Category Archives: Education

School’s out for summer!

English: Fireworks display

English: Fireworks display (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last day of Grade 5!

If you had asked me at the beginning of the school year if M would make it through the school year, I would have probably said yes.  But I would have added a number of caveats, such as weekly visits to the principal’s office, being sent home on more than one occasion, being called to last-minute meetings with School Board officials.  Because that was our experience last year.  As M observed recently, he spent most of the last 2-3 weeks of Grade 4, either at home (at the request of the school) or one-on-one with an EA, away from his classmates.

But this year, M is finishing the year in his class, with his friends.  He was sent home only once, very early in the school year.  We haven’t had a meeting with anyone from the School Board since Christmas (can’t say I miss those meetings since we always left feeling like the worst parents in the universe – hard to feel good about your parenting skills in a room full of educational professionals who are discussing how much a danger your child poses to classmates and staff).  And the principal told me that she saw M so rarely that sometimes she would go out to the yard or up to his class, just to see how he was doing.

A great deal of M’s success can be attributed to the hard work of the school staff – the principal, his teacher and his EAs.  They demonstrated phenomenal patience and worked tirelessly to put in place the supports M needed to succeed.

Given M’s very bumpy history in the school system, he needed to get some success under his belt.  It’s hard to feel good about yourself when the other kids don’t want to play with you on the school yard or when you aren’t permitted to participate in the end of year activities with your classmates.  Once he started to participate in class activities, M was able to demonstrate to himself that he could actually be successful.   A positive feedback loop.  Of course, he’s still pretty selective about what he will do – if it involves math, then he’s all in.  But if it’s something he doesn’t like (writing) or something he thinks might be hard (also writing), then most of the time he checks out.  But he appeared in a couple of the class videos and finished “some assignments” (according to his report card – better than “none”).   When he actually completed a project, he did a good job.  Another check mark in the success column.

Today we aren’t going to focus on M’s challenges.  We are going to celebrate the fact that he had a kick-ass year.  Next stop, Grade 6.

Children reading

Children reading (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When M was younger, he had a book called You Read to Me, I”ll Read to You.  The book was written so a child and an adult could each read small sections aloud to each other.  I don’t recall the story, just the pleasure of sitting with M in the blue rocking chair and reading to each other.  We sat for hours,  reading in that chair

These days, M pretty much reads on his own.   On the rare occasions he asks me to read with him, I will sit beside him in his bed and we will each read our respective books.   We are together and we are reading but we not reading together.

In September, when M`s teacher asked for parents to come in and listen to the students read aloud, I immediately volunteered.  Every Tuesday morning, before I go to work, I go into M`s class and listen to 4 or 5 of his classmates read aloud to me.  Their teacher encourages them to keep a book in their desks, so it usually just a matter of finding a quiet place to sit.   This is sometimes easier said than done., as the  school is always humming with action.   Last week, we tried to sit outside the library, but there was a class practicing drumming in the library.  Then we tried sitting in a corner of the hallway that contains a couple of chairs, but one of the other classes was doing an activity nearby.   I am hard to hearing, so on mornings like last week, it is a bit of a challenge to hear what each child is saying. 

Once in a while, one of them will need help pronouncing a word, but mostly I listen and they read.  It is fun to see what they are reading from one week to the next.  Sometimes, I will listen to a couple of the Harry Potter books,  a few pages of one of the Hunger Games Trilogy. or one of the books from the How to train Your Dragon series.  No one has ever read from the same book as one of their classmates in the same week.

 The most popular genre seems to be  fantasy/adventure.  Interestingly, there is very little difference between what the boys read versus the girls.  When I peruse the children’s section of our local library, there are clearly plenty of “girly“ books – about fairies, princesses and animals.  But the majority of the kids in M`s class are reading books with darker, complex storylines.   This may be a function of their ages – 10 to 12.   They are moving away from children`s books and are not quite into the YA category. 

Obviously their teacher has made reading a priority.  And I suspect he encourages the kids to move outside their comfort zones and explore other genres.  Although M won`t usually read to me (there are also a couple of other parents who regularly come in) , I have been surprised by what he is reading – at home, he favours graphic novels and non-fiction.  But at school, he`s consistently reading big thick chapter books.

I am pretty happy with my life these days, but this is one of the best hours of my week.  Sure, we sometimes struggle to find a spot that is conducive to reading aloud.  But ever since I was a small child, reading has always been one of my favourite activities –  I always have a book on the go, usually more than one.   But I am not particularly good at reading aloud – probably because I read very quickly and I tend to jump ahead and lose my place.  But reading aloud is a good skill to have, as it strengthens your overall reading skill.  Pl;us, everyone has to read something aloud at least once in their lives.  But more than helping the kids with their reading, I love being able to spend those few minutes, listening to each of them tell me a story.  No matter how much chaos is going around us, we are connecting through the words on the page.  The power of the written word indeed.

Tales for a Tuesday

Sometimes you have to ditch the yardstick

English: Tumstock och Ölandsstenblock ("Y...

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from my husband saying that the principal at M’s school had called. Apparently, he had a conflict with another child during recess and was having trouble apologizing and moving on. However, before I could call him to discuss whether one of us should leave work early to pick him up, my husband sent me another email to say that the issue had been resolved and M had gone back to class.

For the rest of the day, I didn’t give this incident much thought. I may have mentioned in passing that I’d heard he had some difficulty during the day, but he handled it well. Quite frankly, the school has called us so many times in the last couple of years that unless one of us has to drop everything and rush to pick M up, it doesn’t even rate as a real incident.

This morning, I ran into the principal in the lobby of the school and she mentioned that M had handled himself really well. So well, that she was almost doing cartwheels (her words). The other child had thrown some ice at him and M had reacted. Since these sorts of conflicts are pretty common among middle school kids (boys in particular), the general approach used at the school is to bring the kids involved together to discuss it. The challenge with M is that he rarely agrees to sit in the same room with the other child, particularly if he is the “injured” party. Yesterday, M was reluctant to talk to the principal about what happened at first, so she let him read a new Myth Busters book, while sitting in her office. She checked in with him a couple of times, until finally he said he was ready – they talked and he went back to class for the rest of the day. She casually mentioned that it took him some time, an hour and a half, but he pulled himself together without trashing her office, kicking a teacher, swearing – his usual modus operandi when  he gets into a conflict at school.

For M this is big progress. He usually gets so wound up when something happens at school that he has to be scrapped off the ceiling. Most times, I arrive to get him after the storm has passed and he is a little puddle of tears. But the truly amazing thing is that the principal, who is incredibly busy and is in demand every minute of the school day, spent 90 minutes waiting for my kid to calm down enough so he could have a rational conversation about what happened.

At any time during that period, she could have pulled the plug and called us to come and get him. But she has taken the time to get to know M and knows he struggles with his temper. Once the beast is out, getting it back in the cage is almost impossible. And then M feels badly about himself, because even though he can’t stop himself, he knows getting angry and smacking another child isn’t right. So the principal gave him a book and let him wait until he was ready. She created the conditions for him to succeed and he did. So the next time he has a major blowout at school and doesn’t pull himself together, the principal will call me to come and get him. And as we are walking home, I can remind him about yesterday.