I finally had the opportunity to sit down with Brendan’s teacher and discuss my concerns about his progress through third grade. Have I mentioned lately how much I love this teacher?
Her first day back at school was the Monday before Thanksgiving, and as that entire day was spent doing laundry and rinsing out barf buckets, I didn’t get her emailed that day as I intended to. I almost didn’t get her emailed Tuesday thanks to my own bucket worshiping, but thankfully I felt well and coherent enough around mid-afternoon to shoot off an email. I kept it simple and just let her know we had some concerns and thought it would be easier to discuss them face to face rather than via email. Now, she’s been back to work for a day and a half, I emailed with less than 2 hours left in the school day, and it was the day before Thanksgiving break. My expectation was that she wouldn’t get back to me until after the break, and that we could work out arrangements from there. Not only did she email me that same afternoon, but made arrangements for me to meet with her on the Monday after the break, which was the very next school day after I sent the email. I was floored. I couldn’t believe she was able to take care of all of that so quickly.
So I went into this meeting with a mental list of the things I needed to go over with her. Before I could even bring any of them up, she asked if I felt the transition between herself and the long term sub was causing Brendan’s issues. I had to chuckle to myself at this question, because it just shows how well she understands my son. I told her I wasn’t sure, because the problems did develop after she left but it wasn’t clear if the transition was the issue or if it was just that as the year was progressing if he was just starting to struggle to keep up. We decided to just go through my list and see if we could pinpoint the issue any more closely.
The first thing I mentioned was his independant work. When he came to me so upset about being “stupid” his main issue was that when he looked at all the work he had to complete he just felt completely overwhelmed. I let his teacher know that I had been working with the long term sub on this issue and that by sending the work home when it began to pile up things had improved a little. My intention was to suggest he work with the special ed teachers more frequently to see if that would help. But I forgot who I was dealing with. My heart about burst with adoration as she told me there was no need to go that extreme. She knows how overwhelmed Brendan gets when faced with a large pile of work, and said that when he was in first grade, she would always present him with one task at a time and keep the rest of his daily work on her desk. She said that it helped his stress level immensely and she would be more than happy to do so again. We also agreed that there may still be times that he’ll need to bring some of the work home so that he can try to keep up with the rest of the class. I am always more than happy to help out here at home, but she even went a step beyond that. In order to maintain Brendan’s stress level, she will package the take home work in a manilla folder for me so that he won’t see the stack, then I’m supposed to dole it out as I feel he can handle it (1 or 2 papers per day) and turn it in whenever we get it finished. She’s more than happy to provide the extra time if it will help him. She also promised to be in constant communication with me via email so I know when to expect something coming home. I just couldn’t believe how much work she was willing to put in, for the sake of my son.
We then talked about Brendan’s troubles concentrating. Her first concern was that the kids sitting around him were bothering him, but I told her I didn’t think that was the issue because he mentioned how helpful two of the kids that sit by him are in helping him get back on track. She made a mental note to keep him sitting near those two, as she has also seen them helping him out. We didn’t come up with any concrete solutions for the concentration beyond that, but I know now that it’s on her radar she’ll do everything possible to help him out.
Third on our list was Brendan’s vision. He brought home a note last month saying he’d failed the school eye exam. I wasn’t too surprised, he fails it every year. The only unfortunate thing is, the way we have his eye exams scheduled the note always means I have to take him in between our regular appointments so the doctor can sign off on the note. Lucky for me, or eye doctor never charges us for that visit and he always double checks Brendan’s eyes to make sure nothing changed between June and October. This year was a little different because as we were at the eye doctor, Brendan told him that he was having trouble reading at school. After checking his prescription, the doctor explained to me that they’ve never been able to get Brendan all the way up to 20/20 vision because of the problems with his eyes. With his glasses he has 20/50 vision and he walked me through what we needed to put into his IEP the next time around to accomodate this. That note was what I went over with the teacher. It states that Brendan needs to have all reading material at 8 point font or larger. She agreed that it needed to get into the IEP, but didn’t feel we needed to move up the IEP meeting any as she could accomodate him in the classroom until the actual meeting. Then she went through all of his books and workbooks with me to ensure that they type was large enough on each. Most were, but the math workbook was not, and she put an order in for a new one which should arrive on Wednesday.
The last thing I discussed with her was his organization skills. The truth is, he has none. Starting with third grade the kids learn how to use an assignment notebook, and are expected to transport a lot more papers between school and home. I explained that we are doing all we can to teach him to be organized but it didin’t seem to be sticking with him because the assignment notebook was never filled out, he never brought his papers home in the homework folder (they’re always shoved and wadded into his backpack), and that many times I knew there should be homework he would come home with none and try to tell me there wasn’t any that day. (Emailing the substitute always corrected that, and amazingly the homework would come home with him the next day). Her solution for that problem was simple too. She’d take a few minutes out of her day to work with Brendan on making sure he understood what needed to be done, and which papers needed to go home, and then she’d help him actually get it from his desk and mailbox, into his bag. I made an offhand comment at that point that I understood that by third grade kids are supposed to be able to do these things on their own, and she stopped me mid comment and basically said that Brendan obviously wasn’t ready to take on that much responsibility on his own and she didn’t mind helping him through it.
I wish Brendan could be blessed with a teacher like this all the way through his schooling. I can’t say enough about what a joy it is to have a teacher who both understands and cares for my child as much as she does. I’m looking forward to his IEP meeting in February. I intend to have new goals written to incorporate these little things she’s willing to do to make things easier for him. That way I don’t have to rely on the communication between the teacher and myself, I’ll know that the IEP will be there to show them what he needs to make school a much more enjoyable place.