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Archive for the ‘School’ Category

Oh, the dread.

I never realized, as a child, that parent teacher conferences are wayyy worse for the parents than the kid. I have vague recollections of my mom going to a conference or two but I don’t think they were nearly as formal/scheduled as they are now. Hmmm, I wonder if she was stressed out over them. I’ll have to ask.

We were offered the opportunity on back-to-school night (heh, like we really had a choice) to schedule a conference with Ava’s teacher. For the record, back-to-school night was a month and a half ago so it wasn’t like a get to know you meeting but more of a ‘now I know your kid – let’s talk’ kind of thing. I’m not gonna lie. I was not looking forward to it (once the teacher kindly reminded us of our appointment date since I promptly forgot the date four seconds after signing up for it).

Kindergarten was hard for all of us. I’m not going to trash talk the teacher but it certainly wasn’t the kind of nurturing kindergarten experience that I’d had and that I’d hoped for Ava. I’ll just say that I knew very early on that the teacher was phoning it in and, lo and behold, she retired as soon as the year ended. ‘Nuff said.

First grade was better – mainly because Ava had an amazing teacher who really, really worked for and with us. Ava is chatty, VERY chatty, and we struggled with this behavior. She wasn’t a bad kid but wanted to talk way more than she wanted to work and was very focused on the social aspect of school as opposed to the educational piece. She did fine academically but the amount of homework she had each night made some of our evenings very hard. She cried, I cried, we both got stubborn and mad, and then it would take HOURS to complete worksheets, spelling words, 20 minutes of reading, and whatever other project needed doing. I really don’t blame the teacher – I understand how our current educational system works – but it wasn’t a whole lot of fun. That said, Ava loved school and her first grade experience went a long way toward making up for the kindergarten year and for that I’m grateful. We had several conferences and very frequent email communication with her teacher which was good but got a little tiring when it so often communicated the same problem over and over again. Got it. She’s a talker. Trust me, I know that already.

So. Second grade.

Guess what? She’s still a talker. She still wants to be first at everything. And yes, she’s still bossy. But – her teacher went out of the way to tell us that Ava is kind, very kind, and is a wonderful bucket filler. She loves to help and seeks out extra jobs in the classroom. She likes to leave nice notes for her teachers and her friends. She actively tries to engage kids who might not have a friend to play with on the playground and is a special helper and friend to a little boy in her class who has a physical disability. It appears – gasp – that she is finally getting the concept of empathy and is putting it in practice. She is respectful (glad she is at school, at least) and doesn’t sulk or talk back (Ha – not so much here sometimes) when a negative behavior is corrected or redirected by her teachers.

We do have a few things to work on and are currently in the process of pursuing a formal diagnosis of Auditory Processing Disorder. She has been back in speech therapy for about 6 months now and there is concern that she is not very proficient at quickly processing verbal instructions. We discussed this with her teacher and offered some suggestions from the occupational therapist on ways to mitigate this such as ensuring she is seated in the front of the room where she can closely watch the teacher. Her teacher is more than willing to accommodate our requests and is also planning to do a little more written instruction – even if just for Ava – with a little less reliance on verbal instruction. All simple changes but her willingness to find what works for Ava speaks volumes to her commitment to teaching her kids.

Oh, and she doesn’t believe in homework unless absolutely necessary. She thinks their homework should mostly be reading each night and getting some time in for unstructured play. Yes, you read that right. No daily worksheets or twenty spelling words a week…it’s like heaven.

All in all, I didn’t hate this conference. In fact, it made my mama heart a whole lot of happy. The academic stuff will come in her time but hearing that she is kind and sweet and helpful and respectful means way more to me than what level she is currently reading on or what her understanding of current events or governmental structure is.

I was going to do a random phone photo post – – except I’ve just spent the last 30 minutes looking for my iPhone and I can’t seem to locate it. On top of that, Find My iPhone isn’t working for me right now so I have no clue where it might be (except maybe in the car and I’m not going out there to look tonight – too cold).

Crap. This means I’ll probably have to do an Ava purse search in the morning. That’s where I found my debit card last week after it had been missing for ages. And my keys. And my work ID badge.

So that’s all I had for you tonight. Sorry.

Oh, wait. Ava had another fabulous day at school. I dare not hope we’ve turned the corner completely but it’s given me hope in a week when I sorely needed it. Work is, ummmm, stressful (not in a bad way) right now and knowing that I can come home to an easy(ish) night and just relax (well, not much due to school) is priceless.

Now that’s really it for tonight.

After our mega long parent-teacher conference the other day (did I mention I booked the last appointment of the day because I already knew it would take me way longer than 15 minutes?) it appears that we are seeing a little bit of improvement. Ava had a rocky day Monday but the last 2 days have been great for her and I can tell that her teachers are making a concerted effort to praise her more for her successes AND to make sure to tell us, in front of her, how well her day went. Even going so far as to provide us with a few examples of her good behaviors during the day so we can continue to reinforce the positive.

I realize we’re only a couple of days in but this shows me that her teacher did listen to our concerns and is trying to help. I feel much better about that.

And I’ve given myself a stern talking to as well. I need to adjust my attitude as to how I react and respond to these issues and learn when and what to let go. I’m not saying I’m backing down – just reminding myself that I need to choose my battles and not sweat the small stuff. I will also admit to recently going on a oh-please-somebody-teach-me-how-to-parent book buying binge at Amazon so some of my attitude adjustment is coming from there. In particular I’m finding this book, The Pocket Parent, to be very helpful. Highly recommend for toddler/preschooler parents. I wish I’d read this one a little sooner.

So that’s the good news.

The bad news is that apparently when her horrible, sucky, bad choices kind of day packed up and moved out it just hopped right on over to my office and settled in. It’s been a long time since I had a day this bad. It started when I left the house and only let up for the few hours I spent with her this evening (and honestly, even then I was a little distracted by it). But you know what? I’ll keep it if it means she doesn’t have to deal with it.

<Sigh>

I’m going to bed now just to get this day over with. Stick a fork in me ’cause I’m done.

I’ve mentioned before that Ava is struggling a bit in school.

More details:

Earlier in the year there was a problem kid in her class. Kid had some serious developmental issues and this setting was not a good fit for her. Kid was also not very verbal and would lash out aggressively and often – and she was a very big kid who was capable of inflicting some damage. She was fairly violent at times and seemed to target specific children (thankfully it was rarely Ava). The problems were increasing and a number of parents were expressing their concern about the other childrens’ safety. The teachers in her class were so busy with dealing with this child that the learning environment was not optimal for the other children and most attention was focused on this kid. The kid left the school soon after – her sibling still goes there so I assume she was asked to leave after several months of trying to deal with the behaviors.

So, what does this have to do with Ava? Well, for one thing this kid taught all of the others (by example) that hey, you can hit people. My kid learned this pretty well – along with several others. So all of a sudden, my non-hitting child has deciding that hitting is a perfectly acceptable way to solve problems. We’re not hitters in our family so this is either something she picked up there or is just something she likes to do. 90% of the time she’s hitting the same kid (who is also a hitter) but she’s hit another little girl a time or two as well. We are NOT happy about this, of course.

But it’s not only that. She’s in trouble almost every single day for not listening or for not putting her things away or for not sharing or for throwing a toy on the ground or…well, you get the idea. I really dread walking into her daycare for pickup because I know somebody is going to make a beeline for me to tell me all the things she did wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I asked for feedback when she gets in trouble but I didn’t know it would be like this every.single.freaking.day. Sometimes I just want to ask – and I have – if she ever does anything right.

And I’m not proud of how we’ve handled it sometimes. We’ve tried it all – taking toys away, yelling, various punishments, talking the issue to death, reading books, putting her to bed early – and we’re not really seeing any results other than we’ve completely succeeded in making us all miserable. I hate how it affects our whole evening every single day and I feel helpless and I don’t know what to do and then that makes me mad at myself and it turns into one big vicious cycle of grouching and misery.

But I do know some things. This can’t continue. I feel like we’re losing so much quality time together because we’re letting what happens at school bleed over into our family time in the evenings. I don’t want to be so affected by this but it just wears on me – and I’m worried that if we don’t address it that we’ll end up with a little psychopath on our hands. I am worried, so worried, that she will start feeling like she can’t do anything right if she keeps on hearing all the things that she does wrong. She is such a (usually) kind, sweet, and loving kid that it kills me to think of her being labeled as something other than that.

I’ve been revisiting all of my child development books and honestly, most of this seems developmentally appropriate for her age. But I feel like if I say that too much then people think I’m just defending her because she’s my kid. I get it that she’s doing some things wrong, but geez. She’s four. If they were capable of behaving like perfectly self-controlled little adults all the time then they wouldn’t really need us, would they?

This is where I need advice because I am wondering if I need to look at other schools. I worry that Ava is already being labeled and that the expectation of misbehavior is something that will stick with her for the rest of her time there. I worry that she will develop a negativity about education. I worry that her teachers are eagle eye-ing her for even the slightest misstep because she’s gotten a ‘reputation’ as a kid who doesn’t listen well.

But then I also worry about the impact it would have on her to take her out of the only place she’s ever gone (she started going there at 13 months old) and away from the familiarity of the facilities and teachers. While the place isn’t perfect, our experiences there have been mostly positive and she’s been happy. Heck, she’s still happy. She likes going in the mornings and looks forward to getting back to see her friends after she’s been away for a weekend. If we moved her now we would end up moving her again when she goes to Kindergarten next year and my kid, well, she does not do transitions especially well.

So, what to do, Internets?

Ava has homework every week.

Translation: Mama has extra homework on top of the plenty she already has on her own AND has to remember to take the stupid blue folder back to school every Friday lest I get another passive-aggressive note in her folder.

Sometimes the homework is easy. Count thirty things and bring them to school to share. Write down her full name and address. Draw a picture of something round in your home. Stuff like that.

Sometimes it’s not. Letter writing practice almost always involves tears (mine and hers). A discussion of the five senses nearly drove both J and I batty. We alternated walking out of the room while she whined until she finally decided to participate. Teachers? We are most definitely not. Homeschooling is not likely to happen in this house as it would surely drive us to drink (heavily and often).

But tonight’s assignment was kind of fun.

We talked about the things we are thankful for and wrote them down to be posted in her classroom.

Ava’s list included: crayons, books, her daddy, Lambie (her most favorite stuffed toy ever), our house, and her new baby cousin, Victor.

J’s list: family, fire trucks, pumpkin pie, and friends.

My list: Ava (of course), our pets, my iPhone (yeah, I went there), and panda bears.

I think maybe we should do this more often…