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    I've asked to volunteer, multiple times. Last year, I asked to "observe" DS and they replied that they don't allow parent observations. I'd really like to see what's going on in his class, he complains bitterly and refuses to go some days. What are the magic words here?

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    What?! They won't let you observe his class? What's the district policy? That's crazy. How old is your son?

    I would tell them "my son is frustrated and refusing to go to school some days. I would like to observe the class to see if I can figure out what's going on." They don't respond to a reasonable request? Nuts. Can you pull him out?

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    Your answer is really going to depend on your ds' school policy and school culture. Do you know any other parents who volunteer? If you do, ask them how they went about volunteering - who did they ask, how did they ask, what types of volunteer work are they doing.

    Has your ds' teacher asked parents to help out in the classroom (or outside of class?). If so, have you volunteered to do one of those jobs - that is most likely going to be the easiest and quickest way to get "inside".

    Next thing to do is to look for ways to get to know your ds' teacher better so that she isn't just seeing you as a parent helicoptering. Start simply by just focusing on saying hi to her or offering up some simple chitchat about the weather or whatever if you see her at drop-off and pick-up. Don't make every connection with her be a question about what's happening in the classroom or what's up with your ds etc. Does the class go on field trips or have class events where parents participate? Definitely join in on those - drive on a field trip if you can, it's a great way to get to know some of the other kids in class and to see how your ds is relating to his classmates.

    If your teacher hasn't specifically asked for any type of volunteer help, is there something you can think of that would possibly help both the teacher and class? One thing that our elementary school teachers were usually open to was when a parent wanted to help with support during times like writer's workshop or reading groups etc. I used to help my ds' first grade teacher by coming in one morning each week and giving individual oral sight word and spelling tests to the children. I never worked directly with my ds - I wasn't allowed to. But that was ok - I had a chance to see where the other kids were at, my ds saw me helping, and my work helped cement a good relationship with ds' teacher so that I felt comfortable asking for differentiation for him and she was open to listening to my requests. Later on, when my ds was struggling with written expression in early elementary, I volunteered to be a parent assistant during writer's workshop - I never really helped my ds directly because he didn't want me to help, but it gave me a wonderful opportunity to see the work of his peers which helped me understand better where ds was at - plus it was fun smile

    Another friend was concerned about math differentiation, so she approached her ds' elementary teacher with an offer to spend one day per week during "math hour" teaching challenging math to the top-math students in the class. Another place that our schools have appreciated parent help is during class library time - helping kids pick out books, reading to the kids, just helping maintain chaos. The teachers usually *aren't* in the library with the kids, so you're essentially helping the librarian, but it's a type of help that the teachers appreciate, and it's a way for you to get to know the other children.

    So think outside the box a little bit - is there any kind of thing you can think up where you can help the classroom as a whole or help the teacher in a way that she would appreciate? Something that lets the teacher know you are sincere in wanting to help for more than just a day here or there? Something to give you an edge up on credibility that your wish is to help, and that lets you into the classroom. Most teachers I know through my friendships do not like parents "observing" but they appreciate help.

    Hope that helps a bit!

    polarbear

    ps - what types of things is your ds complaining about? I might be able to come up with something more specific if I knew what issues were of a concern. I'm sorry I don't remember specifically! pb

    Last edited by polarbear; 09/24/13 11:55 AM.
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    they replied that they don't allow parent observations


    And the reason for this prohibition is... what, exactly?



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    Originally Posted by HowlerKarma
    they replied that they don't allow parent observations


    And the reason for this prohibition is... what, exactly?

    I don't know anything at all about somewhere's school, and fwiw, my kids have (with the exception of one year) gone to schools where the policy was open-door parents are always welcome to come in anytime anyplace and PLEASE help out while you are here lol. But - I also have quite a few friends who are teachers, and for the most part, they don't really welcome those open-door type policies because they see parents as an interruption. One close friend has really struggled with parents who come in, observe, and then try to second guess everything the teacher is doing. For all the teachers and classes and students where it could be helpful or a parent to observe and offer up suggestions, she's also had a lot of parents insert themselves where it just wasn't useful or necessary and it was disruptive.

    I would also consider that every time I've been in one of my kids' early elementary classrooms not actively helping in a very participatory way, but for instance, listening in during circle at the end of the day or sitting while waiting to help kids glue something as part of what I'm assigned to do but I don't really have anyone ready to be helped yet - I'm a distraction. Even if I'm still as a statue and not making a noise - little kids love seeing other parents in the classroom. They look at you, come over and talk to you, lose focus etc. During a big wild everyone's all-over-the-place anyway craft or activity etc - that's ok. During a time when the class is doing quiet desk work or listening to the teacher explain something or introduce a science topic etc - it's a distraction.

    polarbear

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    Yes-- I'm definitely familiar with the parent-as-distraction. (I've been a fly on the wall for almost EVERY thing that my DD has done for many many years, so I'm used to fading into the background very successfully, but I've also noticed that most parents don't have the technique down very well.)

    Anyway-- that's a perfectly legitimate explanation of why a parent can't just come in whenever they please. What I'm wondering is what the rationale is from the OP's school.



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    Can you send in a third-party observer?

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    separation issues are also an issue for the school with lower elem grades and parent participation

    DeHe

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    Another benefit of a partial magnet in a Title I school: under NCLB my son's school is legally required to allow parental observation and encourage parental involvement.

    I don't suppose that fits your situation, Somewhereonearth?


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    I suppose practices vary. When I was a kid, if a parent had asked if they could observe or volunteer in the classroom, they would have been looked at as if they had just landed from another planet. I had never heard of such a thing until joining this forum.

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    DS is 7. The school is very open to parent helpers...just any time other than academic time. DS has no problems socially. I've already helped out many times during social times. He complains about academic time. The teacher says, "he's fine". My son comes home and complains about the academics and some days he refuses school because of it. I know it's a mismatch. We're in the middle of an evaluation to figure out what to do with him (grade skip possibly, 2E issues possibly). I'm trying to figure out HOW bad it is for him. It seems pretty bad if he is refusing to go to school. We may not have anything sorted out for months. I'm just trying to figure out how to make things better for him in the meantime.

    I'm actually a licensed teacher and have offered my services pro bono to the school. They don't take me up on it and I KNOW they need it. I am super sweet, complementary...all the right things. And I still can't get in there. I don't want to have to cite some legal statute to get in there...but if I have to I will.

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    Is it a title 1 school?

    Some classrooms have teacher workrooms with glass windows at one end. Some schools I have been in have preferred plain observations to be through the workroom window. You can't hear every little sentence (depends on the volume of the speaker) but you get the general idea and can usually see what is on the board/smart board and how the interactions are working. Usually the kids forget you are there if they notice you or never know you are there.


    ...reading is pleasure, not just something teachers make you do in school.~B. Cleary
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    Originally Posted by Sweetie
    Is it a title 1 school?

    Some classrooms have teacher workrooms with glass windows at one end. Some schools I have been in have preferred plain observations to be through the workroom window. You can't hear every little sentence (depends on the volume of the speaker) but you get the general idea and can usually see what is on the board/smart board and how the interactions are working. Usually the kids forget you are there if they notice you or never know you are there.

    I don't know!

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    Generally you know if you are title 1....hard to miss that.


    ...reading is pleasure, not just something teachers make you do in school.~B. Cleary
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    Here you go re: title 1... I'm Canadian, so I was curious as to what the distinction meant. HTH. smile

    http://m.brighthubeducation.com/teaching-methods-tips/11105-basics-of-title-1-funds/


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    Originally Posted by 22B
    I suppose practices vary. When I was a kid, if a parent had asked if they could observe or volunteer in the classroom, they would have been looked at as if they had just landed from another planet. I had never heard of such a thing until joining this forum.

    It is odd but I think parent volunteers are more common now. Even though far fewer kids have s stay at home parent.

    I don't know. I think at our school I could observe but I'm not sure i would feel welcome.

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    Originally Posted by Sweetie
    Generally you know if you are title 1....hard to miss that.

    Our surrounding district is all Title 1. We are a charter school so I am not sure if it carries over.

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    If you are a Title 1 school here with all the first day of school paper work (the ability to get school accident insurance, the code of conduct, the update the emergency card information, update the health form, the school calendar, the permission to photograph, etc.) you also get a nice big glossy Title 1 handbook. The handbook goes over all the requirements they have to do to get the money. (The handbook is one of the requirements). You have to have an annual meeting at the beginning of the year explaining all this stuff. You have to have a parent involvement plan, you have to have a contract spelling out what the student is responsible for, the parent is responsible for and the teacher and other staff are responsible for. The county provides each school with a draft of the contract so that it meets the minimum requirements of the contract but it is also required that parents and students have a voice in adapting the contract to that particular school. A title 1 school is required to do all sorts of stuff and when they do it they make sure that you know "because we are a Title 1 school we are required to have ________ (like a parental involvement meeting or whatever)...this meeting is to meet this requirement. They also explain how you get to be a title 1 school at each and every meeting and also mention when title 1 funds are being spent on a certain thing. (percentage free and reduced lunch).

    So I guess going to SAC meetings and reading all the stuff coming home from school...if you are a title 1 school...it is constantly mentioned. All.the.time.


    ...reading is pleasure, not just something teachers make you do in school.~B. Cleary
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    Sweetie, this is what my neighbors have in their home schools. But it doesn't look like it happens in my charter school - even though my home school and our charter school are about 2 blocks apart. Apparently none of the charter schools in our district are Title 1.

    Anyway, I still am not allowed to see the academics. I just want to watch for one 45 min period. It's now a little frightening to me that they don't allow any parent to see academics. Am I the only one who finds this to be not right?

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    Yes, you can have the number of free and reduced lunch students and not be a title 1 school if you don't do the paperwork. We had some high schools that were fed into by title 1 elementary school and middle schools that were over 90% free and reduced some up to 98% free and reduced. But the high school wasn't??? That didn't compute for me...there weren't other middle schools feeding into it that would bring the percentage down...so that wasn't it. My dh said the principals didn't want to be required to do all the stuff to be one. Principal change, superintendent change and those high schools are now title 1.


    ...reading is pleasure, not just something teachers make you do in school.~B. Cleary
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    Well, what comes home?

    Anything?

    If the answers there are also "no, not a thing-- it's not done" then yes, I'd call that profoundly disturbing, and I'd be asking some very hard questions of both classroom teacher and principal about what on earth goes on there during the day.



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    Originally Posted by HowlerKarma
    Well, what comes home?

    Anything?

    If the answers there are also "no, not a thing-- it's not done" then yes, I'd call that profoundly disturbing, and I'd be asking some very hard questions of both classroom teacher and principal about what on earth goes on there during the day.

    In the 4 weeks since school started ALL that has come home is an assortment of paper airplanes that DS does while "everyone else works".

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    Originally Posted by somewhereonearth
    I've asked to volunteer, multiple times. Last year, I asked to "observe" DS and they replied that they don't allow parent observations. I'd really like to see what's going on in his class, he complains bitterly and refuses to go some days. What are the magic words here?

    Our public school doesn't allow parent observations in class, either. Have you thought about involving the guidance counselor? Is there a gifted coordinator? Also, does the teacher know about the refusal to go? Our school administration and teachers would be very responsive if told that a student was so upset he was refusing to go on some days. They still wouldn't let a parent observe the class, but the guidance counselor certainly would.

    For us, the magic words turned out to be "He is very upset/doesn't like school/ doesn't want to go because...." Telling our school that our twins were UNHAPPY about school and didn't like it definitely got a response. We have discovered that the teachers really do want the children to have a good experience. (My twins are in early elementary school)

    Last edited by momoftwins; 09/25/13 06:47 AM.
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    Originally Posted by somewhereonearth
    Originally Posted by HowlerKarma
    Well, what comes home?

    Anything?

    In the 4 weeks since school started ALL that has come home is an assortment of paper airplanes that DS does while "everyone else works".

    Uh I'm so expert but I don't think he is "fine" frown

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    So I have let the school know that DS is really unhappy and refuses school some days. I have asked to come in and help sometime while I check out how DS is doing. I have let them know that I am very concerned about DS and would like to better understand how he experiences school. So far, no response. DH thinks I should just linger in the morning at dropoff...for an hour. Thoughts? This is getting very bad very fast.

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    My suggestion will not win friends, but it doesn't sound as if they are being very cordial anyway.

    I would not linger in the class after drop-off, but would go to the office and politely ask if I could speak to the principal or assistant principal for "just a minute..." Be prepared to wait for a while, and let them know that it is not a problem to wait for a while if they try to say they are too busy. If they can't come out, keep asking for someone else until someone comes to speak with you. Then reiterate that you need to speak to the principal. If no one will come out; leave a written note asking them to call you by the end of the day.

    Then tell them that you are following up on your previous conversation/note and want to know what steps they are going to recommend to help your DS "adjust." If you only notified the teacher, this is the time to send a note to the principal and the teacher following up. Don't leave without either a recommendation from them or a timeline for getting a recommendation. Keep escalating all the way to the superintendent if you have to do so.

    Last edited by momoftwins; 09/29/13 08:50 AM.
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    Gosh, I think it's time to email the teacher, principal and counselor and say something like,

    "I've been trying to figure out what's going on in class, as my son is coming home extremely upset and now no longer wants to go to school in the mornings. This is out of character for him, as he is an eager, quick learner. I would like to observe class for a day, but have not been given permission.

    I would like to meet ASAP to help solve this problem. But in the meantime, I will be keeping him home from school until we can figure out a resolution that involves me understanding and observing the classroom dynamics so that I can better help my son."

    Personally, I wouldn't let my child attend a school where I wasn't welcome at any time of the day.

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    So the path I've chosen for now is as follows: I've sent a lovely email recognizing that the teachers are busy and perhaps they may have overlooked my request. I've let them know that our situation is deteriorating and my concern has grown. I've also let them know that I will be there at a specific time and date this week in the classroom to help in the classroom and to get a sense of how my son is doing.

    So far...no response. Knowing this school (and how wacky and weird it is), I think what may be going on is that they don't want to GIVE me permission - they just want me to show up quietly. Their thinking is most likely, "if we give her permission, then we have to give everyone permission...but if she just shows up we won't stop her". This would not be the first time they have behaved this way. So, I'm going to show up and help out.

    In the middle of this we are considering a grade skip and are now investigating 2E issues. It's a big tangled mess that I am looking forward to untangling.

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    Just an update, I showed up and they acted like they were happy to see me. They let me sit in and watch and help out.


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    Originally Posted by somewhereonearth
    Just an update, I showed up and they acted like they were happy to see me. They let me sit in and watch and help out.


    That is great!

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    Did you learn much or will you need a few more observations?


    ...reading is pleasure, not just something teachers make you do in school.~B. Cleary
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    Originally Posted by somewhereonearth
    Just an update, I showed up and they acted like they were happy to see me. They let me sit in and watch and help out.

    Rock on. Score another one for the "act like you're supposed to be there" method.

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    Yay!!! That's awesome smile Let us know how it goes!

    polarbear

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    Oh good! I hope it was helpful.

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    Wow. That took guts! I can't even imagine the feeling walking in there having had no response at all.

    We need to be more assertive with our DSs school and little triumphs like that are great to hear about.

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    Thanks everyone! I couldn't get much from the visit. I am going back on Monday and will be there much longer.


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    Originally Posted by polarbear
    Yay!!! That's awesome smile Let us know how it goes!

    polarbear

    I went back for my next observation. The school asked me to come during math enrichment pull out time. I think they were thinking that they would dazzle me with what they had. At first, I wasn't pleased as I wanted to see the regular classroom environment. But now I am happy that I saw the "advanced" work of this group.

    They were doing a paper airplane activity. There were 7 kids and they each took turns to fly paper airplanes across the room. They were supposed to collect their data and another day this week, they were going to graph it.

    At the beginning of the year, after a big kerfuffle, (not allowing DS7 to continue to accelerate in math and go to the 5th grade classroom), I starting sending in 5th grade work with DS. DS has 2 math periods. During the first one, he does 5th grade work alone. During the second one, he works with this 2nd grade "math enrichment" group.

    What I saw today: DS totally tunes out while the teacher gives directions. He starts listening once the activity starts. The children in this group could not add double digits and didn't know how to multiply. While the other kids were trying to figure out how far their airplanes had flown (using yard sticks), DS was calculating and calling out their distances. (DS is not a speedy calculator. He simply was the only one who COULD calculate in this group.)

    When the other children were trying to figure out how much 36+36 is, the teacher commented, "I will teach you how to add 2 digits later."

    So, the only surprise to me was the low level that this "advanced" level group is working at. I figured that the rest of the class was at this level.

    DS is very well behaved and simply tunes out until there is something moderately interesting going on. He is also very sociable and enjoys talking to just about anyone. But he is so clearly an outlier in the academic realm. The problem as I see it is: either the teachers don't see how "out there" he is, or they do see it and they simply don't care. Either way - it's such an extremely poor academic environment for him.

    And peeking around at the other grades (3,4, and 5)...they all seemed pretty equally poor for DS. I mean, maybe 5th grade might be a challenge for him, mainly because of the increased executive functioning demands. But I don't see a huge benefit to grade skipping at this school. I am now starting to think about seriously partially homeschooling him or private school.

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    Quote
    Debrief your DS on his impression of the lesson. This may be the only time you have to compare his impressions and yours.

    YES-YES-YES.

    I've learned SO much about my DD's actual needs (versus my hypotheses about them) this way. smile


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    Originally Posted by master of none
    You aren't done yet! Debrief your DS on his impression of the lesson. This may be the only time you have to compare his impressions and yours.

    But, yeah, if you don't see a place for your DS, your instincts are probably right.

    Good for you getting the job done to find all this info.

    Thank you so much for reminding me of this! DS and I are completely on the same page. It's nice to get out of class, do fun things with friends where you can move around and make noise. But it's not hard or interesting or novel and doesn't require DS to think.

    And the rest of the day is academic drudgery.

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    For an advanced 2nd grade class that sounds like pretty basic academics. I guess the general level is awful. Let us know what you decide to do next. Good luck.

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