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Old 01-12-2002, 10:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hey, all. My 9 year old has always had "focus" issues in school, but has been examined by a behaviorial pediatrician who found him within the normal range of activity/ability to focus. At the high end of the range, but she said definately within the normal range.
To make a long, painful and EXPENSIVE story short, he is in a hyper-competitive private school where the teacher has what I believe to be unrealistic expectations for his behavior. No problem, I can hear you thinking, just move him out of that school, and perhaps try homeschooling. Sorry, but he LOVES his school, has solid peer relationships. His teacher keeps calling me in for conferences to tell me his desk is the messiest of any other third grader, his small motor skills make his handwriting atrocious, and that she has to constantly remind him to pay attention.
I am really getting angry with the whole school behaviorial expectations. They have a reputation for being very hard on boy-energy, which my little guy has in abundance. It is, for some parents, a big social deal that their children attend there; my husband and I don't really care about that, and the reason son attends is because our local public is pretty bad. What I'm trying to say is, it's kind of a snotty school with lots of wonderful parents, and lots of uptight, newly-wealthy buttheads.
Now, I have ANOTHER conference with teacher. This time she has asked for the head of the school division to attend the meeting. I get the feeling they're gearing up to kick him out.
He has excellent grades, is well-liked by classmates, and is not aggressive or mean at all. Can anyone give me some support and suggestions for questions to ask at this latest conference? I am so sad and angry and I don't know what to do. Thanks. Calgal
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Old 01-12-2002, 11:36 PM
 
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Hi, Calgal, you sound so upset and frustrated. I hope I can help. I'm a teacher (not currently working, though) and your son sounds like so many students I've had, and if your son's teacher is willing to work with you, I do have some suggestions.

First, let me just agree with you - schools are often very unaccepting of individual differences and are very quick to label any children who don't conform as "difficult." Unfortunately, many teachers are unwilling to see each child in his/her class as an individual who has unique strengths and weaknesses and needs, and they are unwilling to work with those unique needs in mind. Any teacher who says they can't do this in a classroom of 20 or so kids (I usually had over 30 myself, with no assistant teachers) should not be teaching children, they should be teaching robots. It is a teacher's responsibility to know each of her students as individuals and help to meet their needs as best as she can. This, to me, was the most challenging and rewarding part of teaching.

It sounds like your son has lots of energy and some difficulty in his organizational skills. Perfectly normal!!! I taught third grade for three years and had lots of students like this. Here are some things I did to help them:

For the energy:

-Let them get out of their seats frequently- passing out papers, washing chalkboards, bringing messages to the office, etc.

-Try to alternate the day's schedule between "seated" activities and activities where the children got to move around more, like art projects, so that children were not stuck in their chairs for long periods.

- Once a day, try to make "calling out" acceptable, for example, when gathering ideas, let the kids just call out and the teacher writes down everything she hears quickly.

To help with organizational skills:

- First of all, I never bothered kids about the neatness of their desks unless it interfered with their classwork. If the student wasn't having any trouble finding things in there, it wasn't my problem!

- The best way, IMO, to help a student who is having trouble staying organized - bringing home the right materials for homework, keeping things in places where they can be retrieved quickly, bringing the right things back to school, etc., is to ASK THE CHILD what he thinks might make it easier. Here are some ideas, some given to me by the children themselves:

- Keep an index card with daily reminders taped to a corner of the desk

- Make a velcro chart for the wall with the names of all textbooks and materials on index cards, and have a monitor each afternoon stick the necessary items for that night's homework on the chart before children pack up to go home.

- Ask the child if there is a particular friend in the class whom he trusts who he thinks would be a helpful seatmate, someone who is responsible and would set a good example

- Have frequent meetings with the child to discuss how things are going, and in which areas he may need some help. This is so important. Talking one-on-one with a student once a week and praising him on what he has done well, and asking him what difficulties he is having, makes a personal connection between the student and teacher and lets the child know she cares and that she has faith in him.

- Keep open communication with the parents, sending notes home weekly and making phone calls frequently to praise any positive changes and discuss areas which still need work.

If a teacher seems more likely to label your son as "difficult" and insist that he "conform" to her idea of the ideal student, rather than accept his unique traits and try to work with him and help him be successful, I would request another teacher. A transfer might be stressful, but it is an awful experience for a child to be in a class where he can never live up to the teacher's expectations.

I hope I've helped! Please let me know what happens - you can pm me if you want.
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Old 01-13-2002, 03:39 AM
 
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I was a teacher too (special ed.). My guess is that the teacher has an agenda here. What do you think she is wanting you to do? Not suggesting that it will be the right thing to do, just thinking that if you understand what she wants it will be easier to deal with her. She has probably hinted a lot at whatever it is. My guesses would be she wants you to get him on medication, put him in another school, or have him evaluated. If you can specifically address her agenda, you might be able to make progress.

I agree with peacemama's suggestions. They're great, but I get the feeling this teacher may be of the all kids get treated the same, I've taught this way for 20 yrs. variety. (just a guess) If that's the case, I would try for a transfer to another teacher. If that's not possible I guess you have to evaluate whether you, the teacher, and your son can make it through the year and hope for better luck next year. Good luck!
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Old 01-13-2002, 12:06 PM
 
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My son has son has some of these same issues. He is profoundly gifted and yet can't keep track of any of his possessions, can't remember his homework materials, has illegible handwriting. His desk is a black hole that swallows library books, homework and important papers. It's so messy that even his classmates chide him for it and one of them will clean it for him occaisionally. His first pair of glasses are currently at the bottom of Lake Erie. (He went swimming, forgetting that he was wearing them.) His 2nd pair of glasses are already missing one of their lenses.

However, he's had the same teacher since first grade, and she's wonderful. I tremble to think what will happen next year when he moves to the upper elementary school. Calgal, it sounds like the teacher is the problem, not your son. Peacemama's suggestions are great. One other thing my son's teacher did when she was particularly frustrated with him was to draw up a contract for him. (They're big on contracts at his school.) It was a private matter between him and his teacher, meaning she didn't make an issue of it in front of his classmates. Anyway, the contract listed behaviors she wanted him to work on--paying attention, keeping track of his belongings, remembering assignments, etc. Every day he had a fresh contract and he'd check off the various things he's accomplished. There was also space for a daily teacher evaluation and student self evaluation. My son usually gave himself a lower evaluation than the teacher did. Ds did make an effort to follow his contract and his teacher said she noticed an improvement.

Don't let them browbeat you into putting your ds on Ritalin or something! Teachers are not doctors and a couple of states have passed legislation which outlaws teachers forcing parents to put their children on meds. Your son sounds completely normal to me. And if you're worried that he may get kicked out, all I can say is, kicked out for being messy and disorganized? It sounds like they have no justification to take your son out of school. Good luck.
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Old 01-13-2002, 01:34 PM
 
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My only suggestion is that if they want to evaluate your son, check into the credentials of the evaluator and insist on seeing a copy of whatever *objective* evaluation tool they wish to use. I say this b/c a friend of mine had the unfortunate experience of having a teacher tell her they wanted her permission to "evaluate his agressive tendencies". The evaluation turned out to be a newly graduated psych major who worked for the state and had this circuit of schools she passed through, basically signing off on whatever the teachers told her about individual children. My friend figured it out b/c her son had been absent the day of school she had been there. If possible, be present at least in the building, if not in the same room the day of the evaluation.
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Old 01-13-2002, 04:08 PM
 
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I forgot tho mention this - never forget that the teacher is a teacher, not a child psychologist. Do not let her try to "diagnose" your child. I've heard too many of the teachers I've worked with call kids "ADHD" or "LD" (learning disabled) without that child ever having been diagnosed as such. As a teacher, I am not qualified to throw those terms around! All a teacher should do is report her observations of your child's behavior in the classroom, and recommend an evaluation if she thinks there may be an underlying cause. Diagnoses of ADHD are way out of control in this country, as is the use of drugs like Ritalin. Get all the information you need, be involved in the evaluation process if it comes to that, and be a great big pain in the ass and don't let them do ANYTHING without your consent and without you being completely informed.
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Old 01-13-2002, 11:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, Peacemom, Dot.mom, Gena and daylily. I read all your posts with great interest, and your suggestions will be helpful in our upcoming meeting with the teacher.
She DID have my son on a behaviorial plan, and she told me it was working well. This was in our last meeting, in early December. Then, in the same meeting, she launched off on how he is all the things I mentioned, disorganized, doesn't transition between classes well. She's been teaching for more than twenty years, and I wonder if she is a little burned out.. .
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Old 12-28-2002, 10:01 AM
 
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Ok. We know the teacher is the problem, and I agree she sounds like a horror for an energetic kid, but he still has to deal with her expectations.
So give the kid some coaching on coping skills and this is going to sound odd, but try giving him a half cup of coffee before he goes to school. With some of us it actually calms us down enough that we can function better.
and good luck!
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Old 12-28-2002, 03:19 PM
 
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calgal007, what happened?
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Old 12-29-2002, 03:43 AM
 
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that happenbed with my son when he was in 2nd grade and I took him out for the second half and put him back in next year in a different school- it was rough at home because of his attention issues but it was also really nice to be able to have spent some time with him like that...however I will share that he has a similar teacher this year now in 4th grade and we have chosen to work on his coping skills with him rather than just pulling him out- I support him at home to vent about the teacher and episodes and I suipport the teacher to share / vent about him and try and be the "mediater " between the two so that he can have as productful experience as possible- the difference howeever is that this years teacher has not pushed about meds or evaluation(he was evaled at one point to be on the high end of normal or low end ADD but not hyper- he is very bright but cant remember to comb his hair and is quite sloppy, has writting issues and also tends to talk out without raising his hand and NEVER rememberes assignments unless he likes them <rolleyes>
its driving ME crazy to have him in school, lol, cuz its like more work but I think for MY son it is a good idea at this time- maybe ytou will find something here that will support you- best of luck- ~m
ps, my son really likes doing visualizations and meditations to help with his classroom behavior/control and realtionship wioth the teacher -I use the Sylvia brown small books and he reads with me or lets me read them to him-
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Old 12-29-2002, 03:50 AM
 
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It was suggested to me by a friend to give my dd essential fatty acids for attention. Since I've been doing that she no longer brings home unfinished school work. Having said that, it was also in the runup to Christmas, so I don't know how much real work they were doing anyway. We'll see what January brings....
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Old 02-16-2003, 11:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow. It's been over a year since I posted this thread. We moved DS to another school, and what a difference that has made. We gave the old school no reasons, just said he wouldn't be returning and to have his things in the office for us to pick up.
He is doing better in his new school. I can't believe how our lives have changed since I started this thread. It is hurtful to re-read what I wrote and what we lived through a year ago.
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Old 02-21-2003, 12:48 AM
 
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Calgal,

This saga could have been my own dear son. Last year he had a very tough teacher who had zero tolerance for unwanted behavoir. I had to involve the principal, who is a very wonderful adult with ADHD.

This year, his teacher is much more laid back and my son is learning to finish his assignment before working on his graphic novel. Its still a struggle, but he is in learning mode, not depressed mode.

I'm so glad that things have improved for your ds.

Miranda
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Old 07-31-2003, 02:40 PM
 
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My sister also tested normal for focusing issues, but boy did she have problems! In 5th grade, she was in Catholic school and she would forget her lunch 3 days out of 5. She also never remembered her homework, and so she was in detention every day after school. She just simply couldn't get her act together to do all of the steps of an act all the way through completion -- she would get derailed after different places, but she always got derailed somewhere. And it just wasn't a problem that she could fix because she was getting punished -- so the teachers would get mad and give her harsher and harsher punishments. Eventually my parents pulled her out of that school and put her in the school across the street.

Her sixth grade teacher there didn't like her, and one day ridiculed her in front of the class because her desk was messy, then dumped it on the floor and made her clean it up while everyone watched. Then, my mom yanked her out of that school, something for which my sister is immensely greatful.

I think it can be hard for teachers who have an organized personality and like to structure things to understand messy, flaky kids, who show no impulse for organization themselves.
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Old 08-09-2003, 02:58 AM
 
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wow, I really feel sorry for your sister. If that happened to my dd, I would be up at the school making lots of unpleasant noises. As it is, I pulled my dd out of ps and am hsing her because she does not "conform" to what the ps wants. She is extremely bright and gifted but disorganized and has a hard time following through on many things. She also "asks too many questions". This is what I heard from 2 different sets of teachers. : :
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Old 08-09-2003, 01:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Katelyn: She ASKS TOO MANY QUESTIONS???? What kind of preschool was that? IMO preschool is highly over rated. . .
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Old 08-11-2003, 03:14 AM
 
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Oooops...there is some confusion here! lol. "ps" means public school, not preschool. My dd was in the 5th and 6th grade when her teachers told me this.
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Old 08-11-2003, 12:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ah ha. I get it; still . . . too many questions?? Isn't there a way a teacher could give a child the tools with which to answer her own questions; i.e. "that's an excellent question, why don't you write it down and when we go to the library, you can ask the librarian to help you find the answer." or something like that. On the topic of the messy desk, the teacher in my ds' old school allowed the other children in the class to abuse him verbally, which she sanctioned, by saying things like, "Class, if (son's name) would get out HIS pencil, we could all begin." THen the kids would start, "Come on!" "You're always the last one!" etc. etc. I had this corraborated by a psychiatrist I sent to the school to do an observation on ds. Nice, huh?
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Old 08-23-2003, 01:43 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by hypatia
My sister also tested normal for focusing issues, but boy did she have problems! In 5th grade, she was in Catholic school and she would forget her lunch 3 days out of 5. She also never remembered her homework, and so she was in detention every day after school. She just simply couldn't get her act together to do all of the steps of an act all the way through completion -- she would get derailed after different places, but she always got derailed somewhere. And it just wasn't a problem that she could fix because she was getting punished -- so the teachers would get mad and give her harsher and harsher punishments. Eventually my parents pulled her out of that school and put her in the school across the street.

Her sixth grade teacher there didn't like her, and one day ridiculed her in front of the class because her desk was messy, then dumped it on the floor and made her clean it up while everyone watched. Then, my mom yanked her out of that school, something for which my sister is immensely greatful.

I think it can be hard for teachers who have an organized personality and like to structure things to understand messy, flaky kids, who show no impulse for organization themselves.
Hypatia..

Are you sure you aren't my sister.. The whole desk thing happened to me.. I am, and was, so totally like your sister.. I am the disorganizatioin poster child i think.. My mother didn't pull me out of the school, but when she found out what was going on with that teacher she did go in and b*tch up a storm, and go the teacher fired.

It's a sad state of affairs when teachers who are supposed to inspire learning end up ridiculing innocents and inspire the complete opposite..

Warm Squishy Feelings..

Dyan

It's lonely being the only XX in a house of XYs.
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Old 08-30-2003, 02:42 PM
 
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I would just like to urge anyone who has a potentially sensitive meeting with a teacher to bring someone. You can set up the meeting through the school administrator and request that the following people be present:

both parents, or parent and one support person;

teacher and one school support person, ie mentor or administrator;

ombudsman - if the school doesn't have someone they use talk with them about setting one up.

I have been on both sides of the table at such meetings and it really helps to have this set of people. Everyone is calmer, more composed, and there almost can't be any future misunderstandings of what has been said or agreed upon.
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Old 08-30-2003, 09:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Good advice! That makes a lot of sense.
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