We made it! We are officially on summer vacation. Well, Owen is. I'm on an abbreviated summer schedule which is not unlike my during-the-school-year schedule but I won't be working all the days of the week unless it's imperative.
Last night during our prayers Owen said he was thankful for making it past first grade. I am thankful for that too. SO THANKFUL! It was a lot of work. There was a mommy blogger on the Today Show this morning who had written about how around the end of April or early May she basically checks out. I can empathize. When I was teaching I felt like that about that time of year and I know the kids did too. I also didn't have air conditioning in my classroom so if it was a hot spring it was doubly bad! Being on the other side of the table has been interesting. I don't think I noticed it as much last year as I did this year. Kindergarten, for a variety of reasons, was a crazy and disjointed year. This year was long and hard but full of a lot of success and we were all ready for the end and some time away from the grind.
Owen had a fantastic teacher this year. She has a lot of the same beliefs about teaching that I do and a rather similar teaching style. She is basically who I was 10 years ago. A dedicated, childless parent dedicated to being a good teacher and helping her students do the best they can. And this year, more than before, I realized how being a teacher without children is very different than being a parent or a teacher with children. Which is a big part of why I no longer teach. I want to raise my son and not be a teacher at the same time. I loved my students, as Owen's teacher loved her's; but it's not the same as the way I love Owen. And one cannot know the difference until one is a parent and is (or was) a teacher. And many times this year I found myself thinking back to my years of teaching and wondering if my students' parents thought I was a tough as I thought Owen's teacher was.
This year Owen struggled with reading. The foundation that should have been laid when he was in kindergarten was not, and we weren't aware of the extent of that until he was into first grade. Thus we began the hard work of working on reading with a child who was not happy about doing so much reading and writing and math both in school and at home. And his confidence in his ability to be successful was quite low. As a teacher, one approaches it from a problem solving angle. What skills is the child missing? What strategies will best help the child build those skills? Is there an underlying issue that is keeping the child from progressing? And those are all things that I asked when we began this journey but Owen is also my baby and it broke my heart to watch him struggle and feel so bad about himself. Mamas don't want to watch their little ones hurt and not be able to fix it. And since my experience with first grade was limited to one semester of student teaching almost 15 years ago I was rusty and inexperienced in teaching reading. But the even harder part is that Owen attends an immersion school so he's learning everything in Spanish not English! I feel like I'm a good enough teacher that if I need to teach something I can figure out how to do it and what will work but that's near impossible in a language that I don't know. I don't know how people who don't have a fluent Spanish speaking person at home do it and I'm so thankful that Morgan is. In the end I did a lot of research and applied the same strategies I would use with an English speaking class to working with Owen is Spanish. I just didn't understand a lot of what he was reading or the words he was learning!
Owen's teacher listened to us and our concerns and we listened to her and her concerns and together we came up with a plan that included lots of intervention and tutoring and working on skills at home and reading, reading, reading. And like anyone else, once Owen started to experience some success in what he was doing he began feeling better about what he was doing and what he could do. And things slowly got better from there.
We still have work to do this summer and he expressed his discontent about that on Saturday when I said we were going to the school store to find some stuff to work on for the summer but he eagerly went along after I bribed him with a trip to Dairy Queen after the school store. And because it is so difficult to find materials in Spanish we ended up with a great science experiment kit on Light and only one resource for practicing reading skills! We are also going to begin working on learning to read in English this summer which Owen is quite enthused about. And since he's build a good foundation of reading skills in Spanish I think those will help him immensely.
This week we jumped right in to summer activities with VBS camp this morning and a Lego engineering class in the afternoon. While Owen is off doing those things I am getting all his learning materials ready! I'm sure he will be so happy when he gets home!
We also have a nice bucket list of summer activities which we've all contributed to. Chief on Owen's list is to go visit his cousins and stay at a waterpark hotel. Today is seems like we have nothing but summer days stretched out ahead of us but I know how quickly it will go so we are going to do our best to relax and enjoy it and each other as much as we can!