Thursday, December 5, 2013

Parent-Teacher Conference

So....today was Jacob's parent-teacher conference at school.  Given the results of his first report card (good academically, bad behaviorally), I knew it would be a rough meeting.  We were there for a good 45 minutes, discussing and rehashing all of the stuff we've been dealing with for the past three months.  What we deal with at home is far worse than what they deal with at school, but at school there are 20 other kids to manage at any given time so it's significantly more complicated when you have a child that needs guidance every step of the way. 

And that, I suppose, is the overriding issue at school.  At home we deal with violence and complete disregard for whatever we tell him.  At school he just cannot stay on task.  We deal with that at home, as well, of course, but at school where the structure is so important, it is impossible.  The usual morning tasks that take most kids 5-10 minutes takes Jacob a full half hour if the teacher isn't on him every step of the way.  He then misses out on drawing and writing in his journal like his classmates.  Projects that take his friends 30 minutes to do stretch across days with him.  Part of the issue is that he gets distracted.  The other part is that he gets so tied up in the details that he can't focus on the important stuff.  He will draw a scarily realistic depiction of a basketball court, but by the time he's done with that, he's blown all the time that he was supposed to spend writing about it.  On top of it, he usually distracts his friends by singing or talking, and lately he's gotten a little disrespectful when he's asked to stop.

They've tried a lot of the usual tricks to keep him on task.  They have pictures of each morning task so he knows what order they go in.  They've tried a "cardboard office" where they put up a barrier to give him his own space, and they've tried putting him at a desk in the corner with less distractions.  Nothing works.  On one had I feel their pain.  We've tried everything, too.  But on the other hand I'm frustrated because they've collectively dealt with a heck of a lot more kids than we have.  There has to be some kid out there that was more distracted than Jacob, and there has to be something they tried for them that worked eventually.  Or maybe he's just that special. 

They talked about some other things to try--for example, giving him a tangible way to mark off when he's done with a task (like Velcro pictures or marking it off with a dry erase marker) or setting up rewards (game/TV time) when he completes tasks successfully.  We can certainly institute those at home, as well, but my caveat every time someone recommends any sort of chart or reward is that when he gets in one of his moods, nothing sways him.  No matter how many times we tell him in the morning that the sooner he gets ready, the more time he'll have to play, it doesn't motivate him to stay on task...so will a series of tangible checkmarks to "earn" the playtime do it?  No idea.  We can try.

I do wonder a bit if all that they're asking of him is intimidating him.  They're trying to have these kids try to write sentences when they're still learning to sound out words.  He's not very good at it, in case you're wondering, and I have to guess that for a detailed perfectionist like him, it might drive him nuts to the point he doesn't even want to try.  That's just a guess, but even his teacher admitted that they're asking a lot of the kids these days. 

I know that it's very hard for me to know how to work with him, because school came naturally to me.  I did have to study to do well, but I'd guess that my retention with what I did was better than average.  So to have a kid that can't focus and doesn't love school, it's really hard for me to know how to manage that.  We also don't have a lot of time in the day to try to make things fun.  I feel completely stuck on that front, because obviously we both have to work.  I'm feeling very frustrated with this whole situation and I'm just not sure where we go from here.  There are so many things that need fixing, and no good answers yet.  Oh, the school psychologist did call today and say she started evaluating him yesterday.  She enjoyed her time with him and he's scoring well on everything she's done so far.  The speech pathologist that we talked to today said the same.  There's no question he's smart and very verbal, but the challenge is channeling all of that into something productive and efficient. 

I won't lie, it's getting hard hearing the same story over and over again.  So much potential, so little action.  My heart is just breaking because I don't know how to help him, and he can't seem to help himself.  We just have to keep trying.  We don't have a choice.  But this is, by far, the hardest thing I have ever gone through, and I don't know how I'm going to keep going.  I will, but only with God's help, I guess.  Prayers, please...

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