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Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Different Kind of School Issue

On the 6th day of school my son's emotions overflowed and spilled out.

 It started out innocently enough. He came home from school talking about his homework. He was trying to explain something about having to read sight words, but the teacher said they couldn't turn it in tomorrow, but he already knew the words. After getting him to calm down and explain to me and show me the homework I got a clearer picture.

On the homework sheet was a picture of a tree with a bunch of apples all around that had sight words written on them. The instructions were to practice these words all week and color in the apples of the words you knew. That was it. But he said the teacher said something like, "And nobody should be turning this in tomorrow."

I told him to read the words on the sheet. Did you know them all? Yes? Good. Color them in. That is what the instructions are - color them in when you know them and you do know them. 

I asked him if he was worried if he turned it in tomorrow that his teacher would yell at him and he said, "Not yell." Oops I didn't mean that literally. I asked him if he thought he would get in trouble. He said, "Well maybe clip down." He wanted me to write a note with his homework saying that he did read and know those words. I assured him I would and I tried to explain why I thought the teacher was saying nobody should turn it in the next day. I told him that the first week or so of school is usually spend reviewing what was learned the year before and maybe his teacher didn't think anybody knew all the sight words so she wasn't expecting it to be turned in the next day. Maybe she wanted to make sure everyone didn't go home and just color in the apples without really knowing how to read all of the words.

In the middle of all this I also read out loud the weekly newsletter about what they would be doing that week and the homework for the rest of the week. Reviewing #s 1-10. Matching #s 1-10 with the written words.

Then he started talking really fast like he sometimes does when he is upset and/or frustrated. These aren't his exact words, but it was pretty close to what he was trying to say, "Why do I have to just review everything? Why do I have to review everything that was in Kindergarten that I already know? Why did I have to review in Kindergarten everything that I already knew even before Kindergarten? It's just review, review, review." Then I noticed his eyes were red and a little wet at the same time he brought his hands up to wipe his eyes and exclaim, "Ahhh, and why do I feel like I just want to cry?" And with that exclamation and my arms enveloping him in a hug the tears came.

I pulled him on to the couch to snuggle with him and try to talk him through what was going on. I asked him what he was feeling. "I don't know." Are you feeling frustrated? "I don't know." A few more I don't know responses to my questions. Not wanting to put words in his mouth, or thoughts in his head, but trying to give him an expression to what he was feeling I asked, "Are you bored?" Finally a pause. "A little bit."

He told me about the "Crazy Color Creatures" book and his "...teacher read each page. Stopped. Told us to take out the pink crayon. Stop. Now underline the color word and any rhyming words. Stop. Same thing on each page. Take out this crayon. Underline this word." He was trying to explain that it was all done as a whole class following along. He said he just wants to get his worksheet and just be able to sit at his desk and do it. He wants to do things like that on his own. An example of the sentences in this little packet, "Sue Blue has the flu."

He is reading on a 2nd/3rd grade level. He read 30, if not more, books this summer - chapter books like Magic Tree House. I imagine it is so hard for him to sit and listen to a teacher read each page and waiting to go over each page one-by-one like that.

He wanted to know when he could start AR books again. (Accelerated Reading books at the school library that he was able to start doing in Kindergarten). I told him the newsletter said after the first parent-teacher conference they would discuss whether the student was ready to do AR books.


For the number review of matching ONE to 1 and TWO to 2? It's not challenging enough for him.

He is doing things like this in a workbook we have for him at home:

"Write the number seventy-five thousand, two hundred and twenty-two" and
"Write the number that has 2 hundred-thousands, 7 ten-thousands, 7 thousands, 5 hundreds, 3 tens and 9 ones." and
"What is the place value of the digit 3 in the number 526,310" or "What is the place value of the digit 4 in the number 34,890."

I fully realize a number of things
- Teachers spend the first couple of weeks reviewing material from the previous grade because of loss of retention over the summer
- Teachers have a curriculum/lesson plan they have to follow
- The school year just started
- She hasn't done reading/math assessments yet to know where all her students are at so she can start differentiating instruction
- He is not the only kid in class who can read, or knew the sight words on that paper (he said several other kids also turned it in the next day)
- He is not the only kid in class that could be bored by reviewing #s 1-10 and matching the written word to the number 

But what I do know is he is my child and he was upset and frustrated to the point of tears. What I don't want to happen is for him to get so bored with school he doesn't enjoy going and/or that the boredom will manifest in behavior issues - so far that has not happened as he clips up virtually every day - but it could be a possibility.

So when do I talk with the teacher about maybe giving him other things to challenge him? Something like matching words to their numbers through 100 instead of up to 10?

I think parent-teacher conferences are usually held before the first report card, so the first 9 weeks of school. Do I wait it out until the conference to talk to her about all of this? Tell him to suck it up for the first weeks of school while they review material? Talk to her now? Although this could all be a moot point since this week is just about over and they won't be matching words 1-10 to the numbers after this week. But the material still might not be challenging enough for him and he might still find himself 'bored' with reviewing things that he knows like the back of his hand.

If there are any teachers reading this - how would you like a parent to approach you not about concerns for their child falling behind, but concerns about their child needing more to be challenged? Is it too soon in the school year to mention this to his teacher?

There are some days I really get why parents homeschool. And days like this one make me seriously consider it.

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16 comments:

Cate said...

poor kiddo! I would absolutely email the teacher immediately. The details of what work he gets can be addressed over the next few weeks, but he should NOT be crying and stressed out. And I would think his teacher would want to know about that and address it ASAP.

Meg said...

I would wait a couple of weeks and see what happens. But if nothing changes, I would maybe send an email about his reading level but NEVER use the "B" word. Most teachers do not like to be told they are boring to a student. If she hasn't figured it out, I would let her know the types of books he is reading. But, unfortunately, unless your school does some degree of differentiation, things may not change that much, but should get a bit more challenging. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I'm a newly retired teacher...I would address this now...ask her to talk to last year's teacher. Send in an example of what he does INDEPENDENTLY at home. If you're willing, offer to be the one differentiating for now (doing exactly what you said, providing practice of a similar but higher level skill). Ask if he CAN do the page by page stuff on his own, rather than with the class, to demonstrate his proficiency. And then extend it (write other rhyming words, find other rhyming words with a different spelling pattern like blue-new-through-shoe) or non-rhyming words with the same pattern (sew, thought, tough). With math...use the number words to make the biggest/smallest two, three, four digit numbers you can, explain how you figured that out so someone else could use your strategy....and express your concerns of acting out, turning off...worry more about your child than the teacher's feelings, explain you know she'll need three-four days to put things in place and maybe your child could fo something he thinks of creatively with the work during that time....and if she is upset, that is her unprofessional ism and not YOUR PROBLEM!

Anonymous said...

I'm a newly retired teacher...I would address this now...ask her to talk to last year's teacher. Send in an example of what he does INDEPENDENTLY at home. If you're willing, offer to be the one differentiating for now (doing exactly what you said, providing practice of a similar but higher level skill). Ask if he CAN do the page by page stuff on his own, rather than with the class, to demonstrate his proficiency. And then extend it (write other rhyming words, find other rhyming words with a different spelling pattern like blue-new-through-shoe) or non-rhyming words with the same pattern (sew, thought, tough). With math...use the number words to make the biggest/smallest two, three, four digit numbers you can, explain how you figured that out so someone else could use your strategy....and express your concerns of acting out, turning off...worry more about your child than the teacher's feelings, explain you know she'll need three-four days to put things in place and maybe your child could fo something he thinks of creatively with the work during that time....and if she is upset, that is her unprofessional ism and not YOUR PROBLEM!

Michelle said...

I too would email her, requesting a meeting with her to explain your concerns. There is a lot of testing & assessing going on in the 1st few weeks, and she may be well aware that he retained all the info (and knows more). But she may not be aware of his feelings, and I'm sure she will want to!

Anonymous said...

First of all let me tell you that I love your blog! My daughter has DS and is in 1st grade and my son sounds similar to Lucas, but is in 4th grade now. (And I'm a teacher!)

I would absolutely email the teacher now. Tell her that your son was crying, explain the issue but keep it very positive because it is only the 2nd week and I'm sure she DOES want to help. I would also request a meeting and ask for G/T teacher to be present. I don't know how your district works- our kids can't be labeled G/T until 3rd grade, but my son got G/T support starting in Kinder and he was pulled up a year in math.

Working in the school system, I would say that you definitely need to advocate for your child in a positive, open manner. The staff and everyone wants to help, but they don't/can't always see what you see. But if you stay positive and thankful, usually everyone wins.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I have been fortunate to work in alternative schools, where children could set their own pace within the curriculum. I am not familiar with the public system, but would imagine that any teacher would want to be aware of a student's distress. I recommend that you arrange a meeting with her as soon as possible: there may be some accommodations that can be made. I have often encouraged mentoring relationships between accelerated students and those who were struggling, but that might not be possible in a traditional setting.
Given his sensitivity toward his sister (from what I have gleaned from past posts), a conversation about why some children need review, and why the teacher has to move at a certain pace, might lessen his frustration.

Anonymous said...

oh poor Lucas!!!I would worry that eventually he will stop caring about school and learning!! just give up!!

but, yes,approach the teacher in positive way with understanding and to let her know Lucas's concerns. I would email his teacher. Maybe he can be tested out of 1st grade!! Love mom

Kerri Ames said...

I would contact the teacher right away. I know that 9 weeks seems like time for her to get her rhythm with the class but (well) your boy is more important than the other kids. He's your first priority. I know you are so used to advocating for Kayla that with Lucas you might feel like how do I do this? I know Boo gave me the tools to advocate for Abby. Without that "Training" I never would have known how to contact/communicate with her teachers.

And isn't it so odd? That you are advocating again for some type of accommodation but in a way you never imagined?

Oh and Abby LOVED the Magic Tree House series :)

Donna said...

Ask to have your son tested for placement. If he is reading above grade level as you said, and his math skills are above his current level, doesn't it seem common sense?

krlr said...

Ugh - sorry! With every single TED talk & FB-circulated random article about the woes of modern education vs unschooling/et al. I want to quit my job and move into a tent somewhere next to a national park. I've got no advice (though will throw my vote in w/the address now vs later camp) but you have my sympathy. Please let us know how it goes! xoxo

yosoylalay said...

I'm a teacher, and I think that it is definitely fair for you to reach out to her and ask if she can suggest any extension activities. Like one of the other replies mentioned, I'd suggest telling her the kinds of activities you work on at home and would probably ask something like "please let me know how can I best support and extend the learning that my son is doing in the classroom when he comes home." I would probably not make an in-person appointment quite yet, but would invite the teacher to respond. It is really, really early in the year, but any information that you can give her about your child that she doesn't have to seek out on her own will be helpful at this point.

In my first years teaching, it was very eye-opening to me to see how few students came into the classroom actually prepared to learn. Summer brain drain is a very real issue, so kudos to you for keeping up the learning while summer went on. You are not the norm, especially as kids get older.

nichole said...

I'm not a teacher, but I was an elementary student who was reading at a 3rd grade level in kindergarten. I would suggest talking with his teacher to see if there's anything he can be doing independently. Recognizing that there are times when he will have to work with the pace of the class, but if there's other times when he can work at his speed and his level where he can be challenged, it may help even out his day. When I was in K and 1st grade, I was allowed separate reading and math time. Now mind you, this was 32 years ago and I have no idea how we came that arrangement. I don't know that my parents had much input, but I think my kindergarten teacher recognized right away that I was way past needing to learn my letters. Once I got to third and fourth grade it evened out a bit, but had they not found other things for me to do during the day I would have been bored to tears.

Leah said...

I am a 2nd grade teacher, and I would send her a link to this post! ;) Everything you said in here was well said and helps her understand where you're coming from. I'm sure she is still getting to know everyone, but a little help never hurts! I'm sure she would want to know how he's feeling!! I would!

Unknown said...

Thank you very much for sharing this post. I am in a similar boat as you. My son started first grade this school year, but in the summer he had finished first four Harry Potter books. It took him less than 3 weeks to do that and he understood the books. I know that because I quizzed him and he answered correctly. The reading and math homework so far is extremely easy for him and I also fear that him being not challenged will manifest into frustration and behavioural problems. It was great reading about the different comments from teachers on how to address this issue. Thanks again and i wish you good luck.

Elise (Kids Included Together) said...

I definitely think you should contact Lucas's teacher! I'm sure she is also interested in getting any information possible to make sure school is a place where he is challenged! As a special educator myself, I'm sure she is overwhelmed by the stresses of the beginning of the school year and is trying to determine how much knowledge her students lost over the summer (likely a lot for many of Lucas's classmates. You are not the norm!), so she probably has no idea that there are some students in the class who are so frustrated that things are moving too slowly for them. I'm sure she would love to hear from you with specific suggestions for what you think he can do and how you think he could be challenged. Differentiation is something most teachers are really trying to do well these days! Good luck! Thank you for sharing this with us!