Our school year will end in a couple of weeks, but some of our kindergarten students are not finished with the kindergarten curriculum and will not be going on to the first grade. I don’t consider this a “failure” of their efforts or ours. It is simply a reality of education. Children are not cattle to be herded through one gate after another until we turn them out to graze on their own. They are not fruit to be picked on a certain date, regardless of whether or not it is ready. They are unique individuals with their own abilities and they learn at their own pace. I consider it my duty to make sure they are fully prepared for first grade before sending them onward.
Some parents may not agree with me. I don’t argue with them because they are the ones who will have to support and encourage their child next year. They are the ones who will have to suffer whatever consequences result. In most instances where parents have ignored my recommendation and placed their child in first grade, that child has been retained a second year there. Children who need more time eventually obtain it.
I have felt from the beginning of my teaching career that this is one of the major flaws in our education system- this arbitrary division of grades. I’ve voiced my opinion before and will not bore you with it again. However, I have observed that it punishes both the challenged and the gifted students. I have heard more than one “old timer” state that they advanced quickly in an old one-room school house because they overheard the lessons taught to the other students and/or were allowed to participate in whatever lessons were being taught that day, regardless of who they were designed to instruct and inform. I’ve seen items in the old newspapers indicating the advancement of a pupil mid-year. I have three students who could have gone on to the first grade in January with very little difficulty except for the social aspects of the transition.
We are required by law to place children with disabilities in the “least restrictive” environment available for them. I wonder sometimes if we shouldn’t apply that philosophy to all children. I know that would be difficult, but as long as we keep the farmer’s perspective of education that each crop has to be harvested at the same time, we will always have a few apples that aren’t yet ripe.