Today DH and I attended our first “parent-teacher meeting” at DD’s preschool. This is her first year in any sort of classroom setting, and we were eager to hear what the teachers had to say about her. After all, we’re rather biased . Seriously, though, I’m not an expert on 3 year olds, and I’m so used to DD just being herself that it’s hard to see how she fits in with others her age – not in a “competition” sort of way, just in a “what kind of kid is she?” kind of way.
Well, the meeting was very validating to us. DD is, as we suspected, a rather unique little character. So many of the characteristics the teachers had observed and noted about her could be directly traced to us and we all found it interesting to compare. For example, at one point the teacher asked us if either of us had photographic memories. In fact, that is exactly how DH and I learn. I well recall studying for exams by simplying taking a mental picture of a page of notes, and then recalling that image during an exam and “reading it” to find the answer I was looking for. The fact that DH studied that way as well was one of those geeky things we found out about each other during our courtship that endeared us to one another (okay, insert saccharin bleck face here). I was intrigued to hear that DD is almost certainly learning that way as well.
They also asked us if she was reading. One of those questions where you know they already know the answer. They were just curious to hear how it happens at home, and we were interested to hear how it manifests itself at school. This is a “play-based” learning environment; there are no “academics” here. The children initiate play at any one of a variety of activity stations (many of which are constantly changing each day) and the teachers simply interact and guide while the child leads. Needless to say, DD’s favorite games revolve around letters, words, and categorizing things. It started just a few weeks ago; she began interrupting us while we’re reading her a story to point out words she knows, or to ask us to show her where it says some word she just heard that interests her. She has known a couple of words since at least the summer (when she corrected a friend who was pretending to read a sign – “that doesn’t say ‘GO’, G-O says ‘GO'”, lol). But now it’s just taking off. And we haven’t done a thing to promote it, she started this all on her own. In fact, the first few times she did it with me I almost got frustrated at being interrupted, lol!
The teachers weren’t too surprised to learn that both DH and I started reading at age 3. According to my father, DD’s approach has been pretty much the same as mine, very self-directed and self-motivated. I think the difference is that Dad pushed academics whereas DH and I are trying to be very nonchalant about it. The last thing I want is for my DD to get saddled with the issues I have regarding my worth being related to how smart I am (or think I am). I actually hate that word “smart”. It’s considered a dirty word ’round here and we never use it. She is who she is, and her particular set of talents just happen to be centered around skills that our society has placed arbitrary value on. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t extremely proud of her. But I also know that it’s tied into my own issues, and not a reflection of her own value above any other children. My wonderful son isn’t the slightest bit interested in books, or being read to, and he is almost 14 months – an age where DD was obsessed with books already.
Then we talked about some of DD’s challenges, like sharing. They said her approach is normal for her age, and the fact that she has a younger sibling who is “easy pickings” explains her penchant for simply grabbing whatever she feels has been taken from her (she “claims” things as hers even if she isn’t using ithem at the time). So we talked about how the school handles it (reason number 1004 why I love this place) and it pretty well meshed completely with what we do: role playing, approaching it as a problem that needs to be solved, and enlisting DD’s help with finding a solution while also letting the other kid feel heard (that doesn’t apply as much at home since DS is not verbal enough for that). When I told the teacher that this is what we try to do at home, she said it was obvious. She explained that kids who are forced to share get panicky and react very differently to the situation compared to DD. We also agreed that we’d seen big improvements over the months – it was nice to hear that from the teacher, too.
And this is when the compliments poured in. She said that DD was an extremely confident little girl, who was very well-adjusted and acclimated rapidly to the new situation (of starting school). She further explained some of the things they look for in kids whose parents perhaps need a bit of assistance with their approach to things, and complimented us on being “wonderful parents”. We also talked a bit about our goals, and how we always try to keep the adolescent and teen years in mind when dealing with situations: we are building a relationship, not training a bloody pigeon (there’s my thumbs-down to the behaviouralists). Basically, the way they handle the kids at the school is a shining example of how I want to parent, so coming from them it meant a lot.
Finally, they asked us what we were looking for in the school, and whether we felt it was being met. Basically, we wanted a mixed age grouping (the kids in her class range from age 3 – 5) and lots of stimulating activities that she could be self-directed in, and that is what we have got. I’ve spent lots of time with the school on their field trips, etc and I’m just thrilled with the place. It’s happy, really welcoming, peaceful, and the teachers are just amazing with the kids.
Basically, just one of those wonderful days that make the challenges of parenting all worthwhile!