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Old 08.12.2011, 00:58
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My son & school (again!)

Hi all,

some of you will probably know that I've posted many times about my son and his "issues" at school and whilst I don't want to go over it all again, here's the basics: my son (age 7, Swiss Primary year 1) is bright kid, intellectually clever, but he has issues with fine motor skills - his handwriting is not great, and his concentration isn't brilliant either. Anyway, he's been assessed by the school psychologist people and they recommended ergotherapy (again, he's done some before at kindergarten too) which we will set up asap (although "soon" is probably not going to happen due to having to find a slot with someone).

Now, this post is really about my sons teacher. Or - my son+his teacher. She's so incredibly rigid about everything - basically she says "he must fit in". Just now she's sent a note home saying that "his behaviour is very disruptive to the whole class and he cannot continue in the class unless it improves". So I was thinking oh my god he's being really bad in class. But no, it turns out that actually he's just not finishing his work in time. This is the terrible disruptive awful behaviour - being slow. I'm sorry but I just think it's a teacher's job to find ways to motivate kids. Isn't that what she's for? Can she not find any alternatives? No possibility to work in a different way? I can't believe that after having him in the class for just a couple of months it's like she's writing him off already.

I just don't know what to do now. She's asking us to speak to him, which of course I will, but what good will that do really? Surely if it were as simple as someone saying to him "please hurry up" then she could have solved the problem already. I think she needs to find a way to interest him because I'm 90% sure the problem is boredom.

The other day we were just at the dinner table and he asked a question about "what's a quarter" and I basically taught him fractions (including adding and multiplying fractions) in about 10 minutes - he was interested and engaged because he wanted to learn something new. I have the impression that in the whole time he's been at school this year he's not actually learnt anything - because he can already read and write and do quite a bit of maths.

This is the teacher he will have for the next 5 years! So if she's already written him off then what good is she going to be for him in the next 4 1/2 years. I actually really wish he could change teachers but there isn't another class - except for the "introduction class" (the kids who do year one in 2 years) which would be even more boring for him.

Sorry this is a bit of a whine, hubby is still out at the footy and I needed someone to "talk" to!
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Old 08.12.2011, 10:50
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Re: My son & school (again!)

A friend's son had a few very similar problems. His school also said he had issues with fine motor skills and disruptive behaviour. He was sent to an ergotherapeute a few times - she eventually said his motor skills were fine, and she did not feel that was the issue (she felt it was really due to lack of effort/will on his part, a psychological rather than a physical issue). Regarding his behaviour, the school also complained about him being disruptive - it would be possible to interpret the school complaints of his disruptive behaviour as simply not finishing his work on time, as you have done, but in reality he was being disruptive, in that the reason for not finishing on time was not concentrating, staring off into space, and quite simply not trying at all. The school threatened to hold him back a year if he didn't start making an effort, even though he is a bright child. Eventually they found an educational psychologist linked to the primary school system in Geneva. He has individual sessions with this psychologist - without the parents being present - and it has made a huge difference. He now consistently gets among the highest marks in his class. A lot of it appears to have been a confidence issue. Before he somehow felt that the school system did not apply to him and that there was no point in trying. The Swiss stick rather than carrot approach to education didn't suit him - the Swiss system is admittedly very rigid but if you live here, you do have to fit in with it. If you are encouraging your child, even subconsciously, to be negative about school, it really will not help him. He has to feel that this is something he has to engage in and be involved with, that the rules apply to him as well. Generally, kids who are more intellectually advanced than the rest of the class finish their work earlier and may then be bored - they're not slower than everyone else. There are evidently other issues to address here. Good luck.

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Old 08.12.2011, 11:51
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Re: My son & school (again!)

My daughter who is 6 has just been diagnosed with ADHS and also has fine and gross motor difficulties, she attends ergotherapy every week, one on one till january, then she starts group sessions. The kindergarten was great when it was the two "older" teachers, they loved her and her personality but also realised that it was because of the problems, they never made her feel out of place and could gently coax her back into this world when she went off into her own. Made exeptions for her but not enough that she got to do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted, they have since retired and it is not the same with the new teacher. Jess gets help in the kindergarted from a speech theapist as well. I guess it is a hit or miss with the school and KG's here, i guess we were just lucky to find a good one. I worry what will happen when she goes to the primary school, but at least she is getting the help she need now.
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Old 08.12.2011, 12:00
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Re: My son & school (again!)

Wouldn't be great if it was possible to stand behind a one way window and see what really happens- both teacher and child. It could be that the teacher is behaving in a way that really does not help your child, include him and stimulate him. It could be too, that your child is really disruptive in many ways. It would be so useful to know what really does happen and triggers reaction from other party.

There was a documentary on UK TV recently where they did just that, and it was amazing to see parents who categorically stated that their child was incapable of rude or unpleasant behaviour, turn out to be REALLY disruptive in class. Or on the other hand, kids very shy and unsociable at home be totally different in the school environment, again to the amazement of the parents.

At the end of the day - the more positive you can be to work as a team WITH the teacher to help your child, the better. If all else fails, perhaps discuss with the headteacher the possibility of changing class. I don't understand why he should have that teacher for the next 5 years- how is this possible? Not easy at all - and I feel for you and your child and hope you find a way.
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Old 08.12.2011, 14:49
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Re: My son & school (again!)

That I think is a common Swiss trait - fit in, go with the flow, don't be different! There's not much you can do about that I think.
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Old 08.12.2011, 16:36
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Re: My son & school (again!)

Back in Philly.... I would tell that teacher to blow it out her <blank>

I would turn the issue around, and file complaints with the school about her treatment of your son, and failure to educate him effectively. "Ruin my day? I dont think so, I will ruin yours"
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Old 08.12.2011, 16:51
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Re: My son & school (again!)

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Sorry this is a bit of a whine, hubby is still out at the footy and I needed someone to "talk" to!
I don't think it's a whine at all. I think it's down-right serious!!! We've had ADHD discussions on this forum before (not saying that's the issue here -- just relating), and I know what's like to be "that kid" who learns differently or who is "slow". I had the second grade teacher who wrote "careless" on all of my homework assignments, which used to piss my mom right off.

You're right. It's not motivating. I can only imagine how your son must feel about his teacher, too. And I've heard horror stories from immigrants who grew up in CH who received half-assed or scornful treatment from their teachers because they weren't Swiss.

If I were a parent of a child to whom this was happening, I'd make a stink of it. A teacher is a manager of the classroom with the responsiblity to treat each child fairly and consistently. Sounds to me like she isn't doing her job.
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Old 08.12.2011, 17:08
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Re: My son & school (again!)

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Back in Philly.... I would tell that teacher to blow it out her <blank>

I would turn the issue around, and file complaints with the school about her treatment of your son, and failure to educate him effectively. "Ruin my day? I dont think so, I will ruin yours"
And does that help the child in any conceivable way or does it just make you feel better..?
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Old 08.12.2011, 22:04
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Re: My son & school (again!)

Just a quick "thanks" and update - didn't get time to come back til now.

So, spoken to the teacher today - my husband spoke to her on the phone - he's much better at this stuff than me - his German is better and he has just the right "level" attitude iykwim. We have to make an appointment to see her in person anyway.

So, gist of the conversation was that my sons only real problem is that he is slow. He really doesn't "disrupt" the class in any other way. He doesn't mess about or disturb other kids, he just can't be bothered to do the work and frequently says "I already know that" but then just doesn't do stuff.

This we actually already knew anyway - and the last time we met we had suggested a hundred ways in which she could help this situation (although even then I still think it ought to be her job to think of a few solutions for herself). So for example, we know that "beat the clock" or "finish it in 5 minutes and you can play on xyz game" works. But he has to be able to see the timer (or a sand clock) running down, otherwise he has no concept of time running out. Also subject matter is absolutely key for him. Set him a reading/writing task about thunderstorms or dinosaurs or volcanoes or antarctica and bingo - interested, paying attention, interacting. Set him a task about "Daisy goes to kindergarten and takes a ball in her bag" errr, no, bored. Copying letters over and over again. No not going to do that. We've told his teacher all this months ago - and more - that written instructions would help him to do tasks, lists and checkboxes also work really well - things he can tick off to show progress. Putting a sticker on a chart when you're done, having a competition with another kid, so many things. The other thing that really really makes a massive difference is saying things like "hey Jamie, well done, good try, brilliant!" He really needs praise to get stuff done - absolutely more than anything. So instead of saying "that's rubbish what you've done" you say "well I like what you did there, and that's a great start, now can I show you another way to do it, maybe you might find it easier".

And how come I know these things as a parent and yet this teacher can't think of anything like this at all?

Anyway, I have to go pick my Mum up from the airport so that's going to be a nice treat for the kids to have her here for the weekend. Our meeting is probably going to be on Tuesday so I'll post back after then.
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Old 08.12.2011, 22:09
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Re: My son & school (again!)

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Back in Philly.... I would tell that teacher to blow it out her <blank>

I would turn the issue around, and file complaints with the school about her treatment of your son, and failure to educate him effectively. "Ruin my day? I dont think so, I will ruin yours"
Tempting, but I fail to see how it would help the person who really matters here, the child.

Sorry Sandgrounder - had not read your post, oops.

Enjoy your mum's visit and hope all goes well on Tuesday. If you can find ways to work as a team- it is much better for all in the long run. Bonne chance.
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Old 08.12.2011, 22:20
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Re: My son & school (again!)

Just curious - how any children in the class? And is there an assistant, or just the teacher?
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Old 08.12.2011, 22:27
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Re: My son & school (again!)

There are teachers and then there are people who can inspire you to take an active interest in life, motivators if you like. I see too many teachers and not enough motivators here.

Switzerland loves conformity. Nurture and guide your kid and if the teacher is a conformist, change teachers or school. Kids don't tire of life, they lap it up and that's the way it should be.
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Old 08.12.2011, 22:47
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Re: My son & school (again!)

I started school when I was 4 - my mum used to teach at one school and the head of a nearby school said he had places in the infant class so I started going along. We learned to read using the Ladybird "Peter and Jane" books and by the time I was in the 2nd year infants we were doing simple sums, and I was reading and writing well enough.

When my mum went in maternity with my brother, I was moved to a school closer to where we lived - and they did reading using the "ITA" system but my parents insisted that as I was already reading proper books, I should stick to that.

This did not please the teacher (who was a bit of cow to be frank) and I always felt I got singled out for less favourable treatment than the other kids as a result. One example is she picked up (I think from the notes from the previous school) that being left handed, I had a habit of writing the number "3" back to front. So for maths lessons, my task was to write out a page of number "3"s - which took forever and I remember being labelled as somehow slow etc even though I was actually streets ahead of the other kids on other things.

Towards the end of that school year and into the next year, the other kids transferred from ITA to Ladybird, while at home I had actually read to nearly the end of the scheme. I remember the teacher on the first day of term asking what book I was on - all the other kids were on about 3a or 3b or so - and I said I was on 12c - which was true. I was never disruptive as in badly behaved but I remember never being terribly enthusiastic about being given things to do that I regarded too simple and therefore boring.

At the end of the day, modern schools are founded on principles that date back 200 years and they think they can be some kind of industrial factory that churns out people with qualifications at the end of 13 years or so. This means any child who in any way does not fit in to what is considered normal is going to be labelled as a failure or a troublemaker.

Yes, there are good teachers who have a passion for what they do and care about their pupils and the quality of what they teach, but with this emphasis on preparing kids for tests so the school looks good on the league table is not the way to educate people to take their place in the world.

Cheers,
Nick
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Old 09.12.2011, 09:05
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Re: My son & school (again!)

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And how come I know these things as a parent and yet this teacher can't think of anything like this at all?
I thought that those types of things were on the curricula when teachers went to get their educations and had to take child development classes and education curricula.
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Old 09.12.2011, 09:47
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Also subject matter is absolutely key for him. Set him a reading/writing task about thunderstorms or dinosaurs or volcanoes or antarctica and bingo - interested, paying attention, interacting. Set him a task about "Daisy goes to kindergarten and takes a ball in her bag" errr, no, bored. Copying letters over and over again. No not going to do that. We've told his teacher all this months ago - and more - that written instructions would help him to do tasks, lists and checkboxes also work really well - things he can tick off to show progress. Putting a sticker on a chart when you're done, having a competition with another kid, so many things. The other thing that really really makes a massive difference is saying things like "hey Jamie, well done, good try, brilliant!" He really needs praise to get stuff done - absolutely more than anything. So instead of saying "that's rubbish what you've done" you say "well I like what you did there, and that's a great start, now can I show you another way to do it, maybe you might find it easier".
I don't think this bit sets him apart from most kids, to be honest. I was a kid who was super interested in "interesting topics" such as anatomy (I could name all the bones in the body by the time I was nine ) or learning about how things like jet engines work or even learning rows and rows of multiplication tables - I was a weird child .

But the principle is the same - kids are only interested in what they're interested in and I think there's a lot of truth in saying a child's criticism is the harshest. If the teacher is using crap material (Daisy goes to Kindergarten with her ball) there is bound to be a good percentage of the class who aren't stimulated at all.

Kids are also pretty simplistic in how they see progress so the sticker chart or checkboxes sound quite a normal way of showing this, along with mountains of praise to keep them inspired.

If the teacher needs you to tell her this then I would be sending the teacher along to specialists rather than your son.
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Old 09.12.2011, 10:09
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Re: My son & school (again!)

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This we actually already knew anyway - and the last time we met we had suggested a hundred ways in which she could help this situation (although even then I still think it ought to be her job to think of a few solutions for herself). So for example, we know that "beat the clock" or "finish it in 5 minutes and you can play on xyz game" works. But he has to be able to see the timer (or a sand clock) running down, otherwise he has no concept of time running out. Also subject matter is absolutely key for him. Set him a reading/writing task about thunderstorms or dinosaurs or volcanoes or antarctica and bingo - interested, paying attention, interacting. Set him a task about "Daisy goes to kindergarten and takes a ball in her bag" errr, no, bored. Copying letters over and over again. No not going to do that. We've told his teacher all this months ago - and more - that written instructions would help him to do tasks, lists and checkboxes also work really well - things he can tick off to show progress. Putting a sticker on a chart when you're done, having a competition with another kid, so many things. The other thing that really really makes a massive difference is saying things like "hey Jamie, well done, good try, brilliant!" He really needs praise to get stuff done - absolutely more than anything. So instead of saying "that's rubbish what you've done" you say "well I like what you did there, and that's a great start, now can I show you another way to do it, maybe you might find it easier".
I don't know if this will help much, but as others have said, it is a bit of clash of cultures and his ability to 'conform' rather than stand out as the exception that I think is the real issue. As you have outlined above, everything there is something that indeed will require him being treated differently or in a special way compared to the others.

The swiss system has little place, or does not reward those that stand apart. Further, I think this teacher is likely trying to re-inforce what it will be like for him in the next 12 years or so if he stays in the swiss system, ie. yes he will have to work on subject matters that do not interest him, there will be things that bore him or are lower than his abilities, yet he will have to deal with them at age 10 as well as age 15, etc... so I think her point is that it is better to nip it in the bud now at age 7, or it may never be dealt with or confronted. In that sense, I would applaud her.

Basically, I think it is a cultural thing. You reward him or motivate him based on your cultural background that works in a different way, ie. praise for doing a good job or effort, which may be the opposite in school. While this may not be changed, it may be necessary to adapt to different methods in school, which at a minimum need some understanding and support in the home environment.
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Old 09.12.2011, 10:12
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Re: My son & school (again!)

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yes he will have to work on subject matters that do not interest him, there will be things that bore him or are lower than his abilities
If that doesn't prepare him for adult reality, I don't know what will.
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Old 09.12.2011, 18:17
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Re: My son & school (again!)

I do appreciate all your comments I really do. I don't want to go in all guns blazing with the teacher, that's not our intention although I am going to tell her she has to stop saying some of the things she says to him like "you are slow" (which she does a lot according to my son) because it then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Mostly I am disappointed in her lack of suggestions or solutions. Her only real strategy at the moment seems to be excluding my son as much as possible so she can "get on" with things with the other kids.

I suppose the thing is that my son is an individual - he's quite quirky and funny and a bit off the wall sometimes - and it's one of the things I really love about him (obviously I love him anyway!) He loves to investigate things and read fact books. And yes, at the moment one of his favourite topics is how the body works. I've taught him all kinds of maths myself - we did fractions and graphs over dinner the other day and he is absolutely entranced by that stuff. Of course I myself am a total maths geek and there's nothing I enjoy more than explaining fractions to a 7 year old and finding he loves it too . But my point is, all it takes is an enthusiastic teacher to get through to him.

It's true that everyone needs to learn that sometimes we have to do boring stuff we don't like - I hated some subjects at school too but there has to be a balance otherwise why would anyone want to go? Who wants to do something boring day in day out? And at age 7 I do really expect the boring stuff to be minimal and there should be a lot more fun learning topics.

My son does an English reading/writing class for 2 hours in the week too and the difference between the feedback from the teacher there and his class teacher is so vast it's like they are talking about 2 different kids. But his English teacher is really the diametric opposite of his class teacher. She smiles the whole time - and laughs - she makes jokes and rhymes and makes up weird and wonderful stories with the kids. She knows that small boys coming to class when ManU is playing Basel are going to want to talk about the game - so instead of telling them not to she makes up a lesson plan to include the topic. Isn't that great? And yes, she has a smaller class - but there are still 15 kids and she has a short time to get across a lot of material. And she says to me what a great job my son did in class today, what a great imagination he has and how he knows some amazing things and she enjoys having him in the class because he "brings something special".

Anyway, as I said, we have a meeting on Tuesday so we'll see how it goes. I'm not feeling too hopeful to be honest but I am open minded and this is one time when I would be very happy to be proved wrong and for the teacher to come up with some positive strategy to solve some issues.
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Old 09.12.2011, 21:27
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Re: My son & school (again!)

Hi Wattsli,
A good friend of mine had similar problems with her son. She took him to be tested to this place http://www.praxis-lichtblick.ch/de/
She was so glad they did this. It helped them to figure out where they stand and what they have to do to support and motivate their son. I believe they also get involved with the school or teacher. Anyways it was a very positive experience for them all.
Best of luck to you and your son.
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Old 10.12.2011, 00:09
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Re: My son & school (again!)

I feel for you, as I know only too well what it is to have children who do not fit in the norm.

Some great and sensible advice here, and oh how I understand your comment about the English class feedback. Had the same thing with our eldest (from the same English class teacher too I think!) but I can tell you that references to other classrooms in front of the teacher we were experiencing difficulties with, did not go down well. So use that comparison carefully!

One thing did occur to me, do you think you may be subconsciously undermining the teacher and the classroom methods with your son? Either by discussing the issue when he is in earshot (ie not asleep upstairs in bed) or even when you explain other things to him like the fractions, do you think he may be picking up the message sublimily that what he is doing in school is a bit, well, pants? Just a thought.

Hope it goes well at your meeting. E.
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