Is your child graduating from Pre-K?! It all happens so fast, you don’t really think about it at the beginning of the year because it’s still preschool then all of a sudden May comes and you get a graduation announcement! My little guy is graduating from preschool and moving onto kindergarten. No matter if your child is typical or special needs we all have our concerns and have all heard that kindergarten is not how we remember it. More demands, more testing and a whole lot less play.
I went to observe a kindergarten teacher today and was impressed with the teacher’s professionalism but more impressive was the students ability to perform at the level she requested. It did not seem like a kindergarten class! These 6 year old children could focus and perform to tasks better than the 16 years old that I teach. It was impressive but it is also sad. When did we start become a society that values confined space with limited activity and freedom? The kids were water coloring today! I was so impressed. I cannot water color without making a mess and these kids were proficient and clean. They were attending to detail and went step by step with the teacher as to what picture they were going to color next. They matched the same colors and patterns and I didn’t see anyone purposefully color something a different color. It made me think of my kindergarten days when my mom had to argue with the teacher that I did know what color a stop sign was. Apparently, my favorite color was purple. The teacher never asked why I colored the sign purple but my mom did. “I wanted to color it purple, I like purple.”
Thinking about my observation I was taken aback not just by what a special needs student would be responsible to do on a minute by minute basis but on how a regular child would be able to keep up with the expectations. The teacher had 18 students and no assistant. My son would need an assistant to help him stay on task for the 20 minutes of circle time and the 30+ minutes of art. The teacher should not have to be the teacher and the assistant for my child. She definitely needs to help the other regular students that need redirection and assistance.
If you have a child with an IEP and will be transitioning to kindergarten I would recommend observing. I also recommend observing every school year for the next year. The IEP will have to be updated at the end of every school year. It is best to observe the next level to build in accommodations and services. Knowing what is expected of your child will only help to make him successful in moving up. It is also helpful to ask questions about how expectations change while in the room. What’s the expectation when you enter the class and how does it increase by the end of the year?
When you observe, take your child’s current IEP and look at the domain/curriculum goals. Do the current goals fit or help the child in the new class? Write your concerns or questions by each domain. I asked questions related to attending to task because my son struggles with keeping himself on task with non-preferred activities. (But, who doesn’t?) I also like questions that start with have you ever…? Then that leaves the teacher room to pull from their experience and they do not have to talk about kids in the room now.
Quick Tips to make your Observation a Success:
- Schedule the IEP conference first
- Email the administrator about a month before your meeting date
- In the email request to observe the next grade level in preparation for the meeting
- Tell the administrator what you want to see related to your concerns for your child
- ex. I want to see transition and center time to see what the expectations are
- State that you can be flexible with the teacher and time of the observation
For me, I will always be my child’s voice but what will you choose to be? There is a lot of sacrifice that comes with putting in this amount of time. Please don’t be afraid, be brave and advocate for your child. I love when I hear what other kids are getting! It makes me smile and think YES! It tells me that other parents are going to fight and make the school provide proper accommodations and services. We can make it better for us and those that come after us.