Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Update on second grade challenges

I've been meaning to post an update with what's going on with Nicklas and issues at school. A lot has happened in the past three weeks and I think I'm just overwhelmed with everything. On top of that, I'm still trying to figure out how much to share. Not that's it's bad. It's just.... well.... I don't know how personal I want to get on such a public forum.

After thinking it over I realized that the primary purpose of this blog has been to document life for my children as they're growing up. Someday, they're going to read my words and envision their childhood. They'll get to relive memories - for better or worse. Hopefully they'll understand me a little bit better as well as learn how their lives were shaped. As parents, we don't always do everything right. We make mistakes. I'm sure things I've done things and recorded in this blog that document both the good and bad in my parenting. But hopefully, they'll realize that no matter what, I'm doing my best and my actions reflect that I was making what I thought was the best decision at that time.

(Whoa, I'm getting a little deep here and that's not the purpose of this post. I digress so let's get back to the topic at hand... Nick's progress at school.)

If you'll recall, we met with his teacher three weeks ago to discuss why his grades are dropping. The meeting didn't start off well. His teacher expresses her concerns. We expressed our concerns. She asked us how to proceed. We stared at her with blank looks (while wanting to shout I HAVE NO IDEA, YOU'RE THE ONE WITH HIM ALL DAY. YOU SHOULD TELL US WHAT TO DO!!!) After several minutes of back and forth, we decided to bring the principal in. What a relief! His principal has been great. She helped us come up with a plan and has had great suggestions for moving forward.

So here's a (not so) quick recap:
Nicklas was observed by a special education teacher who rated his on task vs. off task behavior compared to a peer. (On task: behavior 67%, off task behavior: 33% - his peer scored 96% on task.) Her report indicates that Nicklas is distracted easily and doesn't always follow directions. He starts off with paying attention (while his teacher is talking, while completing an assignment, while following directions) but eventually drifts off. (Into never, never land - my words, not hers.) He is usually the last to finish projects/papers, not because he's struggling but because he's more interested in what his classmates are doing/what's going on out in the hall/what's happening inside his desk/etc. He often gets a faraway look, starts talking/singing about something (generally sports related) or plays with objects around him (pencil box/glue stick/paper/chair/etc.)

Dr. Principal explains this is common with GT children and she thinks Nicklas is very creative and is spending his time composing fantasy worlds in his mind rather then paying attention. Because he's well behaved and rarely gets into trouble, this behavior has generally gone unnoticed. (This is a little unnerving to me and I grew exceedingly impatient with his teacher who kept explaining she has 8 problem children in the classroom that she generally focuses her attention on. Not what I want to hear. I realize 26 kids is a lot for one classroom but she does have a teaching assistant to help and darn it, Nicklas grades have become some of the lowest in the class. Frustrating.) Anyway, Dr. Principal suggested we start looking at the bigger picture and eliminating possible causes for this behavior. Is it an problem with eyesight? Is there a medical reason? Is it related to lack of sleep or diet? Is he watching too much tv? Or has he just developed bad habits?

We've determined it's not eye sight. Cross that off the list. Next week, he has an appointment with his pediatrician. We've started keeping a log of his sleep/food/electronic media habits and we've been documenting how homework time goes each day. (Sometimes its good, other times, not so much.)

The biggest thing that came out of the meeting was a plan for behavior modification. I wasn't sure what this meant so Dr. Principal explained that it's creating a system for discreetly letting Nicklas know when he starts to "drift" away from the task at hand. Each morning he starts the day with five post-it notes on his desk. While his teacher is talking, if she notices that he's stopped paying attention, she'll remove one of the post-it notes. This will be a signal to him to keep paying attention. Each day, we receive a note from her with the number of post-it notes he has left.

It's been almost three weeks and so far it's going well. We've done our best to explain to Nicklas that we want to help him be a better learner, that paying attention is important and will help him perform better. He knows we're serious and it's important to him (he wants to please us and do his best.)

(Plus seeing that Dr. Principal joined the meeting made him realize the seriousness of what we're saying to him.)

We met again on Monday to see how it's going. So far, it's going well. Mrs. Teacher has seen a noticeable improvement with his attention span while she's teaching. There have been days when one or two notes have been pulled but he's definitely making an effort. His principal was happy with this as it means he wants to improve and do better.

The not so good news? He was observed two more times and he's still scoring low with on task behavior (a 70% and a 62%). This isn't happening when his teacher is talking - it's more when she isn't. When he's supposed to be doing his worksheets or handing in a paper or reading a book. So we're taking it to step two. His teacher is now going to start pulling post-it notes when he's off task with general classroom activities. Hopefully, this will make a difference. We're meeting again in four weeks to see how it goes.

I realize this is a long post. I have more to share and will have another post coming soon...

No comments: