Often times a teacher is faced with parents who feel their children are academically excelling and would like to skip them to a higher grade. This might occur more in lower grades, as it is not uncommon to have a student or several students who have caught on to reading and math skills easily. Even though these students may be performing above grade level, many factors have to be considered when skipping a grade.
Henry was a new student who arrived in my classroom with his father early Monday morning. My principal and I had discussed his placement into my second grade classroom. He explained that Henry’s father believed his son should be skipped to the third grade. My principal had convinced this proud and zealous parent that we should be given time to evaluate his son to make sure he was making the right decision for him. Holding on to his father’s hand stood a pint size young man. His father proceeded to tell me everything my principal and I had discussed, while Henry stood frozen to his side. I assured Henry’s father I would be assessing Henry and we would definitely be in touch.
Henry was exactly as proficient as his father had described; he definitely was reading above the class’ level and his math skills were also above grade level. Henry was a model student. He obeyed class rules and was motivated to do anything I asked in class. I knew I would be able to meet his needs for Language Arts, but Math was going to be a little more difficult. Plus, I felt pressured by his father to have Henry skipped to a higher grade, so I decided I would send him to a third grade class for his Math period. I had another student escort him to his first day of his Math class, allowing Henry to feel more confident. The next day I told him it was his turn to go to Math class on his own. I could see the reluctance in his eyes, he was unsure of the walk. That was one of my first indications that he was truly a 6-year-old boy developmentally, despite his brilliance.
I proceeded to watch Henry and make mental notes as he interacted with his fellow students on the playground and as he collaborated with other students in the classroom. On the playground, I observed Henry was always playing alone. He hadn’t found a friend with whom to play, even after several weeks. I questioned him saying, “Why are you always playing alone?” He shyly responded, “I don’t have any friends to play with.” This is when I knew it was time for me to step in. I arranged for several students to take responsibility for playing with Henry at recess and lunch. Before long, his face was smiling and ready to go when it was time for outside play. Physical Education was also a difficult time for Henry; he often had trouble performing skills as simple as bouncing and catching a ball, skipping, jumping or playing a kicking game.
Henry stayed in my class for most of the year. After numerous conversations, I convinced his father of the social skills and the confidence Henry must have to make friends. He saw a change in Henry at home. He was much happier and started wanting to do outside activities. There was no more talk of skipping. Henry and his family moved away before the end of the year. His father assured me he would be putting him right back in 2nd grade.
Several years later I had a surprise visit from Henry’s father. I was standing duty on the playground and I recognized him as he walked up to me. He proceeded to tell me he was on a business trip and had to make a special stop to see me. I was astonished to see him and listened as he explained his gratitude. He presented me with a beautiful piece of jewelry made of jade, a token of his culture, as a thank you for helping him to make the right decision for Henry. Henry had developed into a happy, excellent student with many friends.