Monday, October 27, 2008

Parent Teacher Conference

So, today I went to my first parent teacher conference of the year for J. He moved to a gifted/talented school this year and so I had to travel into town to meet with his teacher at his new elementary school. I think it might be good to give a little background information for those of you who may not know J that well. He is, well, a spirited child. In the past, at other schools he has attended this has been interpreted as a behavior problem which, on occasion, has resulted in jaunts to the principal's office.

Because of some past experiences that I have had at J's conferences, I tend to have some anxiety issues when I know one is approaching. First, come the bad dreams and then the flashbacks. When J was in Kindergarten, I was walking up the stairs to attend one of his conferences and ran into another Kindergarten teacher from the school. I asked her for directions to my son's classroom and she asked who his teacher was. The conversation continued as follows:

Me: "Yes, my son has Ms. So and So (not her real name)"

Other Teacher: "Oh, she has a rough class this year. That poor woman. She has one little boy that is just out of control and she's had to move him to his own desk at the front away from all of the other students. Your child has probably told you about him."

Me: "No. He hasn't said anything. That bad, huh?"

Other Teacher: "Yes. Good thing she is a patient woman. She's been doing this for decades and she said this is the worst she's ever had it."

We parted ways as she pointed me towards his class and then I greeted Ms. So and So and she walked me towards my son's desk, the separate one at the front of the room, away from all of the other kids who sat at tables. It didn't get much better from there.

Then there was the incident in the first grade. The one where he hacked into the school computer and saved blank sheets over all of the assignments of a girl in his class. It was hard to act disappointed while meeting with him and the principal when I was secretly impressed that he had managed to get around the user ID and password issues and into her files at the tender age of six.

So, anyway, back to the story at hand. You get the idea.

As I was making the drive into town, my stomach was knotting up. I was so deep in thought and anticipation that I almost ran a red light. I did manage to make it to the school safely and found the classroom on my own this time. His teacher greeted me and started with, "Your son is definitely in the right place. He is very bright even for our gifted and talented class." She proceeded to show me test scores and work examples verifying my parental claim that my child is a genius. She is having a gifted specialist come in from the district to work with him and two other boys who are both far beyond what the gifted curriculum has for math.

Then, of course, came the rest of the conversation. But, I liked the way she handled it. She straight out said, "His writing is terrible." I'd heard this before. We know it is an issue with him. But, instead of looking at me accusingly, she said, "since this is an obvious weakness for him, let's find ways around it as we help him develop this skill." She is going to let him type his papers. She is going to give him less writing to do and ask him to take his time and slow it down. She is sending home some sample open response questions for me to help him with. But, all through the conversation, she reassured me that my child was special and different than any other child she had taught before and not in a bad way. He pulls a ticket every now and then, but she said he has been very respectful and she doesn't consider his behavior an issue at all. I actually came out of the conference with my head held high.

....and, he's getting straight As. That's my boy.


Don and Robin Cooper said...

How could he not be bright with two exceptional parents? I see this all the time at my schools, sometimes these kids are so bright, they get BORED! They have to entertain themselves somehow! I'm glad he has an insightful teacher this year! As an OT in the school district, I get lots of referrals for kids who have messy handwriting...I am in agreement with the teacher. The goal should be him getting his thoughts down on paper, typing is an excellent way! We use Handwriting Without Tears writing books with kids...5 minutes of practice per day, kids don't mind that! :)

Brig said...

If he's at all like me in his writing (and he's a lot like me in other areas, so maybe he is in this area too,) then his brain may be working much faster than his pencil can, and he gets impatient that his hand can't go faster. So he takes shortcuts to make the writing keep up.

I think typing his assignments is a good idea, but we need to keep working on cursive, which for me makes things easier since letters flow into each other, unlike print, and the thoughts seem to transfer to paper more easily.

Shauna said...

Having taught school, I know for a fact that many (not all by any means, but a lot) of discipline problems arise with very bright children who are absolutely bored out of their skulls. It's so great that J is in a place where they can challenge him and really meet his needs! What a fabulous teacher!