Help/opinions on my "nastygram"

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by keista, Aug 20, 2011.

  1. keista

    keista New Member

    So I'm already having difficulties with the school regarding son. I posted briefly in another thread, and thought I got a meeting time in motion. I guess not. At the advice of the ESE coordinator, I called the teacher but got her voicemail, and never got a call back. When I called Friday to find out about the meeting time, she said she figured that since I was calling teacher we didn't need a meeting. Well, I never got a hold of teacher, and never got a call back, so now what? Then I got an email scheduling the meeting for next Wednesday - GREAT. then I got another saying the teacher couldn't make it, sorry she thought it would be the following week, so, "let's just see how things go and plan on a meeting the following week, and maybe Mrs A can keep us updated via email" Ah, yeah, OK, that would be great if Mrs A ever sent me an email, but she hasn't. She did call and discuss son with me last Friday, but that was it.

    So, here's my letter. Any feedback is appreciated.

    What a marvelous plan! Let's wait one more week, just to see how it goes, and allow J to 'choose' more invisible zeros. Then, once he's in danger of failing the class, we can sit in Ms P's (the guidance counselor) office and ask him to try harder.

    If you did not pick up on my sarcasm and sense my frustrations, I will say that yes, I was being sarcastic because I am beyond frustrated " as is J.

    If Wednesday is not good, I am now available Tuesday morning before school and up until 9:30am. J's appointment in R has been rescheduled for a later time.

    Referring to Ms A's email to Ms C (ESE coordinator) dated August 18[SUP]th[/SUP]:

    'J has chosen to take yet another zero in lab work.

    Nothing has changed " I cannot force him to lab.'

    First of all, J does NOT 'choose' to take zeros. He his highly capable of doing lab work. What he has difficulty with is working in groups, and more specifically finding his own group to work with. J did NOT choose to be born with Asperger's and does NOT choose to be highly deficient in social skills. In fact he has worked VERY hard to acquire and hone the skills he does have. These are skills that neurotypical people learn naturally and take for granted. Giving him zeros for not participating in group activities is like giving a student with one leg a zero for not running track. The only difference is that the missing leg is a VISIBLE disability.

    Secondly, the statement that 'nothing has changed' is completely untrue! Monday August 15[SUP]th[/SUP], J did participate in lab " a change. Thursday August 18[SUP]th[/SUP] again he did not participate " another change. Then Friday, he participated again.

    When he came home from school on Thursday, I was able to determine what the differences between the days were by questioning him in detail. According to J, on Monday, he was ASSIGNED to a group, and on Thursday he was required to find his own group. This is a HUGE difference in J's processing of social skills. I asked if there were any students in the class that he was comfortable with. He identified one student. I suggested he ask that student if they could be permanent lab partners. When he came home from school on Friday he reported that he followed my advice, and successfully got himself into a lab group. Unfortunately, he told me that the student he had asked said, 'Sure, whenever I can'. In other words, the student is not making a semester long commitment to J. I completely understand this student's position, as does J.

    So currently, J has managed to solve his own problem as long as this other student is willing to partner up with him. If this other student, on any given lab day, chooses to partner up with other students, then J will be back to square one and not participating. I have done MY part in specifically identifying J's current issues with doing group lab work, so I hope that you all can find solutions for him when he's incapable of finding his own group.

    I HOPE that J can be given alternate lab assignments to make up the missing work. I may be mistaken, but I do not believe that the Sunshine State Standards require that lab work MUST be done in groups.
  2. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Argh....and its only week what into the school year? Sigh.
  3. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Actually, sounds pretty good to me... But... Leave out the snarky stuff at the beginning! LOL I very much understand wanting to say that... But. We're looking for collaboration here, not immediate defensiveness.

    Due to J's difficulty working in groups, I am requesting that alternate arrangements be made for the labs that require group work. J is more than capable of handling these labs on his own if they are modified.

    Please let me know if I can be in assistance with this; perhaps he could do them as homework, if they are simple enough.

    Just some other "stuff".
  4. keista

    keista New Member

    Janet, it's 1.5 weeks. If I go by what's posted on grades - 2 grades per lab - he currently has 4 0's and 2 A's as of the last update, however only the A's are showing. If I include the two most recent labs, then it's 6 0's and 4 A's - which isn't much better.

    Step, the snarky stuff is what I couldn't get past on Thursday and that's why I decided to call instead of responding in email. :rollingpin: Still not quite ready to get rid of it, but more than likely will, UNLESS someone here urges me to keep it. I don't have to hit 'send' until Sunday night, so I have time to get it out of my system amd move forward logically and as a mature adult.
  5. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    I'm on the fence about the snarky stuff, since I'm fluent in sarcasm. While you don't want to alienate the teacher, you do want to get your point across clearly, also letting them know that you're on top of the situation.

    I've popped off at administration/teachers more times than I can count. By the time Miss KT got to high school, my reputation preceded me, and I pretty much got what I asked for.
  6. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Bet you know what I'm going to say about "snarky", lol. Based on many years experience with the school system and various non-responsive teachers, although I completely understand your frustration, I think you need to approach it as "simply business". Think of the faculty and staff as a really small town enclosed matter how large your school may be. They label parents and therefore their children as trouble makers very quickly. How do I know this? I have spent years and years as a leader in PTA's and PTO's. I've overheard many "inside" conversation about X's Mom being "hard to handle" "uninformed" "a difficult child" etc. because they like to deal with people who "play nice" and respect people who advocate on "fact based" criteria. in my humble opinion you need to assume that none of them have a sense of humor and they will "gather the wagons".

    Keep it as close to professional as you can. Communicate by registered mail not email. State the specific concerns, how it relates to the IEP in place if you have one, and offer possible quickly implemented solutions. In your letter ask that you be contacted by a certain time...or request an emergency meeting because the tone set at the beginning of the year will determine difficult child's success for the whole school year. End it with a pleasant note like "I know that your goals for difficult child are his success. If we promply work together I am hopeful that this school year will be wonderful for us all." Something along those lines.

    Now, lol, I have to tell you that I have written "proposed" letters over the years that have out snarked you. I really do understand and care. Hugs. DDD
  7. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Although I do like your sarcasm, I am afraid that it will only strengthen the wall that is being built higher between you and the school. Your points are all valid and true. Finding a more professional way of expressing your anger/frustration will get through to the school and keep that bridge open for teamwork. It does feel like they are starting to procrastinate in properly teaching J. I think many of us have found that if we can keep our emotions out of the communications as much as possible, the issues are heard better. Otherwise the school likes to down grade the importance of the issue and keep the focus on our anger "Angry Mom symdrome". Sarcasm is allowed (and I use it from time to time) but it has to be very subtle and make the school staff think. Has to be very carefully worded. Not many people can pull that one off on a full time schedule so keep it handy for your very last resort.

    I would start by addressing the fact that "Mrs. A has stated nothing has changed. If this really is how she is feeling then it would be in the best interest of both her and J to address the issue ASAP. We can not wait a week! I am sure that I have identified a cause to this issue and would like to discuss some solutions with you. Once we come up with some options, the stress will be taken off both Mrs. A and J. Please contact me the morning of Monday, August 22nd with some times we can meet on that day or the next.(or list the dates/times you are available)." (I was very tempted to add, "both Mrs A, who is determined to allow J to receive zeros" but that most likely would build the wall again.)

    Do not mention the changes you are seeing until the meeting. Any success you identify at this point will be an excuse for them to drag their feets again: "Oh, things are improving, let's wait and see, maybe we don't need to do anything." Then when things go bad, "Let's wait and see, sometimes things have a way of sorting themselves out." Focus on the fact that the TEACHER is saying there is no change which should be the school's cue to act NOW! and wait until the meeting to address the changes you have seen.
  8. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I agree with the others about the snarky stuff (though I do love it). If included it will immediately put everyone on the defensive which won't help with the result wanted.
  9. keista

    keista New Member

    Thanks for the feedback everyone.

    I'm glad my snarkyness meets board approval. :) But yes, I will pull that out.

    Andy they think it's OK to wait a week now because Friday was a GOOD day and he participated, so something must have gotten fixed. Yes it did, but they have NO CLUE what that is. I don't think I can risk waiting for a meeting to get scheduled. Well, I can, but son can't. The longer he goes with such roadblocks, the more habitual it becomes, and then even identified "fixes" stop working.

    DDD, just like above, there's no time to communicate via registered mail. I can place all emails in his record anyway. The drawback (but can be a plus in some situations) is that ALL the emails are subject to the public records laws. His IEP is pretty much a joke, and almost impossible to write one trying to predict all issues that may come up, since the staff hasn't even managed to come up with solutions to his most basic chronic issues - getting and handing in assignments. The good news is that things are usually worked out with each individual teacher, and GENERALLY things work out well. There are still some roadblocks that I can't figure out, and staff either doesn't try or just hasn't managed to figure out either - his problems with math and keyboarding are two examples. It doesn't help that the school is on something called a block schedule. There are only 4 periods to each day instead of they typical 8. Your typical year long classes are only 1/2 a year and 1/2 year classes are just one term. It is actually quite nice since the kids only have to focus on 4 classes at a time, but it's also like having 2 school years in one with the change in classes.
  10. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Snarky will not help at this point. I would stress anything in his IEP about accommodations and would make it a goal to get something in the IEP about not being required to do group work/find his own groups, etc...

    I also think you need to mention the times/dates that you called and emailed the teacher and the fact that you have gotten no reply. I have often said something along the lines of, "I sent email about this on X date and have not received a reply. As there sometimes are issues with the email system in the first few weeks of school, I am sure that the reply got lost in the system. I also left messages on X and Y dates at A and B times and would like to know what the best way to contact the teacher is as the calls have not been returned to my home, work or cell phones. Thank you so much for helping me streamline our communications."

    I don't always send it to the teacher. Sometiems it has gone to the sp ed teacher or director or even the principal if they are involved - someone the teacher would NOT want to know that she is not returning calls/emails. The bit about the system having issues is just providing a way for the teacher to save face when both you and she know she did not try to contact you.

    This is the age when many teachers think that parents should step completely away and expect a teen to handle the problems at school - UNLESS the teacher is having problems. If the teacher isn't getting what she wants then the parents are to fix it ASAP but if the student is reporting or perceiving a problem and the parent gets involved they tell the parent that the child is "too old" to have the parents "fighting his battles" and that you are keeping your child from maturing by stepping in. It is a totally wrong headed approach most of the time and is incredibly common. Our school district mostly has the middle school taking this approach. If a teacher or some other adult working at the middle school contacts you about your child being a problem (NOT having, being) then you are to fix it asap because it isn't "their job" to do that, but if you contact them then it is your child's job to advocate for himself as though you didn't exist. They make a big deal about how if you step in your child will never succeed in life, will not graduate high school or college because they can't handle their own problems, and they will be a total waste as an adult - never be able to keep a decent job, never be able to do anything, etc... and that it is YOUR fault because you wanted to talk to a teacher about accommodations/IEP/whatever.

    Don't buy into that BS. It is just BS. You know what difficult child can and cannot handle and when to step in and don't let them even TRY to tell you otherwise. I had one woman try to tell me that Wiz needed to go to his IEP meeting without husband or I or an advocate and negotiate it all for himself at age 12 because if he couldn't then he could never function in the world. This when they had eleven people at the meeting to try to talk ME out of the accommodations in his IEP! Sadly, there were parents who bought into this and their kids ended up with no IEPs and usually dropping out very very early.
  11. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    It sounds like you are doing a GREAT job with being on top of things. Dealing with multiple teachers is time consuming and throughout the years you are bound to come across one who thinks his/her way is the very BEST way and will not be willing to change to meet the needs of J. I think you are setting a very good foundation to meet this challenge if it comes about in the future.

    You stated keyboarding and math and handing in assignments is a challenge for J. Does his school have an after school home work room? My difficult child's after school homework room had a math teacher as the overseer. She was there to help if needed. difficult child usually didn't need to ask for help, but did occasionally use the room to do that night's homework so he didn't need to bring anything home. It also had a computer in it so that he could do his typing assignments and type any reports he needed to do.

    If he can do keyboarding and math in an after school (or before school - ours does both) maybe that teacher will be willing to take the few moments to help him organize his homework to turn in (or if he/she is awesome can turn it in for him atleast for the beginning of the year and then work with him on skills to get it turned in himself the next day).

    Maybe ask if Mrs A. knows why Friday was a good day. Let them know that if Monday is not a good day than you want that meeting Tuesday morning.
  12. Liahona

    Liahona Guest

    Its amazing that something as small as assigned group vs. picking your own group can make a big difference. You are a great mom for figuring it out.
  13. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    We've done block. For some students, even some IEP kids, it is benefiticial because there isn't the need to readjust every hour to a new subject and a new teacher. Obviously for others it is difficult. I'm on your team and hope your have success pronto. Hugs DDD
  14. keista

    keista New Member

    Thanks for all the input.

    I've finally gotten all the *snarky* out of my system. Added a paragraph stating that waiting a week is not an option. Also added questions about homework - supposedly he hasn't had any yet - and segwayed into requesting a homework accommodation being put into his IEP. I pulled out most of the NOTs that are in all caps. closed by saying "If we work together and keep communicating we can help J be successful in his school career and beyond"

    DDD, I've come to love block. Even with it's drawbacks I think it is better for IEP kids than the standard 8 periods.

    Andy, the school offers such accomodations for son, they just aren't appropriate for him. It's really tough to explain. His big problem is that if he's not confident enough with something to do it right, then he won't do it at all. Right now he's doing geometry and doing just fine, but he hasn't completed his Algebra summer school course (he got a D and was going for grade forgiveness) Despite getting a D in Algebra, he got VERY high marks on the state testing. It's not that he can't do the work, he WON'T do it, and I'm still trying to figure out why. Same with keyboarding. He refuses to try because trying means making mistakes, and to him, that is a fate worse than death!

    Susie, thanks for the heads up/reminder. Fortunately this school isn't so crazed about IEP kids advocating for themselves. They do try to encourage them to do so, but parental involvement is not blocked.

    Liahona, 10Q I always have had a knack for picking up on the subtleties of human nature/behavior. I don't always understand it or have a solution for it, but can identify it.
  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I guess by now you have sent this. But the problems will continue - the best letter in the world will not fix this problem magically.

    For future reference there are some phrases and approaches than can really get them moving as much as possible.

    First - always write in a spirit of cooperation (no matter how snarky you feel and how justified you are to get sarcastic). This is not always easy, but definitely pays dividends when a third party comes in to do an audit, after you commence lawsuits over inaction in five years' time.
    Example: "Thank you so much for your response to my email of [x date]. I got your response on [y date]. However, you appear to have missed some of my more vital concerns. [list them].
    These are vital because [list reasons].
    As I understand the situation, the current strategies are as follows: [list what you understand them to be doing/not doing. Include inaction or poor response, or reactive rather than proactive]. I have previously stated that these will not work and will in fact make the situation worse for my child as well as for your staff. it is a shame to see the amount of effort being put in by your staff, being wasted because their efforts are applied without the benefit of my advice being taken on board. I do not wish to see your staff workloads increased especially if it is needless. I have some constructive suggestions for your staff, to make the situation easier on them and also on my child. The suggestions are as follows: [list your suggestions, such as daily communication (vital); a safe refuge for the child that is free from clutter belonging to others, that is under discreet supervision and where he can take himself if he is feeling overwhelmed or hassled; proactive encouragement rather than reactive punishment]. The aim is to help this child to learn to manage his own problems but this will take time and patience and cannot be forced with heavy punishment methods. Anxiety will make the problems worse and a heavy disciplinarian approach will increase anxiety and make the staff workload much worse. I do not want that for your staff."
    Your final paragraph - use this often - "If my recollection of the agreement between the school and myself is incorrect, then please let me know in writing by [insert date about a week away] so I can amend my notes accordingly. If I do not hear from you I will assume I have it correctly and will act on that assumption from this point onwards. Thank you for your vigilance in this."

    A lot of time they will try to communicate by phone and not in writing, because a phone call leaves no paper trail. So do what I do - take notes. Log your notes then send them off to the school in an email with the statement, "Thank you for your call on [x date] in response to my email of [y date]. According to the notes I took during our call, we have agreed on the following: [list agreement] or you have made the following statements: [list statements]." Then add on my generic final paragraph.

    It also scares the crud out of them if you include a very obvious "CC to..." various more senior educational authorities.

    This way even phone call contents get documented and disseminated. They HATE this!

    You have to really get nitpicky and fight dirty sometimes. Also, by quoting dates you can refer back to the date of your original attempts to make contact, such as "I have been trying to make contact with the class teacher since [x date] without success, despite having left messages. Could you please confirm that the following phone number is the correct one? I do hope she has not been unwell and absent."
    That's as sarcastic as you should ever get - ALWAYS leave yourself wiggle room to be able to insist you were not being sarcastic, merely caring about the welfare of the school staff.

  16. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Another pointer from my advocates (as I, too, am chiming in late) - leave out any wishy-washy words. "I feel", "I think", "I hope". State facts, state what you want, and state supporting evidence.