Prep for parent/teacher conference?

Posted by: Michelle6

Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/22/12 10:42 AM

Monday will be my sixth parent/teacher conference of the year, and so far, virtually no results. Every time, the teacher agrees to give him "accelerated math" (all of his grades are good, but math seems to be the area in which he excels the most). She does it for a week or so, in his spare time, then stops. It has gotten worse recently, because about halfway through last year they moved him into a second grade math class. Due to scheduling issues, they could not put him in a third grade math class this year. So for the past few weeks, he has not only been going over material that he already knows - he is doing the exact same workbook that he did last year. What's worse is that he is now starting to think that his teacher thinks he is "stupid" because she won't give him any more difficult work, and is repeating what he has already learned.
Anyway, since the last few conferences (some with just the teacher, others with administrators and guidance counselors involved) have been essentially a waste of time, I thought I would call in reinforcements this time. What exactly do I need to do in order to get results?!? I don't want to go in there as "angry mom", but I'm honestly so frustrated with this whole thing, I'm ready to stop being nice and start making demands. (And as a former teacher, I can almost guarantee that won't work). Any suggestions for what may be more effective than what I've been doing? I'm not looking for any particular answer - I'm willing to compromise. But the thing that is absolutely necessary is that my son learn something at school - which is not happening right now.
Posted by: Ultralight Hiker

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/22/12 10:55 AM

Here are some thoughts based on my own (somewhat limited) experience...

(1) What kind of scheduling conflicts are there with 3rd grade math? Perhaps they can be resolved with a little creativity and flexibility. My DS6 misses 1st grade arts to go to 3rd grade math, but then makes up the work in afternoon during 1st grade math. According to his teacher it has worked surprisingly well.

(2) Plan for next year now. They have probably not finalized the master schedule, so if they are on board they may be able to ensure that your DS can attend the appropriate math class.

(3) ALEKS is another possibility. They could allow him to work on it at his own pace during math time.

Ultralight Hiker
Posted by: kcab

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/22/12 11:06 AM

Originally Posted By: Michelle6
... he is now starting to think that his teacher thinks he is "stupid" because she won't give him any more difficult work, and is repeating what he has already learned.
This is what she needs to know. You don't need to be angry when you say it, but she needs to know that she is telegraphing lack of confidence. I would expect his teacher to know that this can hurt self-esteem and want to avoid the situation.

I would bring in the "What a Child Doesn't Learn" article (see another, recently updated, thread for the link).

As far as reinforcements, bringing in the other parent is good, at least sometimes. If there is a professional that your son has met with for counseling or testing, and whom you think would be effective, you could ask them to come too. (Though, I'd generally warn the teacher in that case.)

As far as how to make advocacy more effective, I've found that having some objective evidence of need and some idea of what I want to happen are both necessary. Compromise is fine, but everyone needs a starting point.
Posted by: Michelle6

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/22/12 11:16 AM

I haven't had him tested by a professional - other than the rudimentary testing they do for AIG at the school. I mentioned in another thread that I'm hesitant to get his IQ tested, because after I did that as a kid it was used as an excuse to not teach me anything ("I've seen your IQ - there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to do this"). On the other hand, I'm starting to think that if I don't get his IQ tested, the school will never acknowledge that this is a real problem for him. So I'm kind of stuck on that one.
He works on more difficult work at home - per his own request - and does very well on it. He has a notebook in which he keeps all of his work - should I take that with me? Or would it do anything besides paint me as the crazy parent who is pushing her child too hard?
Posted by: kcab

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/22/12 11:40 AM

Not sure if the notebook will help or not, you could always bring it and decide.

I found achievement testing more useful with the school than IQ, but that varies.

This might be a situation where you need to put aside your own experiences, both as a student and as a teacher, and concentrate on being an advocate for your child. This was pretty hard on my mom, especially when she started crying in front of people she knew professionally. However, that was what helped in the end. Anyway, it's a long road, and the advice above to start planning for next year is correct. Minimize damage for this year though, preferably by getting him work that is up a grade in math.
Posted by: Grinity

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/22/12 11:40 AM

Originally Posted By: Michelle6
I mentioned in another thread that I'm hesitant to get his IQ tested, because after I did that as a kid it was used as an excuse to not teach me anything ("I've seen your IQ - there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to do this").

I think that they wouldn't have done anything for you with or without the IQ scores...they only will if they will.
Quote:
On the other hand, I'm starting to think that if I don't get his IQ tested, the school will never acknowledge that this is a real problem for him. So I'm kind of stuck on that one.

It might help, especially with an achievement test, and the Iowa acceleration manual. Lots has changed, but some hasn't. Can he go to 4th grade math? Independent study instead of the regular work.
Quote:
He works on more difficult work at home - per his own request - and does very well on it. He has a notebook in which he keeps all of his work - should I take that with me?

yes - and cry if you feel the tears welling up, about how he feels that the teacher is losing confidence in him, and he's losing confidence in himself. It is really sad. If you can make yourself vulnerable enough to cry, then won't see you as a screaming attacker. You are just a mom with a problem that they can help solve.
Best Wishes,
Grinity
Posted by: Percy

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/22/12 11:41 AM

Since he already works on harder stuff at home, would it be possible to give him some instruction at home (ie introducing new concepts - maybe using Khan Academy) and then he could work on his homework (that you give him or he does online) at school while the other kids are working on their math. Or maybe if the school wants to be more involved you could get with the 3rd grade teacher or gifted coordinator and work out some arrangement where he is instructed at home and then does work at school - using the curriculum agreed upon by the school with the agreement that they would help him if he had a question.
Posted by: Grinity

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/22/12 12:40 PM

It's part of the natural difference between Gifties and Regular adults. Folks who identify as gifted usually made a fierce decision to go with logic, and the evidence of their senses, as products of their minds, a long time ago. Folks who didn't go down that path, for whatever reason, are more likely to be influenced by an emotional connection. Gifties who are trying to be logical, work hard NOT to show emotion, but assume that everyone is 'like them' and would prefer an argument based on facts and research and logicial extensions of those. But most other people aren't anything like that, and so our hard work works against us.

I didn't read that in any book, it's just my personal observation, and it's certianly not true for all of us, but it's truer than could be predicted by chance alone, I'd bet.

Smiles,
Grinity
Posted by: mecreature

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/22/12 01:15 PM

I would bet too Grinity.

Be careful with the crying. Kids can think they are part of the problem.
Don't get stuck in the middle, its a long partnership.

Posted by: polarbear

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/22/12 01:17 PM

You have a lot of great advice above, so I don't have much to add - but here are a few thoughts.

Sometimes at school you hit a brick wall in the form of a teacher or other staff member - they aren't going to give no matter how you advocate. They might have become a brick wall for any number of reasons from someone above them telling them "no, our school can't do this" to simply being tired, overworked or not caring. It helps to figure out (if you can) what might be driving their unwillingness to help in order to make a game plan of how to fight it... or to know whether or not continuing to advocate is going to help.

Your school must be willing to subject accelerate as a policy since your ds was accelerated last year. You've had 5 parent-teacher conferences already and it doesn't seem to have helped. Is anyone else getting called into the meetings by the school? If not, I think I'd approach this meeting with a plan - take a written list of what accommodations your ds was given last year (he was subject-accelerated in math) and the dates of conferences you've had this year with what was agreed upon at each. Point out what hasn't happened. Ask what will be done to resolve it. Let the teacher know if what you agree upon doesn't take place, you will call a team meeting (don't know what they are called at your school - but it's the type of meeting where the teacher, parent, counselor, school psych etc all meet together to discuss the needs of the student). Most often those types of team meetings take place when a child is having a difficulty which has to do with a learning challenge or behavior challenge, but if your child is feeling that his teacher thinks he is stupid and isn't getting the work he's capable of doing (particularly after already having been acknowledged of being capable of higher level work by the same school) then you have a very valid reason to call a team meeting. If you have to have a team meeting, I'm guessing you'd get what you need there simply because the school gave your ds his math acceleration last year.

Re crying, emotion, etc. I've never cried at school - that's not really my personality. It's also my nature not to want to make waves, be confrontational, or make demands. What I've found works effectively for me sometimes is to simply state the obvious, and repeat it when it's not heard. The school staff may try responding, backpedaling, getting off track etc to not be pinned down on something but just simply repeat the very obvious points that your ds is entitled to - or ask why not. Repeating with slightly veiled sarcasm can work very well too. But before I tried any of that, I'd first do as mentioned above - put together my very specific list of what my ds needs (subject acceleration) and a starting point of a suggestion that you're willing to settle for in terms of how he can get it, ask for that first then go from there.

If the meeting doesn't go well or if the teacher doesn't follow through - request the team meeting (in writing, email is ok), and be sure the principal is cc'd on the request.

Good luck with the conference -

polarbear
Posted by: deacongirl

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/22/12 01:53 PM

You need to get the book From Emotions to Advocacy. And depending on if you can pull it off and the audience, according to Pete Wright the Matlock approach can be useful!

Good luck!
Posted by: Michelle6

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/24/12 11:11 AM

Okay, I think I have developed a passable strategy. I'm going to try really hard not to cry, because that just strikes me as manipulative. (This is not a statement about any of you who have done so - but coming from me it would be fake and obvious). The plan is to lay out all the facts, explain the emotional and cognitive toll it is taking on my son, and move from there. But I plan to be prepared for anything. I'll be taking samples of his writing and math that he does at home, as well as a copy of the curriculum for North Carolina, clearly marked to show what he knows and what he doesn't. (He already knows about 80% of what he will be learning in third grade next year - that worries me as well). I would also like to take copies of some research showing the benefits of challenging a kid. I tried to find the "What kids don't learn" article - one of the links sent me to the Gatton academy site, but I didn't see the article. The other links didn't work at all. If anyone could help me find that article, I'd appreciate it. I realized today that I still have an account that allows me to do research at the library where I attended college, so I will be looking up reliable articles to add to the mix. If anyone has other suggestions for supporting research, I'll be glad to hear them. I don't know if I will be able to use any of these or not - but I want to be prepared for anything. If I don't get a response, I'll call a meeting with the whole school if I have to.
I may be a bit overzealous today. Watching how my son eats up any new knowledge has me all motivated - it's heartbreaking that he has such potential and doesn't get to use it. Hopefully I will get somewhere this time.
Posted by: aculady

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/24/12 11:45 AM

What A Child Doesn't Learn
Posted by: Michelle6

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/24/12 01:07 PM

Thank you, aculady!
Posted by: polarbear

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/24/12 02:16 PM

It sounds like you have a good plan - good luck! I hope it goes well -

polarbear
Posted by: Michelle6

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/27/12 10:55 AM

Yay, progress! I think. Not positive yet, but we will see how it goes. The teacher agreed to let him bring his notebook of extra, more challenging work to school (she previously vetoed that, because she thought it was a distraction to the other kids) as long as he promised to only do it when he was done with his regular work. She also agreed that he was far ahead of most of the class, and even suggested that he may do well to skip a grade - but not right now. It's the end of the year and everyone is preparing for EOG's - the last thing we want is for him to be tested over material he may or may not have learned yet, and have that held against him when we go to do his IEP at the end of the year. The teacher also told me that they are pushing really hard to start levelling of classes in third grade next year, and if they do she will strongly recommend he be put in the most advanced class. She even told me that if they choose not to, I should come to the school and "throw the biggest hissy fit this school system has ever seen". He has been working independently on advanced math for a while, but has had limited time to do it because he also has to do the regular math in the class. She agreed to drop that entirely and let him do the more advanced stuff exclusively. We also spoke to the librarian, who (after a bit of prompting) agreed that he will be allowed to check out ANY book he wanted, regardless of grade level. (The school's official policy is that they only get books within a certain range of their grade level, and I've been fighting that rule for two years now).
The only problem with all of this is that I will apparently have to start the fight all over again next year, because they basically stuff the test scores and such in a folder and never look at them again, much less communicate between teachers and grade levels. But this is a good start. Assuming, of course, everything happens that I was told would happen.
Posted by: mecreature

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/27/12 12:57 PM

Good job.
Posted by: bzylzy

Re: Prep for parent/teacher conference? - 03/27/12 01:17 PM

That's inspiring. I do believe I'll try the idea of independent work for math and science (after the frenzy of the assessments are done). Good job!