Christy Steffen Leave the Chalk Behind

On the Other Side of the Table

Today my husband and I attended my daughter’s Pre-K parent teacher conference. As an educator I know what it’s like to be the bearer of good news and bad. As a parent, I am a novice. At my daughter’s first conference a year and a half ago, I asked the teacher if my daughter exhibited the signs of ADHD in the classroom. Her response was textbook for a preschool teacher: “She’s only three, she could grow out of it.”

At five, this teacher was not singing the same tune. She assured my husband and me that our daughter is very bright and on track or ahead in all academic areas. Her current teacher can tell my daughter is always thinking.  Her questions are more in depth than most kids her age. She always wants to participate in circle time discussions as well. She is compassionate and really cares about her peers and her little brother (who is in the class across the hall). She is also the last one to line up, the last one to move on to the next activity, and the last one to put her folder in her backpack. The only “P” for progressing (“S” for satisfactory is the best) was in following oral directions. Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner! Classic ADHD.

For a bit of background, I am a special education teacher. I have studied ADHD and all its cousins for sixteen years (six as a college student and 10 as a teacher). My husband and I both have a history of ADHD in our immediate families. It is hereditary and I knew there was a good possibility I would have children with it. But none of this could have prepared me for raising a child with ADHD. Not that she has been diagnosed by a pediatrician, but come on, I can see the signs a mile away.

So what am I worried about, I have a masters degree in special education? My worry is teachers. Will she have teachers that continue to foster her love of learning? Will she continue to love school? Will her teachers become so exasperated with her inability to “switch gears” quickly and punish her for this?

She is attending school at an amazing time.  Teachers have the ability to provide her some amazing opportunities. The amount of information available at her fingertips continues to grow exponentially with no sign of stopping. My daughters thirst for knowledge and love of learning is only partially quenched by Google and Siri. Will teachers be able to provide her a nurturing environment that fosters her desire for knowledge? Or will they exhaust quickly of her questions and frustrated because she won’t finish a worksheet she finds boring?

As a high school teacher I think about my students and when they lost that love of learning and school became a chore. I fear that this could happen to my daughter. I dread the day she no longer loves school and just wants to “get through it.” It makes me sad to see my high school students going through the motions each day and not truly investing themselves in their learning. They are uninspired by their schoolwork. I don’t want this to happen to any student. I want all children to become lifelong learners.

We all (teachers and parents) need to reflect and look to amazing preschool teachers like my daughter’s teachers for guidance in fostering a caring environment where children love to learn.  They don’t sit at desks in rows and rarely complete a worksheet. They don’t have standardized tests and their report cards only report on the essential skills. I know my daughter has learned so much more than on the report card! She knows Barack Obama is President of the United States! She uses her manners and is kind to others. Most importantly she questions EVERYTHING!

Sitting across the table as the parent, I could only think about my daughter’s future in school. I hope that all of her teachers love her as much as I know her current teacher does. I hope that they see the amazing kid her very biased father and mother see.  I’ve always known that preschool teachers were a special breed. I now realize their value for all educators. Sitting on the other side of the table has really opened my eyes.




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