Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thanks for the advice

Thank you to everyone who commented on my post Monday about Geo's school situation - or more my situation with something at his school.

One of my friends on facebook also commented something that was helpful.  She said:

As an "old" counselor and teacher, i can understand in some ways why she doesn't want you in the classroom. It could be more disruptive then productive for everyone.
 I completely agree- it was a threat I was hopping I wouldn't have to follow through with.  And when my bluff was called-  I had to at least look like I was willing to do it.  Lesson learned on that mom!  Don't threaten what you don't know you can do.  Good point.

My friend went on to say:
I wouldn't take it personal though. I have a real problem with her system. It is just too vague. If the class really is very social, then no one may getting consistent :)! Also it is now spring and with all the spring activities there won't be a lot of major learning. I think Geo will develop the tools that he needs. He has fantastic parents that will certainly see to that! I'm very pleased that he is respectful...I'd be extremely worried if that was a problem. Nurture his love of learning and school...and count the days until summer;)

And I was so thankful for her reminder that Geo has constantly done well in respect.  But I couldn't remember the last time I told him I was proud of him for that.  So after reading my friend's response I sat down and told him how cool that was and what a neat kid he is.

Then I spent the next 24 hours trying to decide what I was going to do.  The consensus of the comments asked what the face :), :|, and :( meant.  And I had to admit, I didn't know.  Maybe that was covered at parent's night, maybe it wasn't.  I couldn't remember.  So what I tried to decide was do I say something about it, asking her to please explain her system to me?  Or do I let it go?  I don't want to be labeled as a trouble making parent in his first year of all day classes at the school.  I don't want the second grade teachers not wanting him in the room because they don't want to deal with me.  But at the same time, I wanted to address the issue.

LK said let it go.

But I finally decided that to carry this question around and look down on her system without giving her a chance to explain it was not right.  So I wrote her an email trying to keep all tones are sarcasm and possible disrespect out of my wording.  (This is hard to do in email since tone is not easily conveyed through written word- and yes I know there is and invention that allows me to easily convey tone called the telephone. But who uses the phone anymore?).

I wrote:

Mrs. W

I hope you're doing well today.  I was wondering if you could help clarify something for me. The system you use for reporting the student's behavior, I realized I've been viewing the :| as being an unsatisfactory remark that communicates that not only does the student need improvement but that his behavior is closer to inappropriate than to acceptable. But I'm wondering if perhaps you're trying to say something else through that mark. I know we're fairly close to end of the year but perhaps clarifying this could help me better understand your expectations for Geo.
Thank you for your time

Later that day Mrs. W called me and I appreciate her taking the time do so. From what I gathered from the phone call, if her system were to be compared to a 1 to 10 chart with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst (LK thinks it should be reversed because 10 is always the best) than the :) would be around a 1 or 2- the student showed that he tried his hardest that week at achieving the goal in that area.  A :( face would be around a 9 or 10, indicating the behavior in that area is completely unacceptable and needs to be changed ASAP.  And the :| represents 3-8, everything in between, and is meant to tell the student that she knows he can do better.

I still think the system is screwy.  I would completely treat a known 3 different than a 5 or a 7.  But with the :| I have to guess if it's a 3, 5, 7 or 8.  I tried to explain that I felt like I've come across as a rather strict parent, which I do not think I am, but it's just I would rather address the issue when it's a 3 than to wait until we have a 7 on our hands have to go back and say- you know all that behavior you've done for the past ___ months, now it's not right.  I'd rather address the 3 and encourage it to be a 2, you know?  I don't know if she understood that or not.

And in the conversation I tried not to take offense when she, well, spoke to me like I was six (which I felt like I was six at that moment-- who let this child have a baby to raise!)  But that was me, allowing myself to feel that way, internalizing her tone of voice as condescending, when really she was just likely going into teacher mode and in teacher mode, she talks like she's explaining something to a six year old, because that's what she teaches.  I have to try and remember that when I explain things to people I tend to go into business mode- lower my voice and speak very matter-of-factly, and that there are times that comes across to others differently than I intended it to.

And I tried not to respond curtly when she gave me suggestions of how I can help Geo understand how to wait his turn in talking.  What she doesn't know is that I took to heart the advice my MIL gave me when Geo was born: what is cute at two is not cute at twenty.  Raise him like he will one day be 20.  She doesn't know that we already do that.  And she was just trying to help.

Ultimately I think the issue comes from one of two things- I am a backdoor thinker.  I might come to the same conclusion as everyone else, but I need to find my own way to the answer- I don't really "get" it otherwise.  So it could be that her system just doesn't fit into my way of thinking and I haven't fully come to a place where I can get it.  Maybe I won't ever.

Or the issue comes from the fact that Mrs. W and I communicate differently. I'm fairly certain we have the same expectations (or at least I'm telling myself we do) but we have different ways of expressing those expectations.  I think in kindergarten Ms. S and I communicated in a similar fashion so I could understand her better.  With Mrs. W I almost feel like I'm speaking German and she's coming back in French- it's not even the same language family.

But one thing I could tell from her phone call, and this is what matters most, I could tell that she loves Geo. I could tell she thinks he's just about as wonderful as I do.  And I could tell she wants the best for him.  And if Geo can sit in her class and feel that love and acceptance she has for him, and if he can thrive in whatever system of conveying expectations she has developed-- then I can need to step aside from my need to understand her system and encourage him in the same ways I have been.  And yes, sometimes that means taking away the Wii.

Thanks again for all the advice.


Michelle said...

I wrote a long response the other day and then it disappeared when i went to send it :( It sounds to me like you received a lot of great advice/suggestions. I'm glad it seems to have gone well. I'll talk to you soon...

ptagoddess said...

Just don't take away the Wii the weeks I am keeping the boys ;o)

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