Posted by: Kate | January 30, 2009

I May Need a Flamethrower, for Effect.

I have two meetings this afternoon, each intended, in their own ways, to change the course of my children’s education.

I’m not particularly looking forward to either one.

The first happens at Emily’s school, at 2:00.  We’ve known for a few weeks that she has had ongoing behavioral problems at school; we just didn’t realize, until yesterday, the extent of it.  We thought it was something relatively new, that had just appeared since December or January, and I immediately dove head-first into the Pool of Mommy Guilt, blaming my job loss and subsequent depression, her knowledge of our upcoming move, anything and everything having to do with my own choices and parenting.  I also threw in a little vicarious Daddy Guilt, not that there really is such a thing, because it sounds to me like Emily is an awful lot like Willem was as a child, and so I feel like we should have been more aware and on the lookout for these sorts of things.

But yesterday, I got another call from the teacher, not to report a new problem but to say that she kept sending home write-ups of the last two incidents, and she hadn’t gotte a signed copy back from me yet.  Had I gotten them and just kept them at home?  Well, no, see, because I have the ability to read the instructions on the little form, and why is it that over a week has passed since the form theoretically went home (which, make no mistake, I firmly believe that Emily received the forms and deliberately accidentally lost them instead of bringing them to me) but we’re only now calling to check about it?

She agreed to pack up yet another copy of the forms – rumor has it this would be about the fourth such round – and to be crystal clear with Emily that she had spoken to me and that I was expecting to get the forms when she got off the bus.  Well, the forms didn’t make it home, though Miss Emily swears they are in her locker, but upon a more-thorough-than-usual emptying of her backpack, we found last week’s copies, as well as a full, multi-page, stapled-together printout of every time Emily has been in any sort of trouble at school this year.  Apparently they log everything now, and they have a cute little database system that will organize things in terms of day, time of day, type of offense, and so on, as well as just listing out the incidents.

I’m not entirely certain we were supposed to receive that printout; it looks like an internal document and there was no note addressed to us with it.  But receive it we did, and thus we discovered that Emily has been getting into various forms of trouble – almost all falling under the category of “Attempting to Gain the Attention of Other Students” – since September.  Some of them were fairly big incidents, to my mind, and others not so big; the problem is, I had never heard of a single one of these until last week.

I’m still willing to shoulder a certain amount of responsibility for the parenting side of things, but I’m also outraged and appalled that so much time has gone by since those first incidents, and we never heard a word about any of them, even though several of them list “Notify Parent” as the action taken.  You’d better believe that if I had known about this sooner, action would have already been taken by now.

So, I have a meeting with the principal this afternoon, to let him know that we will be pursuing private psychological testing for Emily, because I’m not confident that her problems are simple, straightforward cases of ADHD or a learning disability and therefore she’ll be a bit out of the school psychologist’s realm.  And to let him know that, on the other end, we need much, much better communication, and that right quick.

I’ve had my doubts about Emily’s teacher since the start of the school year.  She’s much younger than I am, not so much quantitatively (I would guess she’s around 28), but in bearing and personality.  Very unsure of herself.  In every conference we’ve had with her, I have left with the sense that I’m the one leading the conversation, not her.  I get that I have a strong personality and tend to be more assertive than your average bear, but in all prior teacher conferences I had felt like the teacher was in charge and I was just following along.  Then when we met with her in December because Emily’s grades were slipping – but only her grades in the courses she took entirely at school; in the three courses she had homework for, she was getting A’s – and she stated that she has the students collect all of their in-class work in their desks and turn it in once a week.  She said that she would see Emily doing the work, but then somehow when it was time to turn it in, it would all be missing.  She agreed at that point (hell, it was her idea) to start keeping Emily’s classwork folder on her own desk, so as to help keep track of this work.

We met with her a month later, only to learn that the folder on the teacher’s desk “never really worked out… because it got buried under all of my other papers and kind of got lost.”  *giggle*

Excuse me?  You’re penalizing my kid for poor organization, and yet… wait, hang on, I think the pot called.  It’s for you.

I’ve had concerns for a while, and they’re just increasing.  In all of her prior school years, Emily got no more than five write-ups through the whole year (that’s on the printout, too), and now she has had ten already in half a year.  If she had true, typical ADHD, the symptoms would already have manifested by now, and likewise for a learning disability.  I do see my kid as impulsive and needing help learning how to think before she acts, but I also see a marked difference in her behavior and in her school performance with this new teacher.  (Why, yes, it is her first year running her very own full-time classroom, why do you ask?)

A meeting, then, with the principal.  Right now, just to express my concerns; I don’t want immediate and large-scale change, and I don’t know what my response would be if he suggested right away to switch Emily to a different classroom.  I certainly can’t decide now, before the meeting has even taken place.  We shall see.

Afterward, I’ll head over to Jacob’s school, where I will sit down with the director and explain that we are pulling Jacob out of kindergarten, effective immediately.  This has not been an easy decision for us, but I do remain unemployed and it’s not free, so that’s a big part of the reason.  And an even bigger part is that, last week, his primary teacher left the school abruptly, with no good-byes or explanations.  This is upsetting enough for a kid, but it’s also the fourth time it has happened since he started at the school.  I understand that high turnover might be inevitable, but there’s no reason that it needs to be that abrupt and final.  Kids need the chance to say good-bye and understand what’s going on, not to feel like, at any moment, their teacher could just up and disappear.

So, within the space of a week, I’ve gone from a normal third-grader and an accelerated kindergartener to a child needing psychological testing and intervention and another to be homeschooled for the next six months.  Which is a whole other post, but I am so not in favor of homeschooling my own kids… under normal circumstances.

It’s decidedly a day when I would prefer to just crawl back in bed and let someone else be the responsible parent for a while.



  1. Oh Kate, the education of our children is not easy, is it?! I’ll be thinking of you today – let me know how it goes!!

  2. I would love to see what happens here. It does sound like emily may need a teacher change with someone who can take charge of her class.

  3. Wow. Either one of those appointments would be a lot to digest in one day … but both on the same day? Makes my head hurt. I don’t blame you for wanting to just get back into bed.

    I’ll be really interested to hear how both go, and what, if any, suggestions or plan they can help out with regarding Emily.

  4. It really sounds, to me, like Emily’s teacher is having some organization/management problems. Trouble is, they are at Emily’s expense. Given that there are already problems, Emily cannot afford for this to continue. I would suggest that they monitor the classroom as a whole and watch for that before writing Emily off as THE problem.

    And good luck with the Jacob meeting as well — sounds like there are some administrative issues there if they cannot hang on to a teacher for at least an entire school year.

    Hang in there, Kate. You’ve had a litany of stuff going on, and my head spins at the thought of dealing with it all.

    Fingers crossed for ya…

  5. Oh Kate. What a day. And to make it all about me (because isn’t it?) I had to cringe at the “outside the realm of the school psychologist” bit because I am now, a school psychologist…..argh. How’d I get here?!?!

    Good luck with it all- I hope it brings useful information.

  6. This is when the single life looks soooo good. Not that I’d know what that’s like.

    Good luck and brave heart in stepping through this morass!

  7. I hope you get it settled to your satisfaction. My 10 year old’s teacher is, uh, not exactly a desirable teacher. It’s like pulling teeth to get information out of her, and I left our parent teacher conference feeling like I was some kind of anomaly for wanting to be involved in my kid’s education.

  8. WOW, not a fun day for you!

    Good luck with both meetings.

  9. Maybe in addition to a possible LD or something like that Emily’s bored at school and it’s definitely something that can cross-over to home life as well? I still think we’re dealing with 2E issues with Em and her school still wasn’t willing to do further testing even after we had the independent testing done that pointed to a possible LD. Have you done any reading up on twice exceptional kids? There’s a ton of stuff out there. 3rd grade is offering more academic challenges for Em, but I think we still need to pursue further testing – likely outside of school – and address those problems before they become really big ones when she gets to middle school. And how did Josh get K accelerated?? I missed that.

  10. JacoB, DARNIT! I meant JACOB! Crap, my brain is mush and now I have to head out to a meeting.

  11. No see – this is why I think e-mail should be installed in every classroom across the country. AFTER the teacher sent home the forms – she should immediately have sat down and e-mailed to you that she did. You’d have been on the look out for them and would have KNOWN that Emily was having problems earlier.

    E-mailing a quick message takes less than 1 minute. If the teacher had to write a form, she had time to e-mail too.

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