Bringing up fine motor issues with middle school art teacher... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 10-29-2012, 09:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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DS 12, 7th grade signed up for art as an elective this year. He had outside occupational therapy for a multitude of issues in elementary including fine motors but has no formal diagnosis from school. We never pushed for it because every teacher picked up fast on the mismatch between who DS is verbally and what he shows on paper. He had all the necessary accommodation in elementary without the label. No accommodation in middle school has yet been needed since almost everything he's done can be typed or is online. 

 

The issue in art. DS signed up for it because he wants to improve and we commend that. All work is supposed to be graded on effort. So far, he's never gotten more than half-credit on a project and his grade in that class is low even though his progress report says he's a well-behaved, focused boy. DS went to her concerned and she told him she felt he wasn't putting out his best effort. He was very disheartened. I can hardly blame the teacher. DS's best effort still looks like a 3rd grader did it and unlike his academic teachers, this teacher is only getting a narrow picture of him at his worst. The next project, he really sweated over but again, only half credit.

 

I want to send the teacher a note but DH has some reservations. He is right, this is DS's "challenge" class and that is of value. I certainly don't want to feed the meaningless "grade monster" but then, he's proud of his 4.0, has worked hard to maintain it and it would be a shame to have it blown because his best effort doesn't look as pretty as his peers. I don't want to argue her grades to this point, I just wonder if a little history would open her to the possibility that DS is trying harder than she thinks.

 

Hmmm, just curious if it sounds to "helicopter-ish" lol. 


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#2 of 8 Old 10-29-2012, 10:02 PM
 
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A couple things come to mind.   Around here electives don't count toward GPA.  I'm not sure if that is a regional thing or not.

 

I would by all means let the art "teacher" know that some accommodations need to be made.  I'm not a huge fan of art grades to begin with but that's a different post.  If you have documents or a file from OT I would bring that along.  To start with I would send an email to the art class and request a parent meeting.  Anyone who is trained as an art 'teacher' should be able to see that a child is having some development issues and either conference the academic teachers and/or the parents.  As long as the project is complete and meets the requirements he should be getting full credit (as should the rest of the class).  Art is highly subjective and personal, I hate nothing more than when 30 kids all create the exact same thing.


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#3 of 8 Old 10-30-2012, 05:28 AM
 
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Originally Posted by whatsnextmom View Post

 

The issue in art. DS signed up for it because he wants to improve and we commend that. All work is supposed to be graded on effort. So far, he's never gotten more than half-credit on a project and his grade in that class is low even though his progress report says he's a well-behaved, focused boy. DS went to her concerned and she told him she felt he wasn't putting out his best effort. He was very disheartened. I can hardly blame the teacher. DS's best effort still looks like a 3rd grader did it and unlike his academic teachers, this teacher is only getting a narrow picture of him at his worst. The next project, he really sweated over but again, only half credit.

 

I commend your DS for trying to improve- it shows maturity and a recognition of his own talents/skill set.

 

I would definately talk to the teacher if he IS putting forth his best effort and the teacher is failing to recognize that the work he is producing is the best he can do.

 

A good teacher should recognize it is the process and not the final product in ART. All children that take Art are not going to be art masters or get art scholarships, some will simply take it to enjoy it and improve skills.

 

 

I want to send the teacher a note but DH has some reservations. He is right, this is DS's "challenge" class and that is of value. I certainly don't want to feed the meaningless "grade monster" but then, he's proud of his 4.0, has worked hard to maintain it and it would be a shame to have it blown because his best effort doesn't look as pretty as his peers. I don't want to argue her grades to this point, I just wonder if a little history would open her to the possibility that DS is trying harder than she thinks.

 

Hmmm, just curious if it sounds to "helicopter-ish" lol. 

 

 

In this case, no I dont believe it is helicopter-ish. Your DS has a legitimate concern with fine motor skills. He IS putting forth his best effort- it should be recognized.

 

I am not saying he should get a 4.0 and if he does not complete the assignment or fulfill the requirements that he should get full credit. But Art is so very subjective. I would not argue grades, but more have a brief meeting that your DS is struggling, doing his best, took art to improve his skills, and has a history of fine motor concerns.

 

 

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 As long as the project is complete and meets the requirements he should be getting full credit (as should the rest of the class).  Art is highly subjective and personal.

 

I agree. A checklist of requirements should help keep the grades fairly based and also give your DS some framework to work towards, regardless of the actual level of art 'skill'.

 

One my very favorite middle school teachers encouraged me to enjoy music and keep practicing, though I had not a lick of talent and struggled to read sheet music. He helped me learn cues to make it easier and really nurtured a love of music- I still am nothing more than the most basic musician, but I LOVE music and have enjoyed it my entire life- despite a complete lack of skills or natural talent. A poor middle school teacher that required 'talent' or skills and I doubt I would have loved music like I do.

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#4 of 8 Old 10-30-2012, 07:24 AM
 
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Originally Posted by KCMichigan View Post
 

 

A good teacher should recognize it is the process and not the final product in ART. All children that take Art are not going to be art masters or get art scholarships, some will simply take it to enjoy it and improve skills.

 

 

Agree. It sounds like the art class is supposed to be graded according to these principles, if the work is graded on effort.  Since the art teacher doesn't have all the information about this student, the grades aren't accurate. That isn't fair to the student. I don't think it's "helicopterish" or inappropriate interfering to give her the information if she hasn't figured it out from observing him in class. 

 

Whatsnextmom, you could also ask his primary or homeroom teacher to explain your DS's situation to the art teacher. I think it's natural for teaching teams to share this kind of information about students even if there is no formal IEP in place. 

 

I also commend your DS for opting to take a class that he knew would be a challenge because he wanted to improve his skills. It sounds like he already understands that grades aren't important. Nonetheless it's only fair that his grades reflect his achievements. 

 

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#5 of 8 Old 10-30-2012, 09:53 AM
 
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What does your 7th grader want?  

 

Does he want to share with his teacher that he has fine motor issues?


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#6 of 8 Old 10-30-2012, 10:00 AM
 
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How about a bridge from helicopter parent (which bringing forward a diagnosis wouldn't be...) and teaching him to advocate for himself?   As a college prof, I see lots of students who have a variety of disabilities.  I can tell you there's a big difference between those who have been taught how to address issues positively and constructively and those that have not.

 

Could you set up a meeting with you, your son, and the teacher?  Before the meeting, walk your son through his history, and make sure he is comfortable talking about it or find his limits on how much he's willing to disclose.  Then have him run the with you sitting there.  Your role is to serve as the validator, the keeper of documents, and moral support.  His role is to describe why he's taking the class to his teacher and to describe his perspective on the effort, and to ask her advice on how to improve his scores.

 

Never ask that she reconsider previous scores.  Let her decide to do that on her own if she so chooses.  Part of successful self-advocacy is to inform about the disability where appropriate (I'm certainly no expert in many of the things with with my students struggle), but I am the one who sets the standards for the course, and it's up to me to evaluate the work against the standards.

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#7 of 8 Old 10-30-2012, 10:47 AM
 
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Totally agree with Geofizz. I think it would make sense to present it to your ds as a first step in becoming a more grown-up student: advocating for oneself in a guided fashion at a three-way meeting. He might be tempted to view it as dragging some of his childish deficiencies forward into the middle-school present as a sort of excuse, but you could flip it around and explain that his fine-motor challenges will likely play a small ongoing role in various parts of his life and as an adolescent, he should begin to learn how to address them.

 

It might feel better to him, and be well-received by the teacher, to approach the meeting as a way to ask "What can I do differently in the rest of my projects to improve?" In other words, he'd not be questioning or presenting excuses for past grades, but providing a bit of context concerning his developmental challenges, explaining his sincere motivation to improve, and asking for guidance in how to do so ... "So far I've only got half credit, and since I feel like I'm trying really hard, I'd like to know exactly what areas I can focus on to improve not only my grades but my art skills too. I know cutting and drawing smooth lines will always be really hard for me, but are there things you can suggest that would make art projects work better for me?"

 

My ds has graphomotor issues that affect his writing. He didn't enter the school system until 10th grade, so advocacy wasn't an issue for him until then. I coached him a bit on how to present things so as to present the impression of a kid wanting to do his best with what he had at his disposal, rather than a kid trying to find a shortcut or and easy way out. He was 14, so I didn't attend meeting with him or contact teachers myself. At age 12, I think some parental co-involvement would be totally appropriate.

 

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#8 of 8 Old 11-01-2012, 09:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Update: I decided to shoot the teacher an email. I felt DS had done his part advocating for himself by going to the teacher and talking about the grades and how to improve on his own and without prompting from me. He is not one who likes to bring up his personal challenges but he's also a kid who will suffer greatly in silence. He didn't want me to talk to the elementary school about his bully issues either! I talked to a couple parents and former students and they said the art teacher is wonderful and totally open. We've also had very good experiences in this school in their handling of not only DS but my older DD as well.

 

I shot her a simple email not about his grades but just to share that DS was frustrated with the quality of his work and that due to long term fine motor issues for which he's had therapy and accommodation in the past, he could use a little special direction. I got a lovely, upbeat response an hour later. She was very grateful for the info and that it shed light on what she'd been seeing from him in class. She said DS was a delightful boy, eager and well-behaved and that she'd take this new perspective in mind when working with DS. 

 

So, glad I brought it up with her!

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