Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Getting a Little Loopy

Has anyone heard about looping?  No, I'm not starting a knitting group.

The looping I mean is when an entire class of students plus the teacher move up together from one grade to the next, so that they all stay together for 2 years instead of 1.  It's an interesting concept, allowing the familiarity that develops over a school year to flow into the next.  It also may give at-risk students a sense of stability for a longer period of time, promoting a comfort level that will give them the room the need to grow.  It makes sense on paper.

When Sammy started kindergarten, I'd never heard of looping.  His teacher was sweet and very innovative with her class, which covered a wide range of abilities.  I was happy with the mix, so when I read the letter that said Sammy had the option of going on to 1st grade with the same teacher, I immediately said yes.  We wouldn't have to deal with any potential anxiety at the start of the next year becaue we'd know exactly where he was going.  Easy peasy.

The thing about Sammy is that he is different.  He doesn't fall into any one box or category, and no label exactly fits him.  But we know he needs special education intervention in school.  That was in place in kindergarten, and we hoped - hope- that one day that intervention will dwindle once he matures. He's making progress every day.

At some point during the second half of kindergarten, the teacher decided to move Sammy's desk to the front of the classroom, away from the other kids, to give him a better opportunity to focus.  When we walked into 1st grade that 1st day, his desk was in the exact same place, separated from everyone else at the front of the room.  You couldn't miss his isolation.  He was singled out on day 1, even though an entire summer had passed and 3 months is a long time for a kid to grow.  In fact, the educational leap the kids were expected to make from the end of kindergarten to the beginning of 1st grade was quite dramatic.  And it was already assumed that Sammy didn't change at all.

We struggled throughout the year, trying to overcome the teacher's preconceptions, but it was clear that she had done everything she thought she could do with him and had in essence pushed him off to the side to finish out the year.  Thank goodness his special ed teacher and other coordinators stepped in to change things so he would be given an environment to really learn (and that he did, making a lot of progress on the back 9, so to speak).  I was very glad to see the year end and looked forward to a fresh new beginning in the fall

Looking back, I really think that if Sammy had moved on to a new class in1st grade, I would consider his kindergarten experience a positive one, but knowing how 1st grade played out, it's a little tainted now.  And that's a shame.

2nd grade has started off nicely.  The new teacher knows her stuff, and having been somewhat versed on That Which Is Sammy (I still have to get with her and share a little more), she seems to be encouraging him in the right ways and is encouraged by his work as well.  I think it helps that she's new to the school and school district, but not new to teaching 2nd grade.  She's still finding her footing as well.  And Sammy still has his team helping him every step of the way.  But at parent teacher night, I learned that the school is planning to loop everybody next year, such that all kindergarten class move up to 1st grade, 2nd grade classes move to 3rd, and 4th grade classes move to 5th.  And that makes me nervous.  I know we're only at the beginning, and there are a lot of weeks to go before we're actually faced with a looping situation, but I will definitely be on guard throughout this entire year before I'm ready to commit to this business.  I can probably write a letter to opt out when the time comes, but that's a whole different kettle of fish because I wouldn't want to be seen as the lady bucking the system (and inadvertently creating an uncomfortable situation for Sammy in the classroom).  Basically, I'm just going to worry.

It's certainly never boring.

What do you think about class looping?  Have you been through it?  Would you do it again?  Would you jump into it if offered for the 1st time?  I'm just curious.


  1. I've heard of it, and I think they did it with a couple classes when I was in elementary? (Not my classes, ever.) I get the idea, but I think it can be problematic. One of the great things about a new class is a fresh start- new teacher, (at least some) new kids to make friends with, new chances to grow. I'm inclined to think I would not like it for my kids.

  2. Interesting. I've heard of it, but I had never really given it much thought. I think I think it has more potential problems than benefits.

  3. I've heard of it, but never an entire school doing it. I think it might be fine once, but for an entire school career, I wouldn't want to only get a new teacher every other year. Also, like you pointed out, the teacher will have pre-conceived opinions about every single student.