Friday, November 09, 2007

My Daughter's Education

Work has, once again, been kicking my ass, and an uptick in traffic due to some new construction has both lengthened my commute and shortened my temper by the time I get home.

But I had a nice e-mail from my daughter's elementary school teacher the other day. Now, I live in a CorruptSmallSuburb of a MinorCity. Our school system is considered good, though not as highly regarded as the MoneyMagazineTopTen town next door. Last year's teacher was a nice woman, but I was underwhelmed by her teaching approach. My husband actively disliked her and started hinting about sending the kids to private schools (that would never happen).

But this year's teacher has been great. And to add to our pleasure, her e-mail this week was to ask about whether or not we thought our daughter needed more challenging work. Now, personally, I feel our daughter has been more challenged this year than any other. However, she is still whizzing through her homework, and she reports that she often daydreams. I've also noticed that she writes quickly and sloppily, as if she can't be bothered. But I am thrilled (and gratified, because sad it may be, but I do take incredibly personal pleasure in my daughter's academic success) that her teacher both appreciates her intelligence *and* wants her to develop further.

The upshot is that I said, yes, of course, I'd love for my daughter to be more challenged. How that is going to happen, I am not sure. I immediately contacted my elementary-ed-certified sister for advice; she feels that increasing the level of difficulty in reading and math and using more social/experiential/active learning techniques, i.e., small group interaction to solve problems and talk about them. She suggested a lunchtime reading group, or some sort of math group talking about math in a real-life context, like opening a lemonade stand.

I told my mom, who said "Too bad there's no more Learning Center." Ha, that was exactly my thought. When I was in 4th grade, I was put into a program called the Learning Center. It was approximately 5 classrooms in one wing of the school, wall-less rooms, if that makes sense. Each teacher had a class, but the students mainly worked independently, or sometimes with one of the other classes. Every week or so we'd set up a conference with the teacher to determine a plan of action for the next week. Those who could move faster through the curriculum did so; others took it slower. We did some stuff together as a class--some social studies and science, for example. Students often paired together to work on projects. I remember my friend Amy and I did a project together on Wisconsin. Then we also paired to do a project on Indonesia for International Food Day. And I remember our "special math group" that met weekly, run by the mother of one of the other students. She had us use math in the context of architecture and house plans, and the highlight was actually going to the site of a home being built. I've had a jones for house plans ever since.

It's funny to watch my daughter go through school, as she's a lot like me.

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