Our 1st Standortgespräch…

… which translated (German to English) means Assessment Meeting.

Yesterday we had our 1st parent/teacher meeting (i believe this is the more commonly used term) with Tobias, looking at his last few months in 1st Grade.

i was quite nervous before the meeting. i worried about being able to understand what the teacher said and being about to express myself correctly and in appropriate words. My German is conversational but in certain topics my vocabulary is still very limited; i sometimes feel like a seven year-old trying to explain the finer points of an internal combustion engine with the language skills of a three-year old.

Thank God it went well. He is doing good at school and able to do the work well. He is restless a lot and a little slow in completing his work. But his teacher is very understanding, saying that it is all expected given his previous diagnosis (ADHD). She pointed out that his behaviour is still acceptable as he is not disturbing the class greatly and he is quite proficient with his schoolwork.

She was very surprised that he is able to keep his place and the classroom in good order, very uncharacteristic of a ADHD boy. At this point, i wished i could have to words to say, “This is one of the reasons i do not think my son has ADHD. He is just inattentive at times and is very energetic, with a brain which keeps going.” But i didn’t; i didn’t think i have the right words without sounding rude and i also didn’t think i had the words to keep the discussion going in that direction. So instead i said, ‘Oh yes, i’m very strict about how his things are kept at home. It helps him to find things easily and be less frustrated.’ But this is just me, bemoaning my poor German language skills.

Back to what the teacher said. He is great with Math and she was pleasantly surprised at how good his German is, coming from a non-German speaking family. She showed us how he was able to look at a picture and construct a proper sentence about it. Thank God he has his father’s language skills. His weak point she feels is his handwriting and that he dislikes drawing and colouring; generally things which require patience and fine motor skills. So that’s something we have to work on.

His social skills (they are big on social skills here) are on par. However, he did have a couple of incidents where he was closed to slashing out. But she was there to help him control himself. Still it is not a big issue.

The Evaluation Flower Bouquet Tobias built.
I forgot to take a photo so i recreated the flower bouquet, using Freehand. There were a few more flowers - i just did not show it here.

The one thing which most impressed me about the whole meeting, besides how understanding his 1st Grade teacher is, is the very first thing she got Tobias to do when we started the meeting.

She had green slips of paper which represented different aspects of school, e.g. I can do plus sums, I take part in class activity, I play well with my friends, I know my alphabets etc… She took each slip, read it to Tobias and asked him to decide how he thought he has done in those aspects. If he thought that he did real well, then he would put a fully opened flower on that green stalk. If he thought only some of the time or not so good, then he would put on a half-opened flower. If he thought he had not done well at all, then he would pick a closed bud. So bit by bit he built his flower bouquet. Tobias had only 3 half-opened flowers, the rest were fully opened. *proud*

i think this sort of self-evaluation is so great! And starting so early in their school years is fantastic! It will build into him a habit of looking at himself and knowing how to evaluate himself and how to move on from there. i whispered to my husband as he was doing this exercise with her, “How come we never got such evaluations when we were in school?” When i was in school, all the evaluation was one-sided, coming from the teacher and the teacher’s point of view only. i think if students from my class had been given such opportunities, it would show a very different picture and would even give the teachers a better view of where their students truly stand and any potential family problems or social problems would be spotted early on.

Looking forward to the rest of the school year now 😀


Exciting New Adventure… 1st Grade… or Primary 1…

…or as they say here in German, 1. Klasse, said as “Ersten Klasse”, or direct translation – 1st Class…

Tobias started 1st grade about 3 weeks ago & he loves it!!
Here he is at his desk on the 1st day of school, 16th August 2011, Tuesday:

His teacher is a real nice lady, very smiley & seems to truly love teaching the kids.
Here they are at storytime with her:

Tobias is enjoying the much larger variety of ‘subjects’ as compared to what he got at Kindergarten, which was a lot of crafts (he’s not a very crafty boy). He has German (of cos), Math (which he loves), Science & Brain Teasers (i think this may be just a general knowledge of the world around us type thing & the teasers are just for fun & a little something more challenging for the kids to do). There is also Music, Gym, Workshop & Religion, which are all in different classrooms. So there is a fair bit of coming & going which suits Tobias just fine as he is such an energtic boy 🙂

There are a couple of firsts for our little village school – this is the 1st year they are having a mixed 1st & 2nd grade class. At the Parents’ Evening last week, they explained that practically the 2 grades are really together for one whole day in the week – other than that, they have different classes, e.g. 1st grade goes for Music while 2nd grade stays to do German. Of cos break time is together & some mornings they do start the day together. i think it’s great that they have such classes – it helps for the 1st graders to have someone to follow when doing things or when they don’t understand. i’m also hoping that it may be possible for Tobias to do some 2nd grade work if he gets a little bored, like in Math, i think he will enjoy the 2nd grade work more cos he is already at that level. Just to let you see the difference, 1st graders are expected to learn to count to 20 (forwards & backwards), while 2nd graders up to 100 – & Tobias can already count to 100. But we’ll see…

This being Switzerland, they are very organised, even with homework – there are fixed days on which your child will come home with homework – for us it’s Monday, Tuesday & Thursdays. They also tell you how long your child is expected to spend on homework each time – 1st graders no more than 15 or 20mins after which they recommend that the child stop working & should the homework not be completed by then (which should be never as the work is very easy), the parent should include a note in the homework folder to indicate that the child worked on the homework for 20mins & still could not finish. & that would be accepted. Notes from parents are also accepted if you have a special family event (e.g. Grandfather’s Big Birthday Bash) & can’t finish or do your homework.

So very different from Singapore…

& that’s not even talking about the homework situation in Singapore today but even when i was in school, i remember coming home with hours of homework from about Pri 3 onwards – here Pri 3 level students are expected to do 1hour of homework only.

Here’s Tobias concentrating really hard on his homework:

This one happens to be a drawing assignment – just to draw a nice picture for a classmate whose birthday is coming up. All the other times so far, he’s come home with either Math or German homework in a workbook.

Here he is with the half finished drawing & the finished one:

Oh, the 2nd ‘firsts’ for our school is the giving out of actual grades or marks for the lower primary classes. It’s so new to them that they still haven’t quite worked out how it would function. What we found out last week was that it is really for the teachers to be able to keep better track of each child’s progress & to know if there are any areas where special attention might be needed. But it looks like we, the parents, won’t see any of this till maybe January. They want to have it all worked out 1st & they really don’t want it to give added pressure to the kids so they want to make sure that the way marks are given will reflect that.

Once again, so very different from Singapore…

& i think it’s good… young children are like little sponges & should be encouraged to learn & learn & not perform… getting good marks can take over & make a child more worried about the marks than about actually learning & enjoying the learning experience which will make them into life-long learners.

So here’s to having fun in school & life-long learning 😉