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#1 of 10 Old 09-01-2011, 10:33 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Ds is 12 y.o., in seventh grade and this is his first year in middle school.  First year with multiple teachers/classes.  He was placed in the high achiever track.  This is the second week of school. 

 

Last night it all came tumbling out tearfully, he's so frustrated because he can't keep up in class.  When he's writing directions and notes he has two choices, either write slow enough that he gets all the information properly, and so his hand writing is legible, OR write fast enough to keep up, and then he misses bits of information and his handwriting is illegible.

 

He also gets plain confused, and is very frustrated and unhappy because he doesn't always understand what the teacher means. And it looks to him like no one else is having this problem, everyone else follows along just fine.  So he's not going to stop and ask the teacher to repeat or explain what she just said, he'd be doing that continually and it would be very embarrassing.   The pace is much faster than it was in primary school, of course. So it's not like he can go to the teacher at the end of each class and ask for help, he has all of 5 minutes to get to the next class. 

 

The result is like last night. He had a cross word puzzle to do based upon his science lab's safety rules.  There was no source of vocabulary for him to get hints from, he was trying to fill in sentences just guessing what the answers are.  I'm 99% certain there was some source from class that day, either they read something or the teacher lectured them on safety rules and they were supposed to copy everything down or something to that effect.  But to him it was completely out of the blue. 

 

Ugh. This is all too familiar to me.  This is how I went through school, usually not knowing what was going on, missing bits of instructions, utterly frustrated and unhappy because no one else seemed to have problems keeping up. And I was in the high achiever track, too, until I flunked out of Honors English my freshman year of high school. 

 

The focus last night was on his homework planner.  They're supposed to write down their homework instructions for each class in the planner but he frequently doesn't know what he's supposed to write, doesn't know where to find out, doesn't know how to differentiate instructions for different projects.  He explained that it's not like he doesn't care and doesn't want to do the work.  He really, really wants to get this right, he's interested in the material and really doesn't want to disappoint his teachers.

 

So aside from the apparent general focus issues, does anyone have any practical suggestions about how he should make sure he's getting the appropriate homework instructions each day, each class?  

 

Should he take his planner to each teacher at the end of each class and have them check that he's written down the right information?  That doesn't seem fair to the teachers. And he doesn't actually have time to do this. 

 

All the teachers have web sites, not all of them have specific homework assignments on there. Regardless, I'll have him go over all their web sites so he knows what help he can get there.  Thank goodness tonight is back-to-school night.  I'll be asking each of his teachers for help. 

 

Someone suggested a recording device. I can see how that would help if his teacher was lecturing and he needed to copy notes.  But is he supposed to just record each each class every day?  The device would be recording for 4 hours every day. 

 

Should I take him in to be tested, for something?


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#2 of 10 Old 09-01-2011, 10:51 AM
 
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I would talk to the guidance counselor and see if it would be more appropriate to put him in the regular classes instead of the high acheivers class.  Do you know how they came to the decision to put him in the high acheivers class?  My school based it on the state's standardized testing.  My mom had to fight to get me in the honor's class b/c according to the state testing I wasn't qualified.  I just didn't preform as well on standardized tests as I did in a classroom setting.  (I still did very well in school when the moved me up into the honors class)

 

I hope you get it figured out.


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#3 of 10 Old 09-01-2011, 11:56 AM
 
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I think you need to start by talking to his teachers, and/or the guidance counselor.  There are several factors that might be at play (with different solutions depending on exactly what's going on), but I think the first step is to get into communication with them ASAP.  The sooner he gets help, the easier it will be for him to get back on track. 


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#4 of 10 Old 09-01-2011, 01:10 PM
 
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Your ds has just made a big transition to middle school.  The academic and organizational demands are greatly increased.  Has he had issues before regarding organization, following directions, etc.?  If so, you might take what's going on as an indicator that there's something going on to be explored.

 

However, if he hasn't previously had issues, it seems like it could be more an issue of feeling overwhelmed by the transition, the skills needed to manage expectations, and the purely adolescent view that no one else is having difficulty except him! It's entirely possible that many other kids are struggling with the same issues as your ds. 

 

As a parent, I would probably place a call to the teacher or advisor who is your son's primary contact, and request a meeting.  I haven't found back to school night to be the best time for specific problems to be addressed because the teachers are too busy. This would give you the time and space to specifically ask questions and perhaps come up with a plan for your son.  Organizational, note taking, and study skills can be taught very successfully.  Actually, I've found that in my dd's middle school there is a big focus on these skills.

 

Once your son feels more comfortable, he may begin to advocate for himself and ask questions or get clarification from his teachers.  I wouldn't assume yet that he is over placed in his classes.  He may need some time and specific skill building.

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#5 of 10 Old 09-01-2011, 01:39 PM
 
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Originally Posted by karne View Post

 

Has he had issues before regarding organization, following directions, etc.?  If so, you might take what's going on as an indicator that there's something going on to be explored.

 

I wonder the same thing. I wonder what school was like last year for him, if you've moved to a new district, etc.

 

Many kids have a bit of a bumpy transition to middle school, and organization is part of that.

 

I'd check directly with the school and find out if teachers are REQUIRED to post homework somewhere. Our public middle school has a phone voice mail system that every teacher must update within 30 minutes of the end of the school day with the assignments for every class. Your school may have a system that you don't currently know about, and a call to the school secretary could help clarify.

 

Second, kids this age tend to globalize, so I'd go through his schedule class by class and talk about what is happening. It's possible that he's having problems with 1 or 2 classes, but seeing it as his entire school day. Define the problem more, and most likely, make it smaller. Then trouble shoot specific problems. For example, my DD's 7th grade SS class often had quick questions that required a map or globe, and there was such a hustle bustle around the resources that she could never get the answer. I book her a small student Atlas that fit in her binder, and it solved the problem. But this is VERY specific stuff. You have to pinpoint what, exactly, is going on in EACH class.

 

Email teachers. If he gets similar types of assignments that go poorly, ask questions about what is going on with these. Let them know what kind of problems he's having. Drop a note if homework is incomplete because he was confused about directions. (don't call, you'll just play phone tag)


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#6 of 10 Old 09-01-2011, 06:55 PM
 
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Also, re: the planner.....this definitely takes some getting used to, but I think it's a good tool.  Last year, we had a teacher or aide periodically check and initial the planner, just to be sure information was written down.  I think if your ds is overwhelmed, having a spot check of his planner before he leaves for the day might be helpful.

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#7 of 10 Old 09-02-2011, 11:05 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, this has most definitely been an issue for him.  It's been becoming more apparent since maybe 4th grade, when teachers started assigning big projects. Last year was tough for him.  He has a very hard time organizing papers (And just an aside, thanks be that the math work sheet phase of his schooling is now OVER. His 6th grade teacher was a math work sheet fiend and he was simply drowning in papers. I really should have asked her to lighten up). 

 

Quote:
Second, kids this age tend to globalize, so I'd go through his schedule class by class and talk about what is happening. It's possible that he's having problems with 1 or 2 classes, but seeing it as his entire school day.

 

Thanks, that was a really great tip and I do think this is part of the issue.   I went to back-to-school night last night and it was really helpful. I can see how a good portion of his stress comes from his history class.  Her mission, aside from teaching them world history, is to teach them organization skills for demanding projects. Her class is really project-heavy. She assigns exercises that help the kids learn how to thoroughly utilize their text books, which I heartily approve of. She also says she almost never assigns 'homework' -work to be done exclusively at home. If they're doing work at home it's class work they didn't finish in class. Well, I remember from when dd had this teacher's class most kids rarely got everything done in class, they usually had 'work' to finish up at home, elsewhere known as 'homework'.  Anyway, some time this weekend I'll do what you describe, above, and see if we can break issues down into smaller parts. 

 

BTW, I like this teacher. She's got some tattoos, she's friendly but speaks fluent Sarcasm.  orngbiggrin.gif  She's really organized, is ambitious for the kids and knows her stuff.  Basically I think she's one of the best teachers I've met. I think if ds can get a handle on how to organize and stay on top of her assignments he'll have some great skills going into high school. Which is, of course, the point.


All his teachers have fairly extensive web sites, all but one posts daily assignments. I took note of where in the class room each teacher writes their day's agenda/homework, so I can remind ds of this ("far left white board next to the book case"). I can totally see how/why the poor kid has been so confused. The terms 'agenda' and 'homework' are used interchangeably by most of his teachers, but I'm not sure he knows that.

 

Quote:
I would talk to the guidance counselor and see if it would be more appropriate to put him in the regular classes instead of the high acheivers class.  Do you know how they came to the decision to put him in the high achievers class?  My school based it on the state's standardized testing.  My mom had to fight to get me in the honor's class b/c according to the state testing I wasn't qualified.  I just didn't preform as well on standardized tests as I did in a classroom setting.  (I still did very well in school when the moved me up into the honors class)

 

Yes, state standardized testing.  He tests advanced in language arts.  I put a lot of thought into the decision to let him be in the HA program; I seriously considered putting him in the regular program. But his big sister already went through the HA program and got soooo much out of it.  He's more than capable of learning the material.  So I let him decide.  I told him the difference between the two programs, even thought they teach the same curriculum, is that the HA program material is, frankly, more interesting but that it requires a ton more work. Big sister rallied in favor of the HA program, telling him he'd bet better accepted for being smart, that he'd have more freedom to be the nerdy egghead that this family produces.  eyesroll.gif   So he chose the HA program.  It's totally the right thing to do. It's going to be difficult, but he'll manage and I'll help him and support him. It would be a shame to not let him have this opportunity simply because I thought he couldn't get organized. Not a message I want him to absorb. 


I think it just kills me when my kids' are despairing, and ds was really upset the other day.  I'm still not sure how to help him handle this realization that other kids seem to pick up on this stuff faster than he does. It's discouraging and hard on the ego. For myself, I'm learning 'resilience' late in life and am just now trying to encourage it in my kids. 

 


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#8 of 10 Old 09-02-2011, 05:33 PM
 
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I would get the ball rolling to get him tested. It's entirely possible that 2E -- gifted with a learning disability. Auditory processing issues come to mind, as do plain old fine motor skills (for writing). Talk to the counselor, explain the problems, ask in writing to have him tested.

 

I would not, at this point in time, have him moved to the regular classrooms. It may turn out to be the right move for him, but if he's got learning/organization issues, those will be an issue in regular classes too. They'll just take longer to catch up with him, and moving would be a big blow to his ego right now.

 

Assure him that there are other kids who are lost. Ask him to count the different kids who always answer. My bet it's always the same 5. It just feels like all of them.

 

Contact the teachers NOW, explain that he's having a difficult time transitioning and ask for strategies that might work for him.

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#9 of 10 Old 09-03-2011, 10:09 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by journeymom View Post

Yes, this has most definitely been an issue for him.  It's been becoming more apparent since maybe 4th grade, when teachers started assigning big projects. Last year was tough for him.  He has a very hard time organizing papers (And just an aside, thanks be that the math work sheet phase of his schooling is now OVER. His 6th grade teacher was a math work sheet fiend and he was simply drowning in papers. I really should have asked her to lighten up). 

 

 

Thanks, that was a really great tip and I do think this is part of the issue.   I went to back-to-school night last night and it was really helpful. I can see how a good portion of his stress comes from his history class.  Her mission, aside from teaching them world history, is to teach them organization skills for demanding projects. Her class is really project-heavy. She assigns exercises that help the kids learn how to thoroughly utilize their text books, which I heartily approve of. She also says she almost never assigns 'homework' -work to be done exclusively at home. If they're doing work at home it's class work they didn't finish in class. Well, I remember from when dd had this teacher's class most kids rarely got everything done in class, they usually had 'work' to finish up at home, elsewhere known as 'homework'.  Anyway, some time this weekend I'll do what you describe, above, and see if we can break issues down into smaller parts. 

 

BTW, I like this teacher. She's got some tattoos, she's friendly but speaks fluent Sarcasm.  orngbiggrin.gif  She's really organized, is ambitious for the kids and knows her stuff.  Basically I think she's one of the best teachers I've met. I think if ds can get a handle on how to organize and stay on top of her assignments he'll have some great skills going into high school. Which is, of course, the point.


All his teachers have fairly extensive web sites, all but one posts daily assignments. I took note of where in the class room each teacher writes their day's agenda/homework, so I can remind ds of this ("far left white board next to the book case"). I can totally see how/why the poor kid has been so confused. The terms 'agenda' and 'homework' are used interchangeably by most of his teachers, but I'm not sure he knows that.

 

 

Yes, state standardized testing.  He tests advanced in language arts.  I put a lot of thought into the decision to let him be in the HA program; I seriously considered putting him in the regular program. But his big sister already went through the HA program and got soooo much out of it.  He's more than capable of learning the material.  So I let him decide.  I told him the difference between the two programs, even thought they teach the same curriculum, is that the HA program material is, frankly, more interesting but that it requires a ton more work. Big sister rallied in favor of the HA program, telling him he'd bet better accepted for being smart, that he'd have more freedom to be the nerdy egghead that this family produces.  eyesroll.gif   So he chose the HA program.  It's totally the right thing to do. It's going to be difficult, but he'll manage and I'll help him and support him. It would be a shame to not let him have this opportunity simply because I thought he couldn't get organized. Not a message I want him to absorb. 


I think it just kills me when my kids' are despairing, and ds was really upset the other day.  I'm still not sure how to help him handle this realization that other kids seem to pick up on this stuff faster than he does. It's discouraging and hard on the ego. For myself, I'm learning 'resilience' late in life and am just now trying to encourage it in my kids. 

 


Good for you going by what your child chose and letting him have a chance to face a challenge!  I totally agree.  I think it would be good to get the testing, as school will require more organizational skill from here on.  It could even be more of a learning style thing going on.  If your son is not an auditory style learner, the switch to a progressively more lecture style format could make it really hard to keep up.  Also, handwriting speed is a big issue.  My 11 year old DS has a lot of hand writing difficulties, and adaptations such as having notes available to copy later and access to typing for longer assignments made a big difference.  I would really encourage your son to see that while others may be finding some things easy that he finds hard, that he also has skills that others find difficult, whether it's his language arts or a special hobby, etc.  I would also remind him that many grown adults have these difficulties (my Dad has nonverbal learning disability and definitely shares some of these problems with organization and writing, I supposedly grew out of the same and remember these difficulties) and still are very successful.  They just learn to use post it notes, pocket organizers, computer programs, team up with organized co-workers, etc.  Lots of really smart, innovative people are not automatic at handling these skills.  And sometimes, people who have to learn these skills the hard way really get them down pat with practice and are very good at teaching them to others since it's not automatic.  There's lots to be said for learning skills that don't come easily.

 

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#10 of 10 Old 09-03-2011, 03:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, All, for the encouragement and affirmation that I've got the right idea!

 

 

Quote:
Auditory processing issues come to mind,

 

Funnily enough, that's something I did some reading about for my own self.  I read the book, When the Brain Can't Hear a few years ago and a lot of it sounded familiar.


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