Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Being A Team With Your Child's Teacher

This picture is explained under #1
A couple of my kids require almost no communication with their teachers throughout the school year.  But my one child in particular?  I love him.  He gets lots of attention because of his "interesting" behavior.  When Summer comes, I breathe a sigh of relief because I no longer have to go back and forth with his teacher(s) over email due to the issues he's having.  If you have multiple children like this, I salute you.  I don't know how you do it.  By the end of the year, my attitude is pretty much, "Good luck, son!" 

I've found that conspiring against my children with their teachers is quite helpful, although I don't tell them I'm doing that. It's a fun surprise when they learn I know something that they didn't think I knew.  Here are some effective ways to be a team with your child's teacher.

1.  Explain your child's personality and difficulties at the beginning of the year.  As much as my son's teachers want him to advocate for himself, he gets anxiety, especially at the beginning of the year, and because he's afraid to draw attention to himself or that he will get in trouble for not understanding or hearing the first time, he misses some very important information that will affect him for months.  During my son's first grade year, I had to explain that the above picture didn't make him mentally deranged and no, the little girl wasn't "crying blood".  The student teacher wrote, "I thought it was disturbing."  This was my son's creative way of saying he thought the picture was lame.  Honestly, that's one of the ugliest illustrations I've ever seen.  He said, "The girl fell down jumping rope, so she was bleeding."  The thick blue lines are her streams of tears. But yes, her face is covered in blood and blood is dripping from her face.  He wrote, "WAAAAAAAH!!!!  Blood is dripping!"  OK, maybe he was mentally disturbed that year, but he got better. You can only imagine my joy when another son got the same teacher and during the first week, he drew a picture of himself frowning on the toilet and wrote, "I had a hard time pooping.  My mom said I needed to eat more fruits and vegetables and water."  I can't believe she didn't say a thing to me about it, but I bet she thought she was in for another hard year.  No, he's one of my easy children.  He just happened to be constipated. 
2.  Work hard to understand your child.  If you don't know what's going on with them, you can't help the teacher.  My son was constantly saying "I don't know" when he did know.  He just didn't want everyone looking at him.  This was something I learned when they did testing in preschool.  He had a meltdown because they did it in front of the class.  His teacher thought he wasn't learning anything and I explained, "He tells me all of the things he learned when he gets home.  If you ask him privately, he knows all the answers."  There was also a time in first grade where he was really proud of his writing, but when his reading skills picked up, he cried out, "This doesn't make any sense!"  As he started to realize his writing needed work, he became really upset, deciding to get under the table at school, scribbling on his work.  His teacher didn't know he was doing it because he was mad at himself. 
3.  Together you can expose your child for lying.  Does your child's story seem fishy to you?  Ask their teacher what happened.  My son went through a phase where he didn't want his work judged, so he wouldn't hand in his homework that he worked hours on.  I had received feedback that he wasn't handing in anything.  One morning I asked his teacher, "Did he hand in his homework this morning?"  "No, he cried because he said he forgot it."  I said, "I put it in his backpack myself.  Please look."  She wrote back, "He did NOT want to give me that homework!"  I don't think she had encountered a child who was willing to do the work without getting credit for it. 
4.  Come up with consequences together.  Sometimes the consequences at home just aren't enough.  There were a few times where I talked to their teachers and asked them to keep my child in for recess until they finished what they were supposed to.  My son was having trouble listening and completing things, so his teacher and I came up with a system just for him.  He was supposed to rate himself for various things at the end of the week, she rated him, and if he had an acceptable report at the end of the week, he was allowed to stay up and watch a movie with me. 
5.  Communicate when problems arise.  One of my son's had a spelling assignment where he had to look up the meaning of each word.  I was beyond horrified when he had to look up an animal, which was also the name of a very inappropriate woman.  The first thing to come up was an adult website.  I quickly wrote to his teacher so she could inform other parents, "Do not let your child Google that word."  She was grateful and removed the word from the spelling list for the next year.
6.  Check your child's grades and missing assignments regulary.  And when you see red flags, follow up.  With my older children, I usually have them contact their teachers themselves, but when my high schooler saw he was getting a D in choir, he was really upset.  I asked his teacher and he said, "That was a mistake.  He actually got mixed up with another kid."  My son really excels at singing and does almost every optional thing there is, so a bad grade didn't make sense at all.
7.  Get clarification when your child's explanation sounds "interesting".  My son came home and quickly admitted he got an F on a test, but he said, "My teacher says it's normal for this test because it's really hard."  "Your teacher gives everyone a test where they're destined to fail?  That doesn't make sense to me."  Of course, I couldn't resist asking his teacher.  The teacher replied, "I told the kids if they don't come to the study help after school, they are likely to fail."  Ah ha!  So I asked my son, "There was study help and you didn't go to it?!"  "I didn't know how to take the activity bus."  "AND YOU THINK YOU COULDN'T HAVE ASKED ME SO I COULD HELP YOU SOLVE THAT PROBLEM?!"  Another son recently played dumb when it came to in class assignments, which he got all zeros on.  "Oh, a bunch of us didn't realize we were supposed to do those."  Mmm hmm.  LIES!!!  He didn't make this realization until he knew I was checking up on him. 

Dealing with school issues is one of the hardest parts about parenting for me.  All those times I said I wanted a baby?  I was really saying, "I would like an email home from a child's teacher that he said son of a (blank) in the lunch room and had to go talk to the principal."  That might have happened to me too. 

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