Sunday, February 13, 2011

Great 4: Great Expectations

Perhaps the biggest surprise about grade 4 is the expectations on the students.

By necessity, the kids at some point need to take responsibility for themselves at school. I heartily endorse this notion.  The kids are expected to kind of be responsible for themselves.  This is a laudable, and for some kids, realistic goal. 

My kid is not some kids.

No one knows this more than me the perils of a child who needs to learn responsibility. Part of my weekly routine is tracking down errant items scattered by the J Boy across the universe. Mitts, shoes, gym strip, library books. I check the lost and found, I check his class. I ask him to do these things but he either forgets or says he did them and did not find the missing item.  It's either conduct my own reconnaissance missions for missing things, or buy gloves, hats, gym clothes by the gross.

One day, for example, he said to me in the drop off lane at school:  "Mommy, did you pack my gym strip in my backpack?  I have gym today".

I said, "it should be there, I'm not due to launder it for 4 more months"

"It's not here. You have to go home and get it."

If you are in grade 4 and you have no strip of a gym variety, you sit out gym. Now while Jackson is fine with gym, I doubt very much he would mind missing it. He does mind being singled out as the perpetrator of the unpardonable sin of forgettage of gym strip.

Fortunately that day, before I went home to get it, I checked the lost and found for the brown bag of stinky clothes. It wasn't there. It was, I discovered, hanging on the same nail that his backpack hangs on.

So of course in music, one has to remember to bring one's recorder, music duo tang and planner to class. Or one gets a mark against. One week in October, a certain unnamed boy whose name starts with J had all the required items IN HIS OWN BACKPACK and could not find them.

You see what I am dealing with. Remembering them seems like a pie-in-the-sky dream when he can't find them in his own reasonably sized backpack.

The homework, as mentioned, requires the students to think about whether the math is done and bring home the appropriate books. Sometimes that is a single sheet, sometimes a duo tang, sometimes a textbook.  Sometimes all three.

On top of remembering to bring stuff, grade 4 brings letter grades and I guess a need for more concrete assessment than in earlier grades. Because they have tests. And assignments. Even pop quizzes.

When we got the note home for the first math test Jackson erroneously believed his parents weren't both overachieving students that went through a great many years of public education and in post secondary programmes (this is peril of having a lawyer and Ph D for parents).  This is what he believed a math test meant:

Step 1: Show up
Step 2: Write test

He was disavowed of that notion as we reviewed the work he had done to find the weak spots.  He practiced those areas until we all agreed he was competent.  Then we created practice tests and tried to mimic test conditions. Except in an effort to keep the J Boy interested, the tests were really more like game shows and we tried to make the subject matter appealing.  For example, in one unit on graphing, we had him create a bar graph which charted who in the family farted the most.

The next challenge to address in grade 4 was the province-wide BC testing.  They do this in grade 4 to get a measure of how the kids are doing across the province.  I sort of am okay with the notion of province-wide testing, I see the merit of it.

I just don't really see the merit of it in grade 4.  The testing is done over 4 days, one day it is almost the entire day. Another is half and day and the other two are shorter sessions.  Do they not know how much recorder practice grade 4's have? And math tests? And have they not heard about the big Map of Canada assignment in socials??

I think this is a lot to expect of kids that for the most part have never written until a few months earlier (if  you don't count spelling tests, which I don't).  Even if the results don't count, it just seems a bit much.  At least for my grade 4 kid.

In conclusion (of all things grade 4), this year is as big as I was always told but never really believed. But in  more and significant ways than I thought.  I have warned Jackson that he needs to either cotton on to the responsibility gig, or find a way to hide me in his locker in middle school -- the year after next.

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