Notes from Ed

The Placement Process

In education we talk about spiraling or revisiting topics, because students need time to see concepts more than once, sometimes simply because they haven’t visited the material in some time.  For a similar reason the principal newsletter article each year in April has been traditionally devoted to the placement process.  We want to be sure that Merriam parents are reacquainted with the time, energy, care and priorities that are utilized in creating classes for the following year.  Though it’s about five months before we begin school next year, we will begin the process of creating groups soon.  For some of you this will be easy.  If your child is in the second year of a loop, he or she will usually be with the same students and teacher for another year.

For students entering first, third, or fifth grade, we will soon undertake a process to create balanced groups. Our professional staff will work to create groupings where children will be comfortable, and will be able to learn and grow together.  All children will be grouped with a “comfortable peer” from their current class or a previous class.   A “comfortable peer” is usually not a best friend; rather he or she is someone who is familiar and will be good company in the next loop.  In the placement process attention will be paid to strengths and needs of students, and special education considerations will be factored in. In addition, we look closely at potential relationships in the classes as well as group dynamics.  Classes will be created without a teacher’s name associated; I will add the teacher’s name to each group once the process is complete.

There’s no magic formula for creating balanced classes.  A great deal of time is spent on discussions that enable us to do the best job we possibly can.  Just as an example, teachers from one or two loops back will assist in the placement of fifth graders.  Special educators also join the process to advise about placement of children.  Remember – kids grow and change – even over a summer – and these changes can affect the dynamics of a group we’ve created.  The good news is that our teachers work hard every year to bring students together and to build a sense of community, and that’s something you can count on in every classroom at Merriam.

We will not accept requests for specific teachers or for specific peers to be with your child next year.  I am happy to explain in more detail (just give me a call) why we do not take those requests, but from all that I’ve experienced and all that I know it is not the best way to construct classes.  Our emphasis is on creating groups of children that will fit all of our learning environments, rather than matching teachers with students.

From my own experience as a parent (and as a student, many years ago), I truly understand the anxiety that accompanies this process.  Many of us have assumptions about what will be the “right” placement for our children.  And sometimes there’s disappointment when the new class doesn’t fit those assumptions.  But often those assumptions don’t prove to be accurate.  My best experience as an elementary student (fifth grade) occurred in the class I most dreaded entering (I didn’t think the teacher would like me); I wound up having an amazing and transformative year.   When my daughters were in classes with a very good friend (something they thought they wanted), it often created problems that were not anticipated.  If we trust the process and reassure our children that their new class will be great – and it almost always is – we help to make the transition that much easier.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.