How do I address teacher comments on papers?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by jennd23, Jan 20, 2012.

  1. jennd23

    jennd23 New Member

    Some back story, S is in Special Education 3x a week to work on handwriting. He's not in official Occupational Therapist (OT), they strictly focus on handwriting.

    So lately, I notice that his teacher has been writing things like "too messy" and "can't read" on his papers. On his report card for his study skills "grade" she gave him an S (satisfactory) instead of an M (mastery) with a comments that said "Difficulty working neatly" and "Difficulty showing organizational skills".

    Now, CLEARLY there is room for improvement with S's work, it is messy, it is very hard to read, but I kind of feel like since he's in Special Education to address this, she doesn't need to be making comments on his papers or marking off his study skills grade. Granted, he's in 2nd grade, its not the end of the world. But I just find it rude. It is like telling a child with a stutter "I can't understand you". You know?

    The ONLY thing I can think of is maybe she is trying to help build a case to get him more support, but if that is the case, i think she should have warned me.

    So, basically, I am having a hard time figuring out how to approach her without sounding accusatory, because honestly the only words that come to my mind about it right now would be starred out here :) I know that's not the way to approach it but I can't think of anyway to say "hey, why are you writing "can't read" on my child's papers? Don't you remember sending him to Special Education 3X a week to address this?"
  2. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I "think" I'd keep it short and simple. Perhaps "Ms. X I have noticed your recent notations on difficult child's papers. Do you think you or I should talk to Ms. Y who is addressing this issue each week? If there has been a skills reduction perhaps she is not aware of the new problem? Please let me know how we can best work together to help difficult child. Appreciatively, difficult child's Mom"

    Maybe not the ideal wording but polite, simple and to the point. Hugs. DDD
  3. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I will start this by warning you that I am esp sensitive on this issue. I have dysgraphia, coordination issues and many times had teachers write/say rude things or even reduce my grades for the sheer sake of "teaching" me to be neater - even after being told by my doctors that much of the problem was the arthritis that was darn near making it impossible for me to hold a pen.

    The ONLY thing her comments will accomplish is making your son not want to write. Has he had a full evaluation for an IEP and if so was the Occupational Therapist (OT) evaluation done only by the school Occupational Therapist (OT) or did you have a private Occupational Therapist (OT) also evaluation him? If you have not had a private Occupational Therapist (OT) evaluation, you need to have this done. They will be MUCH more thorough and if they identify problems then the school will have to re-evaluate their "handwriting only" Occupational Therapist (OT) services. They don't get to pick and choose - they have to provide what a child needs, period.

    I would tell the teacher something along the lines of what DDD said but also ask her to refrain from putting negative comments on his papers because it will only make him want to give up and stop writing all together. Offer to let her send a weekly note or email about his problems or to work to find another way for the 2 of you to communicate abotu problems like this without the constant criticism being heard by your son. Some teachers honestly believe that comments such as these will motivate a student to use neater handwriting but they are mistaken. Tell me my hard work is not good enough and I will stop and give you mediocre or no work at all. Some teachers don't understand this.

    Does your son's hand hurt after he writes? OFTEN kids with handwriting problems are actually in real physical pain if they have to write a lot. What amount is a lot is different from kid to kid also. Your son may not even notice the pain because he has it so much. After he writes something, take his hand and give it some gentle massage. Ask him to focus on his hand and how it feels. Ask him to concentrate. It may sound nuts, but often kids, esp kids with sensory issues, have to concentrate to figure out where they hurt. So help by massaging and getting him to focus. If his hand hurts, the Occupational Therapist (OT) needs to have him do strengthening exercises. You can also find ways to help in the book The Out of Sync Child Has Fun by Kranowitz. It is full of different activities to provide different types of sensory input. It is awesome and truly FUN.
  4. buddy

    buddy New Member

    They only need samples of the work for services... not her comments. It will be obvious to the specialists without her negative remarks.

    There are other ways to let him know... Have it worked on in the sp ed room only etc. point out the good ones... can you make more T's like this?? this one is GREAT! etc.

    People can be insensitive I believe.
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I'm wondering what kind of supports is he getting? Is he on a 504 or does he have an IEP? To be in Special Education he must have some label. When I saw an issue come up with my kid I went to the Special Education director to ask for more help. Maybe your son could benefit from assistive technology for writing. My son had a terrible time writing and learned to print but NEVER to write. It doesn't matter much, in 2011. He uses the computer. Isn't he getting help with organization? If not, how will he learn how to become more organized? What does he do in Special Education?

    I don't think it's appropriate to make your son feel bad by putting those comments on his papers. I wouldn't like it. She could call you or ask for a conference. JMO.
  6. jennd23

    jennd23 New Member

    He does have an IEP in place. Its been a while so I'm not up on all my acronyms...its an OHI for ADHD, he has other things listed in my sig, but the school's evaluation didn't qualify him as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

    He has NOT had an Occupational Therapist (OT) evaluation through the school. For handwriting they like to do X amount of time of handwriting stuff before they do that. We went through a LOT to get this far so I'm playing by their rules, but its time for the Occupational Therapist (OT) evaluation now, there isn't enough improvement. He goes to Special Education JUST for handwriting and social skills. What would/could they do for organization? that seems like a good idea.....

    I don't know if his hand hurts, he never complains and he loves to draw and paint, I think if it hurt, he wouldn't want to do those. But...what do I know :)

    Here's what I've drafted to the teacher, is this non-accusatory enough?

    Hi Mrs. C,
    I wanted to see if we need to set up some time with Mrs. B to talk about S's handwriting? I noticed that a lot of his papers have come home with "Can't read" or "too messy" written on them lately. I want to make sure that his handwriting isn't affecting his grades. Maybe we can work with Mrs. B and see if she has some other strategies she can use with him when he goes to her classroom.

    I know that his handwriting is hard to read and messy, but I know that Mrs. B and him have been working very hard on it this year. I wonder if now might be a good time for an ARD to discuss an Occupational Therapist (OT) evaluation or other ways we can help him. I know he is allowed to use a word processor if needed per, his IEP. Maybe he could use that on some things, or on work that you can't read, maybe he could verabally tell you his answers?

    I'm open to things we can work on at home too if you have any suggestions. Let me know if you think we need to get together with Mrs. B.
  7. Ktllc

    Ktllc New Member

    Your letter is very polite, but a bit too shy I believe.
    You can be just as polite without asking her wether she thinks you guys should schedule a meeting or not. What are you going to do if she says no?
    I would write something like: "when would it be convenient for you and Mrs. B to schedule a meeting all together?" "As you would agree, his handwritting is still quite messy, I would like to schedule a meeting....".
    Get the idea? Don't ask her, tell her. But of course VERY politely and use HER own comments to explain the need of a meeting, adjusted strategies, etc.
  8. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    If I were grading your'd get an "A". The tone is right, the sense of cooperation is right, it's short. Way To Go! DDD
  9. jennd23

    jennd23 New Member

    So change the "do we need to meet" to "let me know when a good time" is?
  10. southermama3

    southermama3 New Member

    I'm new to all this, but even being new raises a big red flag that demeaning a child doesn't help the situation period! Focusing on their achievements and their willingness to give their all should be applauded. If she has a problem those type of comments should be addressed to u in a sealed envelope. We all know if u don't have something nice don't say it at all...maybe you need to remind her how to mind her manners! This is getting me peeved the more I think about it.
  11. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Has a doctor given him the asperger's diagnosis? If so, have you given a report from that dr to the school? They CANNOT ignore it even if they want to. Also, PLEASE go to the sp ed archives and find the letter that asks for COMPLETE evaluation for IEP. While he has one, if they have not done the Occupational Therapist (OT) evaluation, the speech-language evaluation (esp for auditory problems which can be HUGE and can LOOK like adhd and often are NEVER even tested for much less identified unless Mom insists), an assistive technology evaluation, and the FBA to make a positive BIP (Functional behavior assessment to make a positive behavioral intervention plan), then they have NOT done the assessments needed. Also, it would be super helpful to get a PRIVATE Occupational Therapist (OT) evaluation because a school evaluation is very limited in scope and a private is NOT - I saw the private and the school evaluation on thank you and was SHOCKED at how limited the school's was but theirs was only to see how it impacted his education, not his life.

    As for the hands, coloring/drawing are quite different from handwriting. You can love to draw and still have your hand hurt when you write. He may not complain because it has always been that way and he thinks it is SUPPOSED to be that way. I was really stunned when I realized my son hadn't complained because it always hurt and he thought it was supposed to. Now he writes a TON, but then he couldn't. I still can't read what he writes, but I also cannot read my college notes from class and I couldn't read them the day after class anyway - mine were just too messy.

    There are a LOT of things that can be done to help him. Basic hand strengthening exercises like squeezing a stress ball can even help. Plus he is old enough to begin learning to type (if possible get a type to learn program and have him play with it at home. If he doesn't like to do it, provide incentives like for every 10 or 15 min of type to learn he gets 10 or 15 min or even 20 or 30 min of other video games (safe ones, age appropriate, of course) or if he prefers, mom/dad will toss a ball for 15 min, or whatever will work for him.

    They make a computer for kids to use in school, used to be called an alphasmart, that is portable, cannot have games, etc.... loaded on it, and kids can do ALL types of assignments on them. They can be dropped, treated roughly, etc.... and are DESIGNED to hold up to the abuse from a kid. Wiz had the same one for THREE years and if it could survive even one year with wiz it is dang near indestructible! The school should be able to provide one of these. It would be very helpful, esp as things get more and more writing intensive.

    I also think that the teacher will get a LOT farther praising what she likes and ignoring the other stuff than with her negative comments. Kids want to please and phrasing things positively works and lasts.
  12. Kathy813

    Kathy813 Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I agree with DDD. Your letter is perfect just as it is.

  13. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Yes, great suggestion.
  14. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I like the letter. As for the "do we need to meet" and "let me know when a good time is"... I think the let me know phrase is better. If you do not get a response or get brushed off, the next communication should be "I am available XXX and YYY times, please let me know which is better for you. If I don't hear back, I'll be in at XXX time." (Knowing when their planning period is, helps, of course.)

    Good luck, by the way! (And what Susie said - struck a chord - I hate writing because it hurts, always has... Hmm.)
  15. jennd23

    jennd23 New Member

    Well she didn't reply at all. No email, no phone call, nothing. But there was an invitation to an ARD meeting per my request in S's folder so She clearly got it.
  16. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I am probably going to get flamed here but I dont see what the problem is for her to send home notes on his paper saying they are messy or she cant read them. Yes he is in a Special Education classroom for writing but that is where he is working on his writing skills. He still needs to work on using those skills in his other classes. I think she was being generous to give him a Satisfactory on his report card. I would have thought it would have been a N for Needs Improvement because he is still working on it. I dont see how in the world he could have possibly gotten a mastery when he hasnt mastered the writing part of the subject.

    I had/have a child who has dysgraphia and his handwriting is awful. No one has ever been able to read his handwriting worth a darn. knowing his stuff was messy helped him know that he had to continue working on it. If no one ever told him, he would have never believed us that he had a problem.
  17. jennd23

    jennd23 New Member

    He does know there is a problem, I just don't think those kinds of comments help anything. His teacher last year would write things like "Great job keeping the letters on the line, S! Next week let's work on making the letter N lower case!" Not just a generic "can't read" that isn't a helpful comment. He/We can't do anything to address "too messy", we could address "Try to keep your letters in the box" Is she talking because he's erasing too much, because his letters are to cramped, etc.

    And I will go back to the stuttering. If your kid was in Special Education/speech therapy at school for a stutter or something and a teacher told him after an oral report "I can't understand you" wouldn't that be wrong of her? Or if she counted off points on his speech because she couldn't understand?

    I KNOW he needs to work on his neatness/handwriting IN class, I really do! I'm not saying otherwise and I always encourage him to take his time, go slow, etc, at home when we're doing homework, it isn't perfect (or always legible) at home either. I think part of the problem is that in handwriting they're working on cursive only, which is ok, except that he doesn't knwo enough to write only in cursive, so what he is able to write in cursive is easier to read than in print, he doesn't know enough of connecting the letters, etc, to make it applicable in the classroom. So he's still printing everything there.

    I feel like I"m rambling...sorry, I just think her comments are rude and not helpful. He knows his work is messy...
  18. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    My son had a teacher like that. She would penalize him for being "unfocused". ??? What the heck does that mean???

    We had to have several meetings to get her to re-phrase her criticism to note specific items that could be addressed in Special Education. A term like "unfocused" or "messy" is completely UN - helpful when you are trying to work on improving a child's skills...
  19. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    You are dealing with a destructive teacher.
    We have had those.
    They will SAY all the right things, but everything they do, all day long, is nothing but one big (but subtle) attack.
    The teachers comments are not constructive, do not allow for his disability.
    The teachers who react this way, actually do not believe that the student has a disability - they believe the student is lazy, has a bad attitude, or is a behavior problem, and that the student "is well able to do this stuff but just doesn't want to".

    If I remember from earlier posts, your difficult child doesn't have an IEP, correct?
    If he doesn't... he needs one. Now. (well, it doesn't happen that fast - there's a process... some good threads over on Special Education forum)
    Its the only way that you have any leg to stand on when going up against these teachers.

    He has TWO disabilities, and they work against each other. That is HUGE.
    Our difficult child has dysgraphia... but spoken is not a problem, so among his options is the right to give an oral presentation instead of writing a paper...

    The teacher's comments that you posted from the prior year... make more sense. Those are constructive statements. Even if he can't do it, he at least knows exactly what the teacher is looking for next, etc.

    Your mommy gut is right.
  20. jennd23

    jennd23 New Member

    He does have an iep. His goals are handwriting / letter formation specific, well and social skills/counseling goals. He doesn't have a ton of classroom accommodations in there just things like access to assistive technology (alphasmart), preferred seating, special directions (repeating directions, Have him repeat directions), raised line paper. Nothing specific about verbally answering or anything.

    We're having a review next Tuesday. Ill be sure to bring the papers with this kind of comments on them with me.