Saturday, July 25, 2009

Second grade

The summer before second grade was a busy one. Promoting Emmie or having her repeat first grade was constantly on my mind. I didn't want to make the wrong decision. In my mind, I felt if I made the wrong decision now it would affect her for the rest of her life.

Luckily, our Principal was understanding. She was new to us and began her term during the summer before Emmie's second grade year. She allowed me to hold a spot in both grades with the option to have her tested to ensure she met second grade standards before school began. The summer was spent with sight words, basic reading concepts, math facts, and so much more. My poor child worked her butt off!

Another summertime hurdle was I had to get a second grade teacher to agree to take her as a student based on her test scores. I thought it was going to be hard. After all, a child is so much more than what is written on a test score. The test didn't show her personality, her caring heart, her creative ways. The test just showed she was behind the other kids. That she couldn't read even basic sentences on her own, and first grade sight words were still too challenging. My son had a wonderful teacher for his first grade year and the same teacher moved up and also taught him second grade. She was still a second grade teacher and for this blog we'll call her Mrs. Paris (Emmie picked the names!). It is hard for me to explain to you how wonderful Mrs. Paris is. There are simply no words that I could write that would paint the picture of how beautiful of a person and how special of a teacher she is. There is something special in her and she will always be a part of our lives. Mrs. Paris looked over the test scores and having known Emmie was able to look past the bleak numbers and writing samples. She was honest in telling me Emmie would have to work twice as hard, but she had hope, and agreed to be Emmie's second grade teacher if we chose to promote her. HOPE! Sometimes that's all a parent needs when they are dealing with learning difficulties is someone to give them hope.

We worked and worked over the summer and a week before school began Emmie was instructed to be at the school in the afternoon for testing. Her Title I teacher would be giving the test. When we arrived, the Principal met us at the door and Ms. Title I whisked Emmie away to the library. Now what? My daughter's future hung in the balance and I'm left standing in the hall. Okay, it wasn't her "future" but in that moment it felt like it. I walked around and in the staff room found the group of custodians. What lovely people they are! They certainly made me feel comfortable and less anxious about Emmie's test. I don't think I ever thanked them for taking a moment out of their work day to chat with me, I don't think they realized how important it was, at that moment, for them to be there. Time seemed to past at a snails pace, and finally Emmie emerged standing in the doorway. "Did I do good?", she asked as we walked to the van. "Of course you did!", I proclaimed as I handed her a package of gummi bears from my purse that I purchased just for this occasion. I have never wanted her to feel as though she has failed at anything when it comes to her education. I know it's important to teach your children about failure and trust me, we have all felt our share. But I also think it's important to judge each child on their own scale of success. This test wasn't a pass or fail, it was a "measure of her progress" and in my eyes her determination and courage through her work was better than any gold star. The test showed she did make progress and we were on our way to second grade.

Emmie began the year with Mrs. Paris. I still feel the year went to fast! She continued to not only struggle, but also make progress. Her math skills continued to strengthen. Her writing improved. And we also finally figured out ways to help Emmie learn, ways to use her skills to help her soar, ways to make reading fun! It was during this year Emmie read her first book! It was a "Biscuit" book and she ended up reading every one her teacher and the library had. She had found a "voice" and confidence! Mrs. Paris was so encouraging and I feel she made the most difference in her little life so far. I am proud to say that Emmie made 60 points from the Accelerated Reader program! Second grade was the best thing that happened to us and it wouldn't have been possible without Mrs. Paris and her Team (her resource, title I, speech therapist, and psychologist became known as her Team). We also received a specific diagnosis as well (more on that tomorrow).

The most important part of second grade was Emmie had confidence. That confidence allowed her to try to sound out more words, try to answer questions, just TRY in general. And sometimes the courage to try is worth more than the ability to do.

Until tomorrow ya'll,

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