Talking with the Teachers

 

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Last night began a three-day school conference extravaganza. With six kids at five schools, it requires a flow chart to figure out where and when each conference is being held. Each of the kids has more than one teacher, so there are lots of conversations to be had.

I thought I had communicated some of my children’s unique needs fairly well through the school counselors, but last night it became apparent that I should have connected more directly with the teachers.

All of the kids are doing well in school – who knew it would be such a good adjustment? But one of my  sweet ones is struggling and barely passing a math class. This child’s other grades are quite good, except for this class.

I sat across from the teacher looking at missed assignments, failed quizzes, and barely passed tests. The teacher was frustrated because the child seemed to be lacking initiative to retake quizzes and get a better grade. We began to talk about homework and I explained that we planned a study hall for the end of the day in order to avoid conflicts over homework at home. Our past experience is that homework has led to huge problems and we’ve chosen to focus on nurture, structure and family at home, without the stress of homework.

She looked a little perplexed and I soon realized the teacher knew absolutely nothing about my child. No information had been communicated, including our request for a 504 plan. She said, “I was a special-ed teacher for 15 years; if I had known any of this I would have approached (your child) differently.” She got on the phone and called the 504 coordinator (who just happened to be her husband), and the three of us had a great conversation about getting some support in place.

As we were wrapping up, she got tears in her eyes and said, ” I am so sorry, I wish I had known this before. I hope I haven’t already damaged my relationship with (your child) so much that I can’t turn it around.” I assured her that we have made many mistakes, but that once we’ve learned what we need to know, we’ve been able to head in a new direction.

As I got up to leave the table, she reached for my hand and with tears in her eyes, she said, “I really am so sorry.”

I can’t expect teachers to do what is necessary for my child to succeed if they don’t know my child’s needs. Lesson learned.

More conferences to come. By the way, I realize I haven’t told you all that Beza jumped from 7th grade to high school this fall. Crazy, I know, but a very good decision. I’ll write about that soon.

Lisa

 

 

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

15 Comments

  1. Bev
    October 30, 2014

    Your story brought tears to my eyes. I went walking with a friend a couple of weeks ago. This friend was asking for the same kinds of understanding from her child's teachers. She was told by one of them that this teacher did not intend to do anything differently and it was up to her child to adjust to his teaching style or not to adjust. It is such a gift to have a teacher who cares about the relationship as much as the learning, because the relationship enables the learning. Tell your child's teacher that she is my hero!

    Reply
  2. This couldn't come at a better time for me! My barely five year old (adopted) is struggling in his preK class. The school is continually having to call me to come pick him up because he gets frustrated over something, snaps and looses complete control. The call yesterday was, "We may have to call 911!" Praise God they did not (just because of the "procedures" that opens in the life of my "baby") I'm trying SO hard to communicate and educate and the school/director really is working with us. Your admittance to "making mistakes" and your realization that communication directly with the teacher helps me feel as if I'm not alone and I am on the right track. Thank you as always for sharing the REAL stuff!

    Reply
  3. Luann Yarrow Doman
    October 30, 2014

    What a wonderful teacher! Obviously she really cares about the children entrusted to her.
    By the way, how did Dimples' birthday go? Wasn't it this week? Praying for her and the rest of your sweet family.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 30, 2014

      Thanks for asking, Luann. Dimples' birthday was yesterday, but we are celebrating as a family this weekend when all of the big kids can join us. She made brownies for her social studies class, went to a friend's house after school, and had a big fall party at youth group last night. She got a present in the mail that she opened last night and we had birthday cereal too. I wasn't sure how it would go with this delayed birthday, but she seems to be happy – besides, she's been waiting forever to turn 13 and that is making her very happy. She asked for a very unique birthday gift which I'll write about soon.

      Reply
  4. Brianna
    October 30, 2014

    Lisa this is so, SO true. I too assumed on of my kids' teachers had been aware of some of his learning challenges (as I'd met with the principal about them AND included them on the epic survey I had to fill out for the teacher and school), but no, she seemed surprised at conference time. Sigh. In hindsight I should have been more proactive, but then I'd assumed that was what the surveys were for and I didn't want to bug the teacher too much. One thing I'm seeing in the schools though is that there are SO MANY teachers who care SO MUCH about these kids. It is really heartwarming to see. Hugs!

    Reply
  5. Kirsten G.
    October 30, 2014

    That is awesome that the teacher is genuinely concerned about your child and wants to work with you and your child. Praying that your child is able to get the assistance that they need in order to succeed in this class.
    Blessings to you and your family!

    Reply
  6. Jenn t
    October 30, 2014

    Amazing blessings when you have a caring teacher on your team! I love being able to use our teachers as an added resource with our children! As a side note……I have a daughter that struggles only in math as well. She is adhd and I always assumed it was because of her inability to stay on task. At a friends recommendation I took her to a nueroscychologist for testing. I found out she actually has a learning disability know as dyscalculia! It is the math equivalent of dyslexia. I wish I had thought to do this earlier. The testing offers very specific modifications to help your child learn. My daughter was actually relieved to find out there was a reason for her frustration and she just needed to learn things a little differently! She has a whole new outlook on math and has become motivated again. I wish I had know about this type of thing earlier………..

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 30, 2014

      Thank you for sharing that, Jenn. I've never heard of it!

      Reply
      1. daysofwonderandgrace
        November 2, 2014

        Lisa, us too. Neurodevelopmental testing this summer for possible ADHD that included a battery of memory and academic testing, showed that one of my daughters is highly gifted –in all areas except math, where she has a learning disability. She's in 9th grade and has managed to compensate sufficiently because of her IQ that teachers never picked up her math LD. Yet she has always struggled with math. She, too, qualifies for a 504 plan, in her case to accommodate the math LD. So far we haven't needed one; God gave her a math teacher this year who teaches in a way she can learn. But I think we will formally write and institute a 504 for it in the next year or two as having one in place will give my daughter those same accommodations (like extra time, using a calculator) on the math portions of college entrance exams. She will excel in every area except math so I think it is a 504 may be a God-given opportunity to not let her math LD drag down her overall scores. She has no ambition to major in anything related to math, which is her least favorite subject :). So I don't think her neurological inability to do math problem-solving should hold her back.

        Reply
  7. Isabelle
    October 30, 2014

    This is an amazing story. What a wonderful teacher to realize and admit that she wished she had handled things differently. When my son was in kindergarten we also found that his teachers did not get the info we had conveyed to the principal and in a questionnaire. I am so glad that your child is getting this positive change in course early in the year. Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply
  8. Sharon
    October 30, 2014

    I struggle with what/how much to share with teachers. Last year was a good example of me not sharing enough (or just plain too late in the year) for one of my kiddos and I feel like the year could really have gone better if I would have done that.

    Reply
  9. Maureen Reagan Shear
    November 3, 2014

    Yea for great teachers that are a great fit for that student/child! (Sometimes personalities just clash, might be a great teacher for other kids, but not some specific personalities… or just not great teachers.) Both of my boys (biological) have IEPs. The one has some medical issues that need specific attention to (he is 6 and just not able to do it on his own, developmentally, just not there yet). The medical issues would be considered 'minor' in a self contained class that is used to medical problems, but my son is in regular education with a lot of support. Those teachers are not used to the intensity of his medical needs (or the concept of if something medical starts to slide, his educational gains come to a fast grinding halt). Their needs are spelled out in their IEPs. Yet, the week that school was starting, I took time to email each of the main teachers to go over the basic, key, need to know points. I was shocked to find out that they were only to be given my children's IEPs the day before school started. Huh? All were grateful to have the boiled down version. One asked for a meeting before school started (sure- I can create the time for that- it is important enough), another emailed questions back and forth and stopped me when she saw me in the building and asked me more questions. It was definitely the right thing to do.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 4, 2014

      I'm so glad you commented, Maureen. Thank you.

      Reply
  10. Lisa
    November 5, 2014

    I thought doing 4 kids' conferences at 2 different schools yesterday was exhausting – not sure how you did it! How wonderful that the teacher has a genuine desire to do well by your child. And that is a good lesson learned – I also spoke to the guidance counselor before school but not much was conveyed to the teachers. Not on purpose, I think they are just busy and maybe don't realize the importance of some things for daily life in the classroom.

    Reply
  11. Sarah Dunn
    January 8, 2015

    Thank you! this is a great reminder to make sure teachers are aware of our children's histories. I have been amazed at how teachers have been our best allies once they understand where our children are coming from. We found that homework made attachment so much more difficult but thanks to creative and flexible teachers I have been able to just be mom at home.

    Reply

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