Rant #2 Teacher and Rentention Issue (Ms Q)

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Tiapet, Apr 15, 2008.

  1. Tiapet

    Tiapet Old Hand

    Ms Q comes home yesterday and says that her teacher has been waiting for me to email her back about whether or not she is going to school today or not. I told her I didn't think that was so as her teacher and I had already discussed that before and it was settled in emails. You see all the 5th graders were going on a special class trip today and she can't go because of her level of behaviors and her para professional could not attend because it is a Tuesday.

    So later in the evening I open email program to send an email to teacher to verify what I thought was another ploy from MS Q to stay home from school and I find an email already there from her teacher but it wasn't about that.

    The teacher wanted to know why I had changed my mind about her being retained. I had sent in paperwork yesterday as instructed by the guidance counselor because it came home when it should have never even been presented to Ms Q to begin with so now I had to undo it all. The teacher saw it.

    Confused? Let me give you some history. Back in November we had a teacher conference, the para professional and I. At that we discussed how Ms Q is having difficulties and has been having difficulties since last year in academics in a few areas. 2 areas very severely. How socially and emotionally she is not on level with her peers either and having difficulties. We discussed that we did not think she would be able to go forward to the next grade at all. That even with a major miracle in improvement (definitely not even likely to happen) could she make it in a middle school environment. It would set her up for severe failure.

    Then the evaluation results came back and we discussed them with the teacher and agreed that in the 2 areas she struggled most, 1 of the areas she has specific sub targets she probably will never improve on but all the other areas she would. But again, the social and emotional areas are no where near what they need to be.

    We have since discussed this over the last several months on and off briefly in emails touching on it. The principal was aware back in December I was not promoting her as has the original guidance counselor (if you read rant #1 you know there is a sub in for her as she is on maternity leave).

    So I sent her a reply and said that I was sorry she must have misunderstood both I and the para professional (which I knew darn well she didn't) but that she is not ready socially or emotionally and there are still target areas of academics that MUST improve to move forward. *notably Math as she is functioning on maybe 1st grade level in 5th grade!* That at this time we - therapist, psychiatrist, para professional, and myself - feel she is not ready to be in that environment.

    I had a conversation with the guidance counselor the other day regarding the papers that came home because Ms Q has come home a couple of days now telling me about presentation she's seen or heard about middle school and apparent group talks with guidance of middle school as well. I asked why they were having her go through all this when she was not being promoted? The guidance counselor said that she can make sure she is not part of these activities. I'm thinking to myself, why didn't they do this to begin with? This child knows she is not moving on yet in her mind still thinks she is, is getting all excited about classes and such of middle school. She is now confused yet not confused (she will tell you she knows she isn't going yet at the same time tell you what classes she is taking?!).

    Now back to teacher situation. Report cards came out on Friday and I really was shocked to see that Ms Q scored the way she did in some things because work coming home didn't match the scores I saw on report card (they don't grade here). Now this might make some sense I'm thinking. You see I am questioning this teacher. She is against retention #1 and #2 she is trying to obtain some sort of teaching certification (I'm not exactly sure of what) and my daughter is part of her participants study group (I had to sign for her to be part of it, last year and this - I'll explain in a minute). So perhaps if my child "fails" and is retained this will look bad on her so maybe she was going to try to push her forward anyway? I hope that is not the case.

    Explanation for last year and this. Ms Q had her last year to and this year as she was allowed to have her again if I ok'd it because she began teaching the next grade this year and last year she was the most excellent teacher anyone could have asked for. She communicated, worked with/for the child and family, etc. You all would want this teacher for your child. She also had won teacher of the year she was that good. Something happened over the summer however. She came back not the same for this year and it has just gotten worse and worse over the months. The communication began getting more and more sporadic, just everything changed in how things were handled. There was no follow through like last year at all. :( I wish there was.

    I'm glad both little difficult child's will be going to different schools, however, next year. Our area reassigned them to different schools and furthermore we've (therapist, para professional, psychiatrist and myself) to place Ms Q into year round school since it will be better for her academic by not having such a big break in summer vacation. She will go 45 days to school, have 14 days off and cycle back yet still have the normal holidays like everyone else. Not only will it help the academics but it will help the household as while little dude is on summer vacation, she will be in school and while he is in school, she will have her vacations. This will break up the instigation and fighting between them (the worst) but also give Ms Emo (oldest) some much needed relief from all that is going on that is causing her to spiral into a bad way for herself (by the way she is now back into therapy because of it all and a couple of her own issues).

    So there ya have it in a nutshell, both rants. I'm sorry I haven't been around for a few days. Know I have been reading but complete chaos has erupted here and I have been trying desperately to deal with it. Ms Emo is in a very bad way and seems like she is needing/demanding her "mommy" (even though she is not saying that). She keeps seeking me out and wanting along time so much so she is coming into SO and my bedroom at night to talk or asking to watch a movie with us. I don't blame her. The little ones are enough to keep me in pain, in tears, and wishing I could run away myself (but not to my mom).
  2. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I'm sorry things are so rough right now. The whole school situation seems horrible. They should have been more proactive and not had her take part of the middle school visit or class selections. I think a fresh start for them next year is a great idea.

    I understand your wishing to runaway. Is there any chance of getting some serious "me" time?

    Sending gentle hugs your way.
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    OK, my reply here is probably going to cover both rants together, since what has worked for me is managing things holistically ie the family is a unit; whatever affects one, affects all.

    The various meetings, misunderstandings, miscommunications etc - frustrating. I would be setting the meeting date and time with the school as an urgent priority. Go to the school with your lunch pack, a thermos of coffee, your knitting and a good book. Be a pain in the neck - tell them that due to the obvious, major misunderstandings you require a meeting on this with as many people as can make it, preferably by close of day. Any bigwigs who are only available once a month can go fly a kite, they're clearly too overloaded work-wise to be of much use anyway.
    (and if they tell you that such short notice is impossible, remind them that they had the expectation that you would comply with this; so surely, this is how they work?)

    I know this is unreasonable, but it is unreason in the direction of doing something about the lack of meeting, rather than what has been happening to date (also unreasonable).

    Be prepared to be talked out of insisting on a meeting for that day, but because you're now making it clear you want this meeting as an urgent priority, you need to be available on the date they 'persuade' you to agree on.

    That should sort things for Dude, at least.

    As for Ms Q, the poor kid IS confused. Not "confused and not confused at the same time". If she 'knows' she isn't getting promoted, yet at the same time can tell you what classes she will be taking - she is confused. This is not fair on her, definitely not fair on you. Again, an urgent meting is required (see above procedure for getting them to DO something, fast). At that meeting - you, your support person, the teacher who is causing all this confusion, that teacher's boss, school counsellor and/or psychologist who has been working with Ms Q. Agenda of meeting - what is the plan for Ms Q, that we all can agree on? How do we now deal with the miscommunication and confusion that has resulted? Now how do we deal with the areas of concern for her academically and socially? Also, you need to project further - what will be the recommendations if she doesn't make sufficient progress in the next year? Is there an alternative placement (other than mainstream middle school)?

    I strongly recommend with both kids, the use of a Communication Book. I know emails are used increasingly these days but a book keeps it all together, you can easily flick back through pages to see any past patterns. People CAN do this with emails, but generally don't. Also a lot of people delete old emails, very few people file them for perpetuity the way husband & I do. Emails can sometimes be modified after the event (which allows someone to claim you were told something when in fact you were not).

    A Communication Book should be available to both teachers and parents to be written in on a daily basis. It is not the child's responsibility in any way, although the book does travel in the child's schoolbag. But the teacher and parents, not the child, must put the book in the child's bag and remove it for writing/reading at first opportunity.

    We went down this road so many times - and the wheels fell off in so many ways, mostly when the Communication Book was not being used properly. We would get teachers trying to wean us off the use of the book, feeling that difficult child 3 was doing so much better now and we could ease back on communication. I mean, really! "Wean us off" - as if we, the parents, were toddlers still drinking from a bottle?

    At the meetings someone needs to take minutes. What is needed - a list of agreed outcomes, to be available by end of meeting (even if only available as rough hand-written notes). After your meetings, you need copies of these notes, perhaps to be replaced by tidier copy when it is available. This needs to be signed off on by you and those present, to indicate agreement. You can try to insist this happens, they can refuse, but if you point out that it may be the only way to make sure people stick to what they agreed on plus there is now a history of non-compliance by school staff (and are THEY going to put themselves on detention?) then maybe you might get somewhere.

    Believe it or not, you can still do this in a friendly manner. This is merely insisting on efficiency and compliance. This, after all, is what they want from your child, so surely the school can set an example here?

    As for your teen queen, Ms Emo, we do so often neglect our older kids and our PCs, when we find ourselves stretched to the limit and beyond. Give her the reassurance she needs. And from my own experience, when kids hit their mid-teens parental intimacy often goes out the window. We had to put rules in place - when the parents' bedroom door is shut, do not open it and walk in or you might be mentally scarred for life. If you absolutely MUST, you may knock. Be prepared to be growled at.
    With husband & me, the kids will knock fairly readily if the light is on (they can see it under the door) and they hear conversation. But if the light is off, they will leave us alone unless the house is on fire.

    But our older kids have each other. Ms Emo is on her own. She may need a lot more reassurance than the others. With your health problems on top of everything else, she is probably holding a lot inside that is really eating at her.

    Strong recommendations now - first, post about this in Special Education forum. There are probably legal procedures they can advise you on, which I cannot.
    Second - in your dealings with the school from now on, insist on efficiency and compliance. Be efficient and compliant yourself. Take notes, try to minute every phone call, keep every email, put it all together if necessary into your own personal computer file on the topic. This also enables you to have, apparently constantly in mind, very phone number, every official's name (and job description) and all other relevant information. This can be scary, for the school. But before I get jumped on by those protective of teachers - this is only scary for teachers who have been slacking off in this area, thinking that it isn't that important, the family aren't really THAT pushy.

    To become an effective pushy parent, you need to become super-efficient. This means at meetings, keeping it on topic. If you need to constantly mind-map the meeting, do so. Don't worry about what other attendees may think of your 'doodles', if it keeps the meeting on track and producing good outcomes (that's 'outcome for the meeting'). I'll cut across whoever is chairing a meeting, if I have to, to get us back on track. Again, this can be done politely. But also firmly.

    You haven't got time to waste on rubbish. These are your kids, and time has been wasted already, despite your efforts.

    I know I said it's important to keep the meting on track and head for those target 'meeting outcomes', but you must also listen to what the school staff say, even if you disagree. Take notes, instead. let them have enough rope, if what they are saying is really wrong. Because if you force an agreement on someone who is not really in agreement, they will not comply. If you have listened, you will have advance warning of this and can prepare for this, by putting in place as much insurance (ie signatures on agreed outcomes) as possible.

    Good luck. And if you want tips on how to sound polite but firm, find a good political interviewer on your TV ad study them. Listen to the tone of the voice, the pitch, the control - and practice it yourself.

    Sorry to seem so melodramatic, but I am giving you what I've done myself (although I've never had to sit at a school with my knitting, my thermos etc. Not at a school - I have done it elsewhere, though, to great effect).

    It's a matter of putting the pressure on in surprising ways and also having the follow-through when your pressure bears fruit. Part of that follow-through is keeping tabs on processes afterwards and constantly pulling school staff back into line, if they deviate from the agreements.