Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Day In the Life Here’s a note from a parent and my response in blue. Probably won’t send it. Too mad.

Dear Teacher,
Johnny has been diagnosed with both ADD (inattentive type not ADHD) and he has been diagnosed as having specific learning disabilities that make writing, or processing things from his brain to the paper, a real chore. If Johnny were able to consistantly [sic] come to you at the end of each class to have his planner signed, then he wouldn’t need to have it signed. Right. And if I could see without glasses, I wouldn’t need to wear them. Nor would he need the other 504 accommodations for that matter. I realize that most teachers are not willing to go the extra mile and take the initiative to sign a child’s NB on there [sic] own, is it too much to ask that you do so, on days that you realize Johnny hasn’t taken the initiative himself?
First of all, by the time I realize Johnny hasn’t brought me his planner, hours or even days have passed since I last saw him. Usually it’s a note from a parent or a counselor that reminds me I haven’t seen Johnny’s planner in a few days. So going the extra mile is indeed too much to ask. The purpose of all accommodations is to teach Johnny to manage his disability. He must deal with the extra chore of processing information from his brain to his paper. He must go the extra mile for himself. Incidentally, I keep all of the homework on my website, so students can go the extra mile and double check the homework assignments when there are questions. This is something I expect Johnny to do when he realizes he hasn’t had me sign his planner.
I am aware that Johnny is sometimes off task like the other day when he chose to read a magazine during class time. This is a good example of why his 504 accommodations recommend teachers orally “cue”or “prompt” Johnny often. I’m not sure why he was allowed to ignore your authority and not made to put the magazine away to complete his work at that time, but I will discuss this behavior with him. The wording here makes it sound like I didn’t do enough to get Johnny back on task. – “allowed to ignore”. Just exactly how much oral cueing and prompting is necessary when “You should put that away and do your homework” doesn’t redirect a student’s behavior? It might help you to understand that Johnny was “cut” from the baseball team last week and as a result his self esteem is suffering. He probably had an “I don’t care attitude” on that particular day. this is a great example of when a little prompting to write in his agenda pad would have been very helpful. Again, how much more prompting is necessary when my saying to Johnny “You should put that away and do your homework” doesn’t work?
I know that Johnny is very intelligent and that it appears as though he should be able to do his work at the same level as the other students. I’m not really sure what you mean by this. He seems like he should be smart enough to do this kind of work, but he’s not so let’s just pass him anyway and keep it our little secret? Or does he need to be in a class that matches his ability? Johnny works hard to do well on tests and projects but the daily work is a real problem and often leads to poor results on tests. Wait. You just contradicted yourself. He works hard to do well on tests but doesn’t do the daily work that prepares him for the tests so that leads to poor results on the tests. I better sit down – I’m dizzy. I too would love to see Johnny able to better monitor his own work habits, but after many years of arguing, prompting, punishing and even rewarding Johnny in an effort to do his assignments on time, it has finally occurred to me that if Johnny were able to do better on a consistent basis he truly would. He is not a disciplinary problem and he does aspire to go to college, it is just going to require some help getting him there. What kind of help, exactly? And who is doing the helping? I’ve never met a college professor who would accommodate any student who forgot to use a planner. How are we helping Johnny learn to manage his disability if we don’t teach him to do the work necessary to succeed? I’m sorry it’s a real chore for Johnny to write down assignments and to stay organized. But he’s not going to make it through college (even after we all help him get there) unless he learns the habits which will keep him organized.
On a side note, why is college the goal here? I went to college and look where it got me? I’m sitting here responding to this idiotic email from you… My husband went to college and we still can’t afford to buy a house. Meanwhile, my brother in law and his wife couldn’t diagram a sentence or solve a quadratic equation between the two of them to save their lives. He has a job with Microsoft, and she stays home with their three very expensive babies (invitro fertilization). He makes more money than either my college educated self or husband earn. Why exactly is college necessary?
As for his grades, it is very helpful for parents who are not in the class on a daily basis, to monitor there child’s progress through his graded assignments. If a child is given the opportunity to monitor all of his assignment scores regularly it may prompt him to keep up with his own assignments accordingly. a good understanding of current grades can also help a student to realize when he or she needs to really buckle down and focus on doing his best. not seeing the full picture will often leave a child in a state of “grade delusion” until the end of the nine weeks, at which point it is most often too late to salvage a poor grade point average. Johnny worked hard and feels confident that he has succeeded in doing well on many of his assignments that have not yet been returned to him. I hope that at this late date we will not be disappointed.
If Johnny has ever found himself in a state of grade delusion, I’m truly sorry. His interim grades and his quarter grades have all been pretty consistent and reflect and overall consistent pattern with Johnny ‘s work habits. Johnny may actually suffer from perpetual optimism wherein he believes he is doing his best work (read: A work), when in fact his best work is NOT A work.
As a mother yourself, I hope you can understand my frustrations and realize my intentions are purely in the best interest of my child, I only want to see him succeed in accomplishing his personal best. Of course I understand your frustrations, and of course I realize that your intentions reflect the best interests for your child. Please understand that it is because I am a mother that I am not able to get papers back more quickly to students, and please understand that many nights I put my students before my own children, telling them I can’t play because I’ve got too much work to do planning lessons (and grading what few papers I can). Please understand that I am at the breaking point and I can’t take on the responsibility of keeping your son any more organized than I already do (remember: website, chalk-board homework list, and hard copy of syllabus).
Thank you for your consideration.
Mother Dearest


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