A great teacher. Really great. Too great?

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Rolzup
Snowy Owl
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28 Sep 2012, 3:47 pm

I had a brief talk with Eldest's teacher this morning. He's doing fantastic, she tells me. Top of the class in math and reading, and while his handwriting is awful (bad enough, as a third grader, that Eldest himself has trouble reading it), she's not concerned. He reads his illegible answers to her, and has demonstrated that he knows the material.

They started cursive this week, and while his script is still really bad...so is everyone else's at this point. And it's substantially more legible than his printing.

(She also told me that his writing is a lot better when he writes small. Much like me, who's handwriting is ridiculously tiny.)

He's even helping other kids in the class, she told me, when they have trouble with their math. And she doesn't hesitate to praise him -- Eldest has been saying that she told him that did better than anyone in his class, or last years class, on their math evaluation.

Past few days he's even been coming home without homework, because he's been finishing it in school. Today, he finished early enough that he was able to go on the computer in class.

This same homework takes him an hour or two at home, with much moaning wailing, and gnashing of teeth. He spends each morning telling me how much he hates school because of "all the writing", in fact.

Is it really terrible for me to wonder if his teacher is going a little too easy on him? It's just that she's so...great with him. Her only complaint is that he calls out in class too much, and they're working on that.

Actually, it is terrible. Maybe I'm having trouble with his being so difficult at home (Everything is a battle! Tantrums are a daily occurence!) and such a perfect angel at school.



audball
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28 Sep 2012, 4:01 pm

This is completely anecdotal, but from my experience, it seems that kids who do really well at school, often have more meltdowns/flare-ups at home. We were the opposite (DD had a hard time in school, but was fantastic at home). I think, for some kids, the pressure to be "on top of things" at school becomes overwhelming and there needs to be a release - usually this happens at home. Home is a sanctuary for many kids on the spectrum. It's the place where one can "let it all hang out" and relax. Sometimes, it means that all the tension that has been buried deep in school comes out from lurking :(.

I think it's fantastic that your DS is doing so well in school! If you are concerned that the teacher is being easy on him, just ask for a quick conference to confer about his work or even ask for a copy of what he has done. If he has done so well, it shouldn't be difficult for his teacher to show you lots of evidence of his school work. If he seems to be completing his work at school with no fuss, maybe he should continue to do his homework there -- it's not like it's not getting done. Perhaps he enjoys the rhythm of school more and it's more conducive to being productive. Maybe the tight schedule is soothing for him, where at home he has too many distractions…

If the writing piece of his homework is the worst of it, perhaps he is having a hard time getting started. My DD needed some scaffolding to help her bring out her compositions. Once I helped her outline the structure of her writing, it went much smoother. Also, while she doesn't really struggle with fine motor skills, she spent an awful lot of time making "perfect letters" which created an even longer homework time. Once I scribed for her (with the teacher's permission), she seriously did a week's worth of homework in 40 minutes - tops! Her IEP had her opt out of handwriting and she used the same time to improve her keyboarding skills. Each child is different, so perhaps your DS is happy with the cursive. I wouldn't change anything if he is happy with it.

And I can tell you, as the person who has experienced the "flip side" of your son's situation, it's not that fun having your child act up at school and be an "angel" (or close to it!) at home. I love my DD with all my heart but she acted out so much (for her) in school. We homeschool now and all these issues are gone, but I don't think you want to wish for the opposite - at all! LOL! :D



Bombaloo
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28 Sep 2012, 8:55 pm

I hear ya. DS's first year at preschool was tough then the second year seemed to go too smoothly. The teacher in the second year kept telling me everything was fine, no meltdowns at school, he was participating, everything seemed to be going fine. Then Kindergarten hits and nothing was working. It made me really look back at that teacher who kept telling me everything was fine and wonder what really happened that whole year. I have come to believe that the teacher shielded him from any difficult interactions with peers and generally had very few expectations for him.

I guess I just share this to say that your instinct that things may be going "too well" could be right. It is worth keeping an eye on if he is meeting his academic and other goals. Even though a teacher can have the best of intentions, taking it too easy on a kid has its own drawbacks.



zette
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29 Sep 2012, 7:49 am

I've found that teachers want to accentuate the positive, and a few leading questions get them to open up. A recent conversation went like this:

"Great day today!"
"That's great. Did he go to his break room at all today?"
"There was one little incident, but it was over within 20 minutes."
"Oh, was he able to take himself to the break room?"
"No...he was throwing things, and I had to call two people to assist the class. I picked him up and carried him to the break room. I think he really needed the deep pressure, because he clung to me like a monkey. But the rest of the day was great -- he even did two worksheets with me!"

And I'll never forget the time I asked how it was going shortly after we started medication:
"We started ADHD medication on Saturday. Have you noticed any change?"
"It's a definite improvement. He only hid under his desk ONCE today!" (I had not heard previously that he was hiding under his desk at all!)

In your case I'd ask for tips on how she gets him to write, since it is such a struggle at home. I'd also ask if he is completing the same amount of work as the rest of the class, or if she is shortening it to accomodate to his writing difficulties.



ScottAllen
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29 Sep 2012, 1:25 pm

Ask to see his handwriting work. Is he getting it done? If you have a friend with a child at the same grade level, you could compare work. Sometimes they keep it together behaviorally during the school day, and then then have to get rid of it when they get hom. Then teachers aren't exactly honest about their behaviors. Some of that is because certain behaviors are within their "normal" range, but it can also be that the teacher is playing down a lot of problem issues. You might try observing the classroom.

My son was hyperlexic, and very advanced academically early on, and schools/teachers pretty much took the stance that since he was above grade level, they didn't have to teach him anything. They gave him grade level work that he had already mastered. Also, his behavior issues weren't triggered due to easy work, and thus weren't addressed in school. With handwriting, he started writing letters obsessively at age 3, and their handwriting standards for boys is very low. Schools are looking for minimum grade level handwriting skills, so 'at grade level' could very well be that the child's handwriting is a year below that of an neurotypical student with good parents.



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29 Sep 2012, 7:59 pm

Well, the right teacher can make a HUGE difference. My son was lucky enough to have the World's Best Teacher for 3rd and 4th grades. Seriously. The woman was a miracle worker. For two whole years, I got next to no reports from school about his behavior and his grades were decent and there was no arguing about homework and studying. 2nd and 5th grades were like book ends. It wasn't that he had "bad" teachers (well, the 2nd grade one might have been more on the bad end), but they just didn't get him the way his 3rd/4th grade teacher did. She just "got" him. So she was able to bring out the very best in him. She recognized his deficits and his strengths and was somehow able to manipulate his strengths to make up for his deficits. If I could afford it, I would pay her to school my son until he graduates! :)

My daughter is also doing better this year. I do not find it surprising that her teacher used to be a spec ed teacher. I am sure she sees things and appropriately intervenes before they become issues that mainstream teachers do not see.

Was the "Math evaluation" a standardized test? If so, I'd ask to see his score. That would help you gauge whether or not he is doing as well as he seems to be.


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Mama_to_Grace
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29 Sep 2012, 8:34 pm

My daughter's teacher two years ago was very much like you describe. She went easy on my daughter, praised all she did, helped her a lot even assisted her with work (she would always note at the top of the page when she assisted), and even curved her grades. She did all this to get my daughter's trust and comfort and to build confidence, she told me. It worked brilliantly. My daughter grew to love and trust the teacher and worked hard to please her. I would go along with your son's teacher for now. I think she probably is doing something similar.