Saturday, April 2, 2011

... i got my eye on you...

... or, learning isn't just for preschoolers any more.

Art project, at home

Yesterday morning I was scheduled to go to K's school to do an "observation." M set it up, and confirmed the time by asking a neighbor to check when she was at the school. 8.55a.

Generally speaking, this sort of thing is not what I get excited about in the morning. There's the feeling out of place, a bull in a china shop (there's nothing like being a 6'5" man, trying to blend into the background at a preschool, small chairs, small desks, small people.... it doesn't work!), and last year it was pretty chaotic and I left without having a chance to say goodbye to K.

Add to this the fact that the last few nights I've slept poorly and have struggled in the mornings: L is waking up and wanting attention, the beast has been up as well, and K&L haven't been going to sleep easily. It all combines to wear a parent down and add to the challenge of morning.

Needless to say, I was not in the ideal frame of mind for "observing."

But it was what I was doing, so I drove K and our neighbor's boy to school and let them out, then parked and walked in. I got to stand in the drizzle and watch the kids playing at recess before class, and it was hard not to look across the playground and imagine that she was alone, not playing with anyone, ignored. I suspect I was projecting.... And then it was time to start the school day and I followed the children into their room. K looked damp and bedraggled, but then so did everyone else.

Her teacher had set up a table when K could show me the projects she's been working on:

  • a map we've heard a lot about at home, but with no details.
    Us: What's it a map of?
    K: I... I don't know! It's a map of places!
    Us (trying to be helpful): Is it the United States?
    K: There are different ... states I'm pinning out. They're ... states.
    Us: Like your puzzle of the states with Alabama and Hawaii?
    K (sharp shake of her head): No!
    Us: Uh... ok....

    It turns out it's a map of South America, and she's been "pinning" out countries and pasting them to the map. She's got Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia (maybe) done, and is working on Columbia...

  • her "workbook"

    The workbook is a big deal. She was excited when she started it, but progress was slow because "it's boring" and "it's hard." I was curious to see it, and she showed it to me proudly, flipping quickly through the pages she'd done. Mostly it's small pictures under which are blanks for writing letters - a baby asleep, with "n" "a" "p" written under it, for example. And it gets progressively more difficult as you move along. The workbook has 80 pages, and K is now on page 26, which is good progress compared to how things were going earlier in the year when she was stalled on page 12 for weeks and weeks.
After this we talked briefly (about Romeo the goldfish whose gained quite a bit of weight in the year since I last saw him, and about the rearranged room) and then I had to leave to get to work, and K went back to the rest of the class. She waved goodbye and I waved to her, and I walked out of the building and through the rain to the car.

But here's the thing - once I was there, sitting in a chair (a big chair!), looking over these projects with K and sharing her pride and enthusiasm, it felt right to be there. I was glad I'd gone, and I didn't feel (quite as) crabby about the poor night's sleep and about the rank weather and about missing 3 hours of work. It was worth the effort.

K can be a challenge at home, teasing her sister, pushing limits, being almost 5yo. (Honestly, I can be a challenge at home, grousing and fussing and....) But spending one-on-one time with her in a setting where she has a chance to tell me what she's been doing and an opportunity to share her accomplishments helps me to remember just how truly sweet a little girl she is, and how she's trudling forward in life, doing all the things she needs to be doing to be a 5 year old (which is coming, this month!).

Oh yeah, as I was walking out of K's classroom, I happened to glance at a signup sheet. For observation times. And we were signed up for 9.45a. I'd been there an hour early, and K's teachers didn't even blink. They definitely get brownie points for that!

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