Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Finally had it up to HERE with Chago's teacher and these ridiculous green/yellow/orange cards!

Our poor child can't BREATHE for fear of a card turn. And not even because he's being disciplined in the classroom for whatever nefarious crime he'd committed that day either. Because that would be too much to expect, wouldn't it? -- that she hold him accountable for his actions right then and there when it's fresh in his mind, when it would make sense, when it would actually have an impact -- pull him from recess -- or assign him some menial task? No. No. She leaves it up to US to punish him. At the end of the day. When the "crime" he'd supposedly committed (and I say supposedly because after only a 10-second conversation with him, 85% of the time the real story reveals he'd actually done nothing to warrant the card change, but that would mean she'd have to invest 10 seconds in him, and it's beyond obvious that THAT'S too much to ask) is long gone and any possible positive affect of discipline is wasted and counterproductive.

So, she just doles out the big red flag and then let's us do all the dirty work, so that it's gotten to the point where he could be having a really great day at school, and then suddenly bursts into tears when we arrive to pick him up because he knows he got an orange card waaaaay back at 8:30 that morning for play fighting or something similarly benign.

And I'm just fed up with it. Fed up with her. Fed up with always being upset with my son for being nothing more than himself! And something needed to change.

So, because my efforts to speak with her directly were obviously going unheard, I decided to speak with Saia's teacher instead. A more seasoned, well-rounded, self-confident teacher, who, I later found out, was actually the 1st grade lead teacher, it seemed the most sensible and least confrontational approach. (And Lord knows I certainly don't have a problem with confrontation, but I do recognize that she's new, and still learning, and if some coaching from a more experienced teacher could help her turn things around without my having to stomp into the Principal's office, then by all means, let's go that route.)

Really meant for it to be just an informative Q&A session and ended up bursting into tears myself within the first 2 minutes of conversation.

I just didn't realize how much it had been affecting me. How truly horrible it was making me feel. How it was eating me away from the inside to have to continually ride his little behind for this or that or the other, practically every single day -- most of which I wasn't even directly witness to. It's been an exhausting and totally futile exercise in faux behavioral modification because all it's really done is shake his own confidence, make him less trusting of his teacher, fearful of us, and when you're 6, that only translates into more lashing out, not less.

Saia's teacher was a rock. Completely calm and competent. Made suggestions based on her own personal experience as a mother of boys, as well as doling out advice from an educator's perspective. She wasn't offended or taken aback at all. Didn't immediately jump to the other teacher's defense. Just let me state my case, make my own suggestions, and plead for help. She asked to mull it over and we agreed to meet again later in the week.

The very next day, she pulled me aside and said she had a plan. She asked if I was comfortable enough recommending to his teacher that we change the behavior monitoring system? That the card changing was obviously not working, and that maybe something that made him more responsible for himself, like a little smiley/no smiley checklist where he could color in the appropriate face after he checked in with his teacher every two hours or so. So that if he was kind of having a bad day in the morning, he could recognize that and try on his own to alter his own behavior and straighten up for the rest of the day. So that he essentially could wipe the slate clean and start over. So that he could feel like he had a CHANCE to change, at least.

This we implemented immediately. And it's working really well so far. For every green smiley face he earns, he gets 5 minutes of computer time at home. By the end of that first week, he had 45 minutes!! He spread that out over the weekend playing chess, I Spy, and his Leapster, and was in total heaven!!!!

Her other suggestion, that we pull him from his afternoon for an hour and put him in someone else's class did not go over quite as well. But instead of pushing it, I asked if we could kick up the level of instruction in the class, bring in more challenging projects, save all the damn cutting and pasting for the pre-k group, and actually begin to prepare these kids for, oh, I don't know, maybe 2nd grade. The following week, Chago's teacher changed some of the learning centers, but only on the days I volunteer, and did begin incorporating some of the really great educational games that Saia's teacher had been using, but wouldn't even explain it to the class, and instead would turn to me and say, "You should be familiar with this one from Saia's class." But, as I expected, and to my great pleasure, the kids loved it. They were so much more engaged in the games and activities than when she just had them coloring and cutting and pasting. They were challenged and working together to solve problems instead of making noise and picking on their neighbors. And even the ones that she insists have learning issues, responded positively to the new interactive projects, listened, and followed directions. I was completely vindicated. They were bored. They want to learn. And they're all bright and capable children who are sick of being talked down to by a Carnival Cruise Lines Director.

And then lo and behold, the very next thing we noticed is that she began to comment more harshly and more often on his homework. Which, although not entirely unexpected, was a little sad to see. That she had to take out her ire for me on my son's work. But we explained to him that this is exactly what we expected from her, that she's paying attention to him, that she's challenging him to do better, that she expects the best from him -- just like we do, and that he should be looking at this as an opportunity to show her what he can really do when he applies himself.

And yes, we thought about moving him. In fact, Saia's teacher's eyes lit up at the prospect of getting her hands on his little sponge of a brain, but we are not willing to risk all of Saia's growth and progress by introducing her brother into her environment.

So, in the meantime, he's doing 3rd grade level homework at home with me, plows through a Magic Tree House book in one sitting, and is well on his way to becoming the youngest author/illustrator ever.

I know the caliber of teacher you get in public schools is really just a roll of the die. And I know our teachers are sadly compensated for being the primary sculptors of our next generation. I'm more sympathetic towards and so much more appreciative of educators than I ever have been because I clearly see the direct impact they have on each and every child. It's a huge weight and responsibility to bear. It's an enormous task to undertake. And it's one of the most honorable jobs anyone can perform.

But dear God help me, do we really have 4 more months to go until this school year's over? I don't know how much longer I can grit my teeth around this woman without strangling her.


Russell said...

Perhaps if you spent as much quality time with your son as you do complaining, the teacher wouldn't be challenged so. Discipline and character building is your job not hers. I looked at your other posts before responding and sensed a pattern of hostility and transfer of responsibility. Get over yourself. It's not everyone else's fault.

JO ANNA GUERRA (of The Adventures of Saia and Chago) said...

@Russell, thanks for your perspective. I'm afraid you may have missed my point. But I'm not transferring that responsibility to you. Without knowing the teacher, myself, or my son, I'm not sure how you can make such a definitive and chastising judgment. But that's kinda what these hit-and-run comments are all about, aren't they?

Woo222 said...

Um wow. I guess I'm really taken aback by Russell's comment, but that's not important.

I think it's awesome that you identified that the card changing wasn't working for him and came up with some better solutions. I taught in a preschool for YEARS and YEARS and I adored parents like you. Parents are everything. Children deserve to have parents who care when their children aren't thriving. I had parents I BEGGED to come in and meet with me so we could work out a better solution for their kid, who was struggling. I also had parents who met with me immediately and with whom I created and implemented new strategies to better serve their kids. Not surprisingly, the kids of the parents who addressed things head on ended up fine. Things worked out and behavior problems became a thing of the past. So good for you for taking a hands on approach. I'm sorry the teacher decided to be offended and worse, has decided to lash out at Chago. She needs to grow up. I'm proud of you for advocating for you kids and for putting so much thought into how you want to respond and handle things. ~S