Her mom sat across from me for our last parent conference of the year. Our first chat took place in her home last August when all I knew about her daughter was a name and a birth date. The talkative 4 year old showed me her bedroom and her most prized possession: a large roll of butcher paper her aunt had given her – ah, my first insight, this child loved to draw.
Our second visit took place at school during the regular November conference schedule. All my initial assessments had been done on this child and I was able to tell the mom her daughter was a typically developing child who was highly engaged with her classmates and school environment. I asked her mom to name the goals she had for her daughter’s year in preschool. “I want her to be ready for kindergarten.” What a loaded phrase that is.
At our third conference in February, I was pleased to report her daughter was making good progress on her academic goals. But her social emotional goals were more challenging to support. This little girl is what many have come to describe as “a highly sensitive” child. It is like her senses are on steroids. Sounds and touch are especially provocative stimuli. “She’s in my bubble!” or “They won’t be quiet” were often the wails I would hear from this child during circle and small group activities.
I described the supports I was putting in place to help her daughter be successful in situations that were the most challenging. I had found that seating her on the end of a table instead of the middle helped limit side contact with her peers. Giving her a choice to walk at the back of the line or to hold my hand to narrow the fields demanding her attention were also helpful supports. (Just a few weeks ago I discovered that instead of putting her name on the rug for seating at circle time, it worked wonderfully to give her a carpet square she could move to “make her bubble bigger.”)
The mom winced a bit as I talked. “But is she going to be ready for kindergarten?” she asked.
“Yes,” I could answer with confidence, knowing time in preschool is one of the best guarantees.
So here we were at this fourth conference, a time to summarize a child’s preschool experience and look forward to the transition to kindergarten in the fall. This year I’ve been asking parents to write a note to the kindergarten teacher about their child, describing the relationship they hope the teacher will have with their 5 year old.
Of course I always pass on a few tips to the teacher as well but I think this mom wrote a wonderful note: “She is a sensitive girl with strong emotions. I find a quiet chat can calm her down and help her focus.”
I am especially thankful this mom and daughter have had a year of preschool. It has been a time to “work the bugs out.” Other children like this little girl will come to kindergarten without the benefit of a teacher with some inside information about their needs. Months may pass as child, parent and teacher get things sorted out.
Mom and daughter are at least on their way to being kindergarten ready.