"A school with more resources for gifted children" - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 13 Old 11-11-2012, 07:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My son's teacher pulled me aside when I went to pick him up on Friday and told me that she wanted to talk with me--that it was something good. She said something like, "I was talking with another teacher about [your fourth-grader] and she said that maybe he would do better in a school with more resources for gifted children."

 

Apparently my son is having some behavioral issues about which we weren't entirely up to date. This is the second year with this teacher (the school has looping) and I think some of these issues might have been present last year. On the other hand, we're in the middle of getting divorced, and as mellow as we've tried to make this on our precious only child, it's very stressful for him. 

 

 

I do not know whether the teacher realizes that, as a public school teacher, it is really not OK for her to tell a parent that the school doesn't have resources to teach her child. I don't think she fully explored the implications of what she was saying. (I, on the other hand, had them explode in my fool head immediately!) We all really like this school for a lot of reasons, though it's not a perfect environment. Obviously. 

 

OK. Here's my question. This has always been my worry about having a child labeled gifted, and why I've been hesitant to do that with him for so long.  I guess it happened without me doing much about it.

 

He's really good at math and he's got some other obvious intellectual gifts, but he's not an especially strong reader. He improved his reading after a long struggle, and I've been very proud of his persistence and cleverness coming up with methods of scaffolding, himself. (He took recorded books out of the library and read the texts while listening to the recordings, "for fun." What a guy.)  Now his teacher wants him to read easier books so he can write and talk about them more easily--even though his reading level comes out higher on standardized tests. 

 

Even though he was like, five or six grade levels ahead on math, he's still not doing that well with language arts. 

 

He has huge anxiety around writing, and apparently his classroom behavior has deteriorated. He's not disruptive, I don't think, just kind of spacey and not as consistently polite and respectful to his fellow-humans as in past years. He has also tried to get out of work he finds boring or anxiety-provoking, especially homework. (he also absolutely sucks at Hebrew--he goes to Hebrew school two afternoons a week, and can barely remember the letters after five years.) 

 

What do I need to do here? I can't homeschool him in this divorce situation. I emailed my STBX and I think we're going to try to meet together with the teacher. Do I press for a neuro-psych eval to find out if there is an LD? Send the kid to a therapist to cope with the stress of the divorce? (Gotta get logistical buy-in from dad for that, so haven't acted on it.) Ask my parents for money to send him to a private school for gifted kids? Urgh. What are some actions you do or don't advocate, and what things do I need to keep in mind? 


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#2 of 13 Old 11-11-2012, 09:59 AM
 
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I don't think it's inappropriate for a teacher to admit when they or the school is not set-up to accommodate any particular child at all! Your son sounds like a complicated case and most public schools aren't well equipped for complicated. He's both advanced and behind and that IS difficult in a standard classroom. It's not impossible. Her admitting that he might be better placed elsewhere doesn't mean she will stop trying. It just means that the resources aren't readily accessible and that it may be a harder road than it could be. Obviously, if this is the workable option and school has been more positive than negative for him, then you make it work.

 

Honestly, her suggesting he read some easier material isn't a bad one. 4th grade is a big year for writing and reflection. It is better for him to dive deeper into a good story with easier text than to have shallow comprehension of difficult text. It's importance not to put value on books based on difficulty. Some of my favorite stories come in simply written packages. 

 

I would absolutely want him tested for LD's. It's not unusual for gifted kids to have area of strengths but the mismatch between the math and language arts seems rather extreme and generally a red-flag. Gifted kids can often compensate for their weaknesses enough to be "OK" at school but it can cause tremendous anxiety in the child.

 

Hugs to you about the divorce. I hope you are all getting the support you need during this time!


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#3 of 13 Old 11-11-2012, 10:10 AM - Thread Starter
 
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He's behind in LA, for him. That is to say, he's above grade level in reading and vocabulary on all standardized tests. I'm afraid that this school system has a long record of doing everything they can to avoid paying for special education, and I'm pretty sure that getting them to pay for a neuro-psych eval is going to be a battle if he's not actually functioning below grade level. 

 

Nevertheless, I'm going to take all these suggestions to heart and investigate what I have to do to get the eval. It IS an extreme mismatch, even allowing for the fact that he's testing above grade level for reading and LA. Though of course the school has not shown me the most recent tests. They have this THING about not wanting to show parents the test results, even though they spend days out of every year testing the children. (My kid loves the tests. He's weird, what can I say--the ones they do on computer remind him of online games.) 

 

The reason it felt inappropriate to me was that she hadn't given me the impression he was having enough difficulty in school that anyone should be thinking about putting him somewhere else! 


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#4 of 13 Old 11-11-2012, 10:42 AM
 
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I still wouldn't be too hard on her. Sometimes you see a kid who is doing "fine" but you know they could be better with resources you don't have. He's not an "issue" to the point you'd be getting notes home and meetings with principals but obviously, she sees that he needs something she feels ill-equipped to give. She's not kicking him out of school. She's just telling you that if you have the option of a specialized school, you might consider it. If you don't have the option, they'll continue to try and make things work.

 

My DS has some mild LD's. Like yours, DS is very high in math. He wasn't a fluent reader until after age 7. He has tremendous writing issues. He's always been advanced but every teachers noted the disparity between who my DS was verbally and who he was on paper. He was top of the class but they could feel his frustration in not being able to get where some part of him knew he could be. Fortunately, in DS's case, they had the technology and resources to help. He's 12 and in 7th grade now and doing great but elementary was a tricky time.


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#5 of 13 Old 11-15-2012, 09:10 AM
 
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I wouldn't consider it poor form from the teacher. I also wouldn't conclude from the comment that the teacher was unable or unwilling to be a teacher. I think it might just be an honest assessment of the resources the teacher has available to them.

 

My son went to K in a school that was big on heterogeneous grouping of students. So what that meant was that they pretested all the kids and then divided the kids of similar abilities among the classes. This school was also one of the special needs clusters in my town. So this teacher had 3 special needs students in her classroom, 2 full day, 1 part day. Plus she had two gifted kids, one in language arts and one in math. She was faced with the challenge of differentiating her teaching for this wide wide range of abilities, and because of the way the school arranged classes she couldn't even do simple groupings of students. There were simply no other students reading at the 3rd grade level to pair my son with. There were no other Kindergartners doing multiplication for fun to have the other student work with. Add to this that the school wouldn't provide her with materials to assess reading beyond early 2nd grade. She ended up just randomly grabbing books at higher and higher levels to have my son read. She never did find his level and finally just switched his reading focus to non fiction so he was getting something out of the reading time. There was a pull out gifted program at the school, but the pull out teacher refused to test kids until 2nd grade. This teacher was really experienced and very very good at differentiation. But she simply didn't have the resources she needed to meet his needs. My son appeared to be happy and adjusted to the classroom, but I found out the last week of school when he asked to skip 1st grade that he hadn't enjoyed kindergarten much.

 

We ended up skipping my son a grade and moving him into a full time gifted program. However, ideally he would have moved up a grade midyear K to 1st, them moved to the gifted program in 2nd. If the school had been willing to tell me that he needed something different that would have been possible. Instead we scrambled and set everything up the summer after K and before 2nd. Plus second was a much bigger adjustment than it needed to be.

 

So honestly, based on our experience, I'd rather have a teacher who pulled me aside and said "I was talking with another teacher about [your fourth-grader] and she said that maybe he would do better in a school with more resources for gifted children". We could have gotten things in motion sooner to meet his needs more adequately.

 

Also if you son does have delays in addition to being gifted it is difficult. He is going to be harder to fit and the teacher would need more resources and support to do so.


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#6 of 13 Old 11-15-2012, 09:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by JollyGG View Post

So honestly, based on our experience, I'd rather have a teacher who pulled me aside and said "I was talking with another teacher about [your fourth-grader] and she said that maybe he would do better in a school with more resources for gifted children". We could have gotten things in motion sooner to meet his needs more adequately.

 

Also if you son does have delays in addition to being gifted it is difficult. He is going to be harder to fit and the teacher would need more resources and support to do so.

 

Now that I'm a little calmer, I think you're probably right about this, though I'm still not sure that it's really true that my son needs another school. I am going to have a real meeting with the teacher, not an on-the-fly thing, and try to get a better picture of what's going on. You've reminded me that I need to also phone another mom I know whose kid is more unambiguously advanced than mine and ask her what she's doing about this right now. 


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#7 of 13 Old 11-20-2012, 04:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We're going to have to put off this meeting until the week after Thanksgiving. In the meantime, my kid is sounding me out about why some kids skip grades. Oy.

 

Also, the teacher commented when he was excited about a project he's doing.  He's excited because I was teaching him how to look up statistics on the internet for his paper. It feels like same solution as always. I come up with ways to make all assignments about experiments and quantitative learning. Still, she's reassured that she can meet his needs because he's not sulking around the classroom, daydreaming and looking bored. She doesn't know how anxious he gets every time there is an open-ended writing assignment. 

 

Well, I guess I'll get more information as we go. I have a feeling that this is always going to be the solution, you know? The Mommy solution. 


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#8 of 13 Old 12-03-2012, 11:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My STBX and I met with the teacher. She gave our son really bad grades for the first quarter, because he didn't turn in homework. I have been stewing for weeks over her lack of communication. I don't want to be caught unaware at the end of November that my child isn't doing his homework when I've been pestering her with emails for a year for her to tell me how he's doing. 

 

It was a GREAT meeting, though. I wanted to know whether we need to test for learning disabilities right now, while the kid is also going through our divorce. I think we're going to wait and see what happens this quarter, now that we have some agreement from the teacher that she is going to help us figure out what the child is unable to do and what he is merely unwilling to do. Being gifted isn't a free pass out of doing his homework, but he might have some executive function issues. Or he could be trying to get out of doing homework because he's mad about the divorce. Or, the teacher's method of handing out the assignments isn't working for him. Certainly that last is true, so she's going to give us a hand with that piece.

 

I felt like my ex was on the same page, and the teacher, and like I wasn't alone and flailing anymore. 

 

The reason she came on so strong about the giftedness issue was that a more senior teacher came to observe her math lesson and noticed, SURPRISE,  that my kid is really great at math. So good that she approached my son's teacher to say that he belongs in a more enriched environment. They give so many standardized tests, how is it possible that this is a surprise? I don't know. I told her in the first week of third grade that he had these issues: anxiety about writing, weird lacunae in reading, unusual math interest and ability. He's actually interested in school. He's always been good at squeezing the juice and enjoyment out of learning experiences--I just want that to keep happening at this school. 

 

I guess I'm really back where I was at the beginning of third grade, even though we're in the middle of fourth grade. I'd just like to minimize the disruptions on the kid, so maybe if we pay a lot of attention to how he's doing, he can straighten out his behavior.


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#9 of 13 Old 12-04-2012, 08:28 AM
 
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I'm glad to hear the meeting went well and you felt everyone was on the same page. Sounds like you have a direction to go in and people are paying attention.

 

As for teachers, good ones give kids a chance to work out their issues on their own and with the teacher before involving parents... especially in the elementary school years when they can afford low grades. It's something, as parents, we value when works but feel frustrated and excluded when it doesn't. I suspect she's talked to your DS about the homework and any performance/behavior issues and was trying various techniques to get him on track. 

 

Standardized tests don't tell you much. My kids are gifted and they test "advanced" on all their standardized tests but we know lots of non-gifted kids who test "advanced" too. Standardized tests are really just about that years curriculum. Being in a high percentile or considered advanced can just mean the kid learned 3rd grade well, for example. They wouldn't necessarily tell you if a child had unusual math ability.


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#10 of 13 Old 12-04-2012, 08:43 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I think your analysis here of the teacher's motivations and rationale are essentially correct. I am just thinking that taking this tack with a child whose parents are separating (and whose mom is a worry wart) was probably a mistake. 

 

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Standardized tests don't tell you much. My kids are gifted and they test "advanced" on all their standardized tests but we know lots of non-gifted kids who test "advanced" too. Standardized tests are really just about that years curriculum. Being in a high percentile or considered advanced can just mean the kid learned 3rd grade well, for example. They wouldn't necessarily tell you if a child had unusual math ability.

 

OK, well, he tests advanced, he's very motivated to learn math, he seems to have an intuitive understanding of number relationships, and people keep commenting to me that he's got gifts in math. All of that fits with my experience of him. Perhaps I need to also have him tested officially to confirm his giftedness with officially blah-de-blah. There's no practical advantage to doing that if he's not also LD, because there are only LD services, no gifted accommodation, in this state and in this school system. There is one school in this area that serves highly gifted students, but 1. I am pretty sure he's not HIGHLY gifted, just, you know, plain vanilla smart and super motivated in one particular area and 2. they have a long waiting lists for kids who do test in and 3. we don't have the money for a private school. 

 

Plain vanilla smart. You know how some kids are so brilliant that they blow you away? That's not him. He's not winning chess tournaments at 4. I don't think he belongs in the "what are they doing now" thread. What he's doing now is cracking me up and being delightful about learning new things. I think "delightful" should be a category, below "highly gifted" and "profoundly gifted" or "holy sh*t that's gifted." You know? The "what a neat kid, look at what he's interested in" group. 

 

I am just worried about screwing that up. If he's just bored, or if he's got a learning difficulty, or if we're doing this parenting wrong somehow, I could wreck his pleasure in learning through my inaction. I think for now I have to hold off on pushing for testing and just try making him focus on his homework without special therapeutic interventions. If we try and it doesn't work, we know what he have to do. 


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#11 of 13 Old 12-04-2012, 08:46 AM - Thread Starter
 
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 Though when I was a kid, people often reacted to me with that "holy sh*t that's gifted" thing, and it hurt, so I might not be totally rational about this. I'm not sure if I really had all that on the ball, but the fact that they thought I did was kind of bad. 


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#12 of 13 Old 12-04-2012, 11:44 AM
 
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I wasn't suggesting that he wasn't gifted and I'm sorry if that is how it sounded. I was just explaining why high test scores weren't a clear sign of giftedness for the teacher. My DD is one of those obvious cases that people pick out immediately. She's assertive, driven, high-achieving and actively seeks quality interaction from the adults around her. My DS, not so much.... he tests just as high but in school he is more relaxed, more sociable with peers and less with adults, more comfortable taking easier paths if that's all that is available. On top of that, he had major organizational issues and so elementary was riddled with missing assignments that he felt terrible about. Thankfully, those issues have started resolving themselves in middle school but in elementary, he was often underestimated. I do know how you feel in that regard. 


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#13 of 13 Old 12-04-2012, 06:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I hope I didn't sound testy. It's a very stressful time for this to be happening. Your kind words of experience are very comforting. The fact that your son came through some similar issues helps me think about what I need to do.  


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