change for them.

I'm going to be talking to Ms. Bo again and will talk more about the curriculum and if it seems to be challenging the entire class.  In this case, sort of unfortunately, Ms. Bo is a first year teacher so she doesn't have that historic "this is how it always is in the beginning" experience to draw from.  It would really help to hear that right now.

However, last night after hearing that from Joey, I made a point to tell Caroline that Joey does NOT know it all and that he's struggling too and that all she has to do is keep on being patient and trying her best.  I'm pretty good at being patient with Caroline as she's working through her homework (as long as she's not continually getting up and doing headstands) and I'm going to be confident it just is going to take some time to help her "get it" again.

On a positive note, Ms. Bo was very clear to tell me that she's amazed at Caroline's intellect and can't believe some of the connections she makes and questions she'll ask particularly when it comes to reading and writing.  (Her strongest suit.)   Caroline reads and writes constantly, so at least I'm not concerned with her in terms of that.  I don't want her to get into a "girls can't do math" mentality, so I will do my darnedest to prevent that.  I realize that math just comes easily to some people (as does reading and language) but based on the fact that Caroline is a bright kid, I think it's a matter of helping instill some confidence in her in that realm.


Katie said...

Sounds like you are on top of it & that is what matters the most!

Erin said...

Third grade is no joke.... we are having a share of issues over here, as you know. Ben is realizing he actually has to put forth effort now and it's been quite jarring for him, I think. LOL!

As far as the first year teacher... yeah... this is why I LOVE the older teachers who have seen it all. Good luck... I wonder if you could talk with her last year's teacher about it to get her perspective on it and maybe some thoughts?

At our school's BTS night, they made a point to hammer home that 3rd grade is just such a HUGE adjustment for the kids, ALL of them... so that made me feel better.

Erika said...

Erin - thanks for posting that and glad to hear it's the same over there. You're exactly right, Caroline has only had to make minimal effort to this point and that is what's hard for her.

And funny you mentioned talking to last year's teacher b/c I was thinking about doing it (b/c I love her!) and your post made me decide to definitely do it!

Erika said...

Oh and when I say I'm "glad" to hear it's the same way over there, I mean in the sense that it's not Caroline's's just 3rd grade!

Erin said...

LOL. I gotcha! ;)