I am sitting at home today, wishing selfishly that I could enjoy a fun day at home with the kids but instead I am trying to supervise boy-child with his homework whilst keeping girl-child occupied and not distracting the boy. It is not so much fun as he is very easily distracted. The kids are home today, not because I felt that they could do with a day of school to save everyone’s sanity but because it is a student free day with three-way conferences to discuss the progress of the students with the teacher. I am not looking forward to the conference for more many reasons, one being that I think I am intimidated and disappointed in the boy’s teacher. I know that is a fairly strong statement but let me explain.
Each day, usually on the way home from school and again as we have dinner we talk about our day; what we have done, what we have enjoyed and what we could have done better. Often the discussion will focus on social relationships more than actual school work to try and combat the underlying bullying issues that boy-child has experienced. He isn’t the most communicative of kids, perhaps that is something that he gets from me but we seem to be getting by. Over the past month, things have been starting to change. On a number of occasions, the boy-child has begun qualifying his statements with “I want to tell you something but please don’t get angry…” This is usually followed by a statement of something that is happening in class rather than at school in general.
One of the most concerning statements was that he sits on a table in the class all by himself. The class have set seats for a week or two and are then moved to different seats and working group. We assumed that everyone had a turn at sitting on their own so we weren’t overly concerned. We followed up the chat with him last week, asking him who he was sitting with and he said that everyone else had swapped seats but he was still on his own. It seems that he isn’t included in this revolving seating arrangement because he is a trouble maker and his behaviour is so distracting that he can’t sit next to any other students. Now it seems to me that if a child’s behaviour is so difficult then perhaps it is time to speak with the parents to discuss their behaviour. He is adamant that we don’t go to school to make an issue of where he is sitting and we were happy to follow his lead knowing that we had the conference coming up.
Another comment that we found concerning was he now says he “knows how to play the game”. When we talked to him about it, he explained that his teacher told him to “Just play the game, to say yes even if you don’t care because it is what the other person wants to hear”. This concerns me greatly, I don’t want him just pretending to agree with someone if he disagrees. I want him to be able to articulate how he is feeling and to negotiate. Of course I know when there are times for a person, whether it is a child or a colleague or anyone else, to be able to recognise that there are times that they are required to just sit down, shut up and get on with the task at hand but that situation doesn’t call for someone just agreeing. I want him to be passionate about the school work he is doing and want to do it not just serve platitudes and play the game. I think it is showing him how he can be rude and cheeky at best but at worst being deceitful. Moving on from this, then their is the school report that he sheepishly brought home last Friday. Without him even seeing what was written inside he asked that I not get annoyed at him. It was an indication of what he expected I would find inside.
2 years ago he was ahead of where he should be at school. Even last year, the year from hell school-wise with so much time missing due to injury and illness then social isolation he was doing well in class. He has always been lazy but the teacher was able to motivate him to actually produce good work and try in class. This year, the telling sign is the scale recording his work habits, his effort in class and behaviour. The scale begins at needs attention, then acceptable, very good and excellent. He has gone from very good down to acceptable and judging from the comments associated with the report, he has just scraped in at acceptable. Again I am thinking that if a child that demonstrates behaviour that is barely acceptable and is disruptive you would want to work with the parents and child to look at strategies that would help in the classroom. Of course I am no teacher, it is just a suggestion.
The reports are written in 2 sections, the general section that has the classroom learning and then a section for specialist classes, physical education, art, drama and music. Reading through his report you would think that the reports had been switched. He was barely surviving in his regular classes. He was disinterested and not very co-operative. It was difficult to grade his writing ability because he rarely did any writing. Then you look at his artistic based classes and in each discipline it showed that he was a positive contributor in class; he took part in discussions, was happy to write about his learnings and was a pleasure to have in the class. If I didn’t know better I would think that the reports were mixed up but I know that he loves music, drama and art. He is quite co-ordinated and is happy to play sport also so that made sense. The specialist teachers have no trouble communicating with him and having him contribute in class so there is no need for them to want to discuss his behaviour.
In T-minus 2 1/2 hours we will be sitting in his three way conference. I am feeling nervous already. I want to be able to show my support for my boy whilst learning about what is not happening in class. I don’t want to become argumentative, angry or upset. I want to know what the school can do to support him and what his teachers think that we can do to support his learning at home and make his time at school more productive. We are making an appointment to meet with a teacher from an alternative school to see if she can suggest ways to get him engaged in class. Above all, I want to know if his behaviour is so disruptive, why haven’t we been asked to meet with the teachers before because at this stage it feels like he has wasted 6 months at school, causing trouble and losing confidence in his own abilities.
As I sit here typing away, he is happily doing his Information Report that he needs to bring with him to the conference. I don’t know if he is late in returning it because our communication from home to school is also lacking, but that is another rant entirely. He has worked solidly for the best part of three hours making sure that his Information Report is just right. He didn’t want to break for something to eat because he was enjoying what he was doing. He is almost finished and is already planning what to research for another Information Report. Why isn’t this replicated in class when he is doing his ‘real’ school work?
I do acknowledge that I only have part of the information in this saga, and the information is being fed to me via a not-very-communicative 8 year old boy. Hopefully in a few hours I will be better armed to know what is happening with his education and more importantly his happiness and confidence.