Q: My third child is in Pre-1A this year and has been having difficulties in school. She lacks certain learning skills, it’s hard for her to follow instructions, and she is a little immature for her age.
My older children had similar problems when they were younger. Fortunately, they eventually outgrew those issues and caught up.
The difference is that her Pre-1A teacher told me last week that the school is thinking about leaving her back a year because of these issues. Throughout the year, the teacher had mentioned these problems in passing. But no one suggested the idea of leaving her back … and to tell me in May!
Her teacher said that first grade is a year during which children have to to sit and concentrate for long periods of time, and she’s concerned that my daughter will not manage well. What do you suggest?
A: I understand your great disappointment about what has occurred with your daughter. Clearly, a great lack of communication has existed between you and your daughter’s teacher. Teachers sometimes hesitate to tell parents alarming news, such as that a child needs to be left back a grade. They also may wait to see if children mature with time before finalizing decisions about promoting students to the next grade.
A principal or resource room coordinator may feel that your daughter needs to be left back, and the teacher is responding to her assessment of the situation. For whatever reason, this is your present challenge, and solutions are varied.
You didn’t mention if your daughter has received an educational evaluation and is presently receiving ancillary services such as special ed, physical therapy or occupational therapy. Having her evaluated is an initial step to take, if you have not yet done so.
Special education services for children of this age focus on teaching them how to follow instructions and help them acquire social skills. Occupational therapy works on improving fine motor skills such as cutting or writing. Wherever your daughter may have a developmental lag, ancillary services are very beneficial in accelerating her progress.
Though other school staff may have responded to your older children in a different manner, this child is not dealing with identical factors. She has a different social environment (due to her particular class make-up), and possibly other teachers. Even if the same teachers taught your older children, at this point in their teaching careers they may have different expectations of their students.
Your daughter may mature over the summer, but school administrators cannot rely on the idea of “possibly” if they want to maintain a classroom of homogeneous students. You can now have a meeting with school staff and obtain a list of concrete goals they want your daughter to achieve. If your daughter is receiving therapy, you can ask her therapists about the likelihood of her being able to reach these goals in three-and-a-half months.
If the school feels they need to make a definite decision now, and you are vehemently opposed to this decision, you have the right to look for another school which might be more flexible in their expectations of your daughter. However, parents need to be honest with themselves: perhaps your daughter really does need another year in Pre-1A to allow her to be more carefree in her present school environment.
As in all areas, one needs to daven for siyatta diShmaya in making the right decisions for a child’s chinuch.