Almost 2 weeks into Grade 6 and M’s had the best start to any school year so far. I’m probably jinxing it, just by talking about it. But no calls from the principal. Not a single one!
No news is not always good news – in the past, the school has not always advised us when there’s a problem looming, until M’s in crisis. This year, the supports the school committed to last June were in place on Day 1. M has an EA, the same one as past year, at least for a few weeks. He will continue seeing the school social worker. And we finally got the psychologist’s report (the assessment was done last spring), so he can get a computer on a permanent basis, rather than from time to time, depending on availability.
It also helps that M has the same teacher as last year. Most of the kids are the same too – last year, it was a Grade 5/6 class. Rather than re-distribute the students among the two Grade 6 class, they kept the group together. Having combined grade classes is great, but school is chaotic enough for M. Any amount of continuity is a good thing. M had a couple of good buddies in the class, so he had a social safety net going back this year. The school post the class lists a couple of days before the first day back, so M knew who else would be in his class. usually there’s one child that M doesn’t get along with, but he said he likes everyone in the class.
Since it’s only Week Two, we haven’t had much feedback on his behaviour or his academic progress. His EA told us last week that M had been participating actively. After a little pep talk from the teacher and the EA, M even did part of the class’s cursive writing assignment. Last year, M consistently refused to do the writing assignments, even with the computer. He claimed not to be able to write in block letters, let alone cursive. If he started an assignment, 9 times out of 10, he didn’t finish it.
From the school’s perspective, managing M’s behaviour has been a much bigger issue that whether or not he completes his work. The EA’s primary function is to assist M in resolving issues with his classmates and other students when they happen. The EA also acts as a buffer between M and other children, especially during recess and other less structured activities. When M is stressed, his ability to make good decisions is practically non-existent. He would often misinterpret another child’s behaviour as a slight or aggression and either lash out or obsess about what had happened. We’ve learned the hard way that M’s anxiety can trigger some pretty rotten behaviour. Other kids don’t want to be around him, which makes him feel even more anxious and socially isolated. It’s like watching a hamster running round and round on a wheel. Except in M’s case, we know the wheel’s going to hit the wall at some point. That’s usually when we get a call from the principal.
But the phone lines are quiet so far. We’ve had a couple of emails from the EA, indicating that things are going well. M still isn’t doing what he’s asked the first time, but when prompted, he usually complies. That’s progress too.
Over the last couple of years, whenever I’ve remarked about how well M’s doing, he’s hit a rough spot almost immediately afterwards. But it’s hard not to share good news. So if I get a call from the principal tomorrow, I only have myself to blame.