Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Love Surprises!

Sammi's teachers have asked me to be kind to them on my blog, to say nice things.  And to be perfectly honest, I don't think it would be humanly possible to say anything but nice things about them! 

And isn't that a wonderful place to be?

They are all truly amaaaaazing.

Our first Parent-Teacher conference was at 7am on Tuesday with Steve, Samantha and me, along with her main Kindergarten teacher and her Resource teacher.  Samantha was a real trooper, waking up early as if in anticipation of the before-sunlight trek (okay, 40 seconds in the car...) to school, making it super-easy to get her fed and dressed, hair perfectly braided and ready in plenty of time.  Once inside the classroom, she made a beeline for the library area, reading books and putting each one back as she finished with it.

We were all able to talk uninterrupted.

Now this was a meeting at which we were not expecting to encounter any surprises.  We speak to the teachers twice a day between the two of us, and have a pretty good idea how things are going for Samantha. 

But oh, how we were surprised!

First things first, our state has something called PALS testing for Kindergarteners.  Just when we thought we'd heard all of the acronyms we could ever, in our lifetime, expect to hear, we discover that there would be yet another lifetime's-worth of school-based tests, each with a name designed solely to boggle our minds (and while that did surprise us, that's not what I'm referring to when I say we were surprised...). 

PALS is short for Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (try saying that 10 times fast...).  It consists of 1:1 testing between student and teacher, once in the fall and once in the spring, for all students, to determine whether or not the child may need additional reading instruction outside of what is ordinarily provided to typically-developing readers.  I love that they screen early on to catch potential problems at the point the child is only just learning to read.

The Resource teacher, the person who had administered the test to Samantha and the other children, reviewed the exam and Sammi's results with us.  What surprised us was the page of the test that had five 3-letter, hand-written words, words that had been written by Samantha's hand alone.

Now...

That, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing, but I'm not too surprised she can do that - she's been writing her letters with more and more accuracy over the last 2 months to the point that you can tell her what letters to write, and she'll write them on-the-spot.  She writes her first name independently on each and every paper that comes home from school.  Actually, she writes her first name independently on each and every piece of paper, period, including whatever she can find at home.

But nobody told her what letters to write this time

This portion of the test consisted of the teacher saying a word, slowly, clearly, carefully enunciating the letter sounds, and the child writing the word.  By themselves.  By herself.  The margin of error allowed for the child to choose an "e" over an "i" or vice versa, or a "c" over an "s," etc., for those words that had similar-sounding letters in them.

Holy cow, she nailed it!!!  Did I know my daughter could spell anything other than her first name without seeing the word written in front of her?  Hell no

2 months.

2 months she's been in Kindergarten, and she killed each section of that test, getting scores like 8 out of 10, 9 out of 10, 24 out of 26, surpassing the benchmark scores that were set to determine pass/fail by miles.  And for the one section she scored just a 5 out of 10, the benchmark was actually set at 0.

Oh, and that night, while she was in the bath, she surprised me, yet again, by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (sure, the words weren't quite right, but hey, I never knew them the right way, either!), complete with one invisible nation.  Hehehe 

Sometimes I feel weird posting so many brags on my blog.  But I honestly can't help it.  This kid has amazed me from Day 1, and when I see how incredibly hard she works to reach the goals that are set, it overwhelms me, warms my heart, fills me with so much pride I just might burst.  How else can I get it out?

Samantha's class had a Harvest party on Monday (yeah, yeah, I know, it was really a Halloween party, but in the interest of remaining holiday-neutral, that's what it was called), to which parents were invited.  Steve and I were unable to attend, but one of the other children's mothers, stopping in at the office on her way out of the school (not sure if she went into the office specifically for this reason, or if it somehow came up in conversation while she was in there for something else), reported to the staff there that Samantha was the most polite child she'd ever met. 

Be still my heart...

Report cards come out in the next week or two.  Report cards!!!!!  How did I forget that HUGE milestone in the life of an elementary school child?  Okay, so it's more of a milestone for the parents... 

Fully-potty-training, turning 5, losing teeth, starting Kindergarten, reading, writing, walking to class on her own, taking tests, Parent-Teacher conferences, report cards...how much more of this big-girl stuff can I take from her??   

I am reasonably sure we will not be surprised by what we read on her report card.

Or will we?

18 comments:

The Annessa Family said...

Wow. Just completely amazing. I was so amazed by her when I got to meet her at the buddy walk...she is captivating. I think she will have a lot of surprises in store for you!

Brooke
www.TheAnnessaFamily.blogspot.com

Heidi Ehle said...

Super work Samantha! :)

Wren said...

Brag away, I love reading how amazing she's doing (and she is doing amazing!!!) give me so much to look forward to in the next few years!!! Hurray for fun surprises!

We Can Do All Things said...

Wow, way to go Samantha. Becca I a read a post awhile back about a program you where using for children with down syndrome. I never marked it and would like to look at it again. Could you tell the site? Thanks

Cathy said...

Yay, Samantha!! As a former kindergarten teacher myself, I'm wondering how many of my "typical" (yes...I hate that word) students would have done that well. She's a ROCKSTAR!!!

Becca said...

To answer the question:

We're involved in The Learning Program, which is the program developed by the Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County, in California. They have materials and instruction guides for free to download off of their site at http://dsfoc.org/ (just click on The Learning Program tab). We'd also been working with Terry Brown of So Happy To Learn (http://www.sohappytolearn.com/Home.html), but her program is strictly taught out of her house in CA. She is also one of the people that helped the DSFOC develop The Learning Program, so it's quite similar in a lot of ways.

Hope this helps!! Oh, and the book, Teaching Reading to Children With Down Syndrome, from Woodbine House Publishing, is written by Patricia Oelwein, and she's also one of the founders of The Learning Program, so that book provides a similar path. Apparently current issues of the book contain a cd in the back with printable materials. We bought ours about 5 years ago, so no cd. :-(

Anna said...

You have given her a good foundation. All of the flashcards and games youve played with her have paid off. Reach back there and give yourself a pat on the back mama.
When I was her age I thought it was invisible and "witches stand" It really creeped me out.
The VTec alphabet game we played with yesterday $2 at the thrift store. I had to laugh when I saw how old it was. Glad Sammi still enjoys hers, Im glad to add it to the mix of School/play time.
This is such great news- I am so thrilled for you guys!

Rochelle said...

Again I say...ROCK STAR! Don't you for a minute apologize for sharing her fantastic moments. I love hearing them!

Laura said...

I love that you brag! I teared up reading about all her accomplishments!

Team Lando said...

So very proud! Going to sign Ellie up for whatever the reading program is when she is old enough :) Give that sweet Sammi a hug for me.

tekeal said...

wow wow wow!!! very exciting and inspiring!! way to go mom, dad and of course, miss sammi...

Cathleen said...

Yay! She is doing so great! Glad our girls have transitioned so well this year in school, what a relief!

Jenny said...

Aw, this was so great to read!! I'm so proud of Sammi and all she is accomplishing :)

Kelli said...

This is just AWESOME!! :) You guys inspire me!! :)

Michelle said...

The best kind of surprises! Yay Sammi!

Zoey's mom, Heather said...

Brag away, because you inspire so many others when you do. Your sharing, of your amazing little girl and all her incredible accomplishments,allows others to see the possibilities and the potential on the road ahead for them. Especially, in my opinion, a family with a new diagnosis.

I have always said, that girl of yours, is destined to dispel all the naysayers views on children with Down syndrome ... the world better hold on tight. Sammi is paving the way.

I see a future as a Down syndrome advocate for your love, heck, i think she already is!!

teal915 said...

That is awesome! Brag away, because that's great.

Anonymous said...

I just knew it! Sammi is awesome! Here's to more good reports :)