Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Quest for QUEST

Since the day A hit Kindergarten she has talked about "When I'm in QUEST". She has known that March is the time frame for QUEST and counted down the moments - all year long. When she got her QUEST paperwork she was EXCITED! We filled out the papers, but weren't informative enough. Thank goodness she had been persistent about time frames which prompted me to e-mail asking about the next phase. I was told that there wouldn't be a next phase because I hadn't provided enough information on several questions. A little irked that they hadn't done a courtesy "Hey Mrs. Deckinga, can we get more information" I sent a rather lengthy e-mail explaining how I saw placement as appropriate for her based on the districts web page description of QUEST. Suddenly they had enough information to proceed. (After getting the final paperwork back they had just enough information. They might have had more if I knew the exact questions that needed to be answered. They only told me one of several.)
Day after day A asked when she would be pulled for testing, then she mentioned that her peers were already going to QUEST class. Again I inquired on her behalf, what is the schedule and why does it feel like we're about a month behind everyone else. Oh there's no time line Mrs. Deckinga. Ummm you don't seem to get it. She needs a time line. We'll know for sure by March 28, but I'm meeting with the assessment team on March 25 and can call you after that meeting. Thank you. I tell A that she will know on March 28. Count down begins. Even after having a week off for Spring Break. She picks right back up with the count down. No prompting no nothing. Even handled a peer who basically told her she wasn't good enough because she wasn't in QUEST, but that didn't change her focus. This has been her priority all year.
March 25 came, no phone call. At 3pm I try calling the QUEST teacher. No answer. Irony is that she e-mails me at 3:01 and implies in the e-mail that she's in her classroom, but what ever. She e-mails the testing results and a little letter saying that A does not qualify for QUEST. Knowing that I'm going to have an extremely upset child on my hands I just point out my disappointment that she didn't stay true to her word by calling and that there is no need to send home paper copies of what she e-mailed. It will upset A even more. My heart hurt so much for A. I couldn't imagine how I was going to tell her that her one academic dream is not coming true. Something that she wishes for as much as the day she gets to wear toe shoes is not going to happen. I can't even tell her that she's too darn compliant for her own good.
All weekend Nate and I tried to figure out how we were going to tell her before she went to school on Monday. Both of us hurt for her way before she was aware enough to hurt. We discussed how it's OK that she's not in QUEST. We don't need additional projects etc in this house. We do enough extended learning without the school dictating what we should be learning about. There are projects going on all the time around here that are way more in depth than a QUEST classroom could ever provide. Do we think she would be successful in QUEST? ABSOLUTELY! We try to justify it by saying that her participation in Girl Scouts meets that need. Maybe a grade skip is more appropriate. We talk to a few parents who know her. They were as shocked as we were. They disagreed with the assessment as much as we did. We all felt that the school just doesn't know her as well as we do. Talked to another parent who said they have reviewed a lot of information about QUEST in all the grade levels. The thing that stuck with me is that QUEST is usually during flex time at the elementary level. A does not need flex time at all. What is she learning at that time? This parent also reminded me that in this district if you demand something they comply. Not real excited about going that route, but it's a true statement.
Sunday night comes the time to talk to A. She's so upset that she doesn't know how to cry about it. She just can't eat dinner. Once we gave her permission to cry she broke down. I held my baby while she cried her sorrow. She didn't understand why she didn't get in. Her thoughts were why am I not good enough. You know she started comparing herself to her peers that are in and not finding where they are different from her. She knows in her heart that she can do everything asked of her in QUEST. She is able to say that she wants to learn more than what she is being taught in her regular classroom. She says that her teacher is a good teacher, but she wants more. We discuss all the options, but she still wants QUEST.
What are we to do? I send an e-mail stating that we told her the outcome. Discussed her options, and she is still requesting QUEST placement. She is taking ownership of her learning. I don't demand or say unkind things because there is no need. It's not a matter of someone's personality. It just is what it is. I know that she will be successful in QUEST and that it's their loss to not place her in it. I explain that now it is my role to advocate for her when she doesn't know her options or have language to state her needs. I set out the time frames I find reasonable. We'll see where it goes from there.
What I did learn from this experience - my 5 yo is a determine person who sets goals and will do everything in her power to obtain them. She will behave and follow all the rules in order to achieve those goals fairly. She is an incredible young lady who is significantly younger than her grade level peers, but achieves more in one day than most of them. Her knowledge and desire to learn more astound me regularly. She loves to analyze things and categorize them. She does great with time lines and due dates (puts the rest of the family to shame). She is a natural leader without regard to size or age. And though the school isn't willing to play in her sandbox, she would never turn anyone away. She would accept them with open arms and challenge them to be everything they have the potential to be. She is an AWESOME young lady and I am so proud of her resilience.
BTW - her response was exactly as I thought it would be. She cried but came to the conclusion that they will just have to test her again next year (and every year after that until they accept her). My first mental e-mail that I didn't send was going to say something like, "Enjoy testing her every year until you accept her", but I thought it might be interpreted as a little snide. Most 5yo's let things happen to them. She makes things happen around her. No matter what happens she will be a shining star.

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