Friday, April 30, 2010

Communicating with Parents

***I wrote most of this back in Oct and I been a little hesitant to post this. I had a week last week and thought this would be a good topic to revisit. I want to say right off , I think Teacher's have the hardest job and I really appreciate them. Kids with difficult behaviors stretch parents to the limit and Teacher's too. School systems aren't really set up to handle difficult kids. I admit 100% that I haven't been the best communicator due to the circumstances. This is just a little bit of my experiences and I hope it helps a parent out there.

I think the title of this post should be "How teachers/administrators/specialists can do a better job of communicating with parents of a child with difficult behaviors." I am having a huge communication break down with one of my son's school which is actually led me down a path I really don't want to go. I am really really going try this week to be a better communicator with them and see if we can work together for my student.

Things that get my panties in a wad

The Number 1 thing that makes me not want to communicate with school is if I go to a meeting to talk about my child and I am ambushed. People are invited that I didn't know were going to be there. I cannot count the number of times I have gone to a meeting to JUST talk to the teacher and an administrator, counselor, resource room teacher,principal have also shown up. I don't mind going to meetings if I know they are going to be there. It really creates a parent versus the school mentality.

Don't tell me a misdeed days after it happened. This really torks me off. I can't perform damage control if I don't have the information. My kid certainly is not going tell me he messed up. He is a kid. I REALLY DISLIKE getting a principal referral slip in the mail on a Saturday when I can't speak to anyone about it. Especially when I am there every day after school even on the day that the student was sent to the Principal's office.

Don't hide the misdeed from me. I will find out usually from the most busy body parent.

Failure to document the misdeed. I always find this funny as school are notorious for generating lots and lots of paperwork. I need to know how it all went down. I actually need to know who is at fault. Especially if your student has perception problems about the event in question.

I really hate suggestions where you don't have to do anything. Right up there is having conference after conference just to cover your butt. Talk is cheap.

I don't need the teacher, the aide, the administrator, janitor, school secretary, other parents all telling me that my student messed up. I usually get the first message. I am really good like that. On the same spectrum, my child doesn't need his misdeed broadcast all over the school. My student is already an outcast and doesn't need really need to add public embarrassment to that as well.

Please don't have a behavior notebook that only documents negative behaviors. I am pretty sure parents with kids that have difficult behaviors think they have failed. This is a feeling that I deal with on a regular basis. I know that isn't true but hearing constant negative things about your child really can wear on you. Especially if the feedback every single day is something negative. I have a 3rd grade notebook that pretty much documents my son's year in hell (well, that is how it looks in that notebook anyway.) There is really no support system for a parent who has a child who is constantly misbehaving.

I hate the question, " Do you have any ideas on how we can stop (insert behavior)?" No, I don't have the magic answer. I don't think there is a parent in the world who wants their kid to misbehave at school. I think bad behavior is rarely so black and white as to say if you do this, this won't happen. Help is rarely on the way. Behaviors rarely change overnight even with good intervention. Changing negative behaviors takes time. Though I always imagine a Knight on a white horse showing up with the answer. Believe me if I could find a way to prevent every bad and negative behavior I would be a millionaire.

Things that really work in communicating with parents (In my humble parenting opinion)

A drag sheet or point sheet that has to be signed daily with negative and positive comments. Yes, even in the worst situation we can find a positive comment to make about a child. Sometimes it is the little victories that add up. Kids with difficult behaviors also usually have pretty low self esteem. Below is one of my children's point sheet. I really like this format because I can also comment back and I know when the event happened if the Teacher didn't comment. The headings at the top are Staying on task, Following Directions, Interacting appropriately with others, personal goal, homework, bonus points, comments and initials. I don't have an example to show but I have received sheets that have had bonus points and negative points in the same day.

Documentation would be nice of when, where, and how the bad behavior happened (the experts I have to share information with need this - Is medication wearing off at a certain time? Is PE causing anxiety? etc) A lot of time behaviors are about patterns and triggers and if we study the patterns we can alter the behavior. I have had to talk to lots of experts and I really really don't think Teacher's understand how important it is to share the patterns if any of them exist. I can't tell you HOW many times I have been asked does always happen during this part of the day or during reading . OR do you know what happened before that? I don't spend the majority of day with my student so I really can't share this information. I know this puts a unfair burden on Teachers but documentation is really worth it.

It really important to give parents a safe place to share information/comment either in email,note or on drag sheets/point sheets. Sometimes parents need to share information without being judged on their parenting skills. As you can see on the point sheet above, I commented back to the Teacher. With this teacher, I either comment on the point sheet or email when questions or situations arise.

Parents need to be clear on the communication expectations(are we doing daily reports/weekly reports) and getting all the information. The nature of bad behaviors seem to indicate that kids aren't the best reporters on their behavior.

My kid is high maintenance. I will be less high maintenance if I have information.

It is really hard as a parent to hear bad things about your child. Sometimes it is just too much information and things get lost in translation. Really speak directly and specifically about what you need that parent to do and what steps the child needs to take to rectify the situation. It is just like my Mama use to say, "It isn't what you say but how you say it."

Things Parents can do to improve communication

Be respectful - It is too easy to fly off the handle when you already in the pressure cooker with this kid. Realize that bad behavior is just bad behavior not a bad kid. Don't make yourself the reason the lines of communication shut down. It is not the teacher's fault your child is behaving badly. In other words, "Don't kill the messenger."

Check in often with the teacher. You don't need to be a pest but know what is happening in that classroom. Never ASSUME that all is well. Boy, don't I know that one.

You are your child's best advocate. You know them the best. However, that doesn't give you permission not to hear negative things.

Make sure you share the positive things that are happening for your child.

It is not the Teacher's job to provide therapy for you or your child. Teacher's have a really hard job and don't get paid nearly enough for that. Seeking professional help for your child is not a sign of weakness it is being a good advocate for your kid.

**I read somewhere that school is the worst place for ADHD/ADD child to be. I have to agree.

My other ADHD posts are here and here

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fun with the Fuzz

This morning, we did the Fun with Fuzz 5K. The entire family went plus Nonna and Pappy. They said that they had 650 registered participants and raised about $13,000. The money goes to support fallen Police Officer's families as part of the Behind the Badge Foundation. We got a wheel chair and wheeled Pappy through most of the race. We were part of the walkers of the race.
He did do quite a bit of walking but I don't have a picture. We did the 5K in about 1 hour. We weren't the last one's in. It didn't rain during the race but it poured before and after. I was so glad it wasn't pouring during the race.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Would You Rather

Would you rather live on a meteroid or a floaty platform in Space? - Question from #1 Son

It has been quite the week. On Monday there are so many things I would have rather done. The meteroid and the floaty platform both seem like good options to me. I received so much parenting information on Monday. I really can't process it all. Parts of my Monday seem very surreal. Have you ever been somewhere and wondered how the heck you got there?

I started my day watching kids that was good. I took my youngest to the Developmental Pediatrician at the Health Department. There I quite possibly talked to the fastest talking Pediatrician in the West. He was very thorough and I can't possibly take it all in even though I received some brief notes from the Nurse Practitioner. It was validating but also very overwhelming.

After School, I went to a Title One Reading Party which was less like a party and more like a music and literacy presentation. It was good information but wow, the noise.

Lastly, I went to Parent Orientation for Middle School. Wow, Junior High/Middle School really hasn't changed. I felt old. I don't know if I am ready for this let alone my child . Because of this child's different ablities there is whole lot of things to mull over and because the information was very generalized (which it should be). I left feeling quite a bit underwhelmed because I really don't have all the clues on how this is going to work for this particular child. Patience isn't a virtue that I seem to have a great abudance of lately.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Putting a little love into Garage Cleaning

Yesterday, we spent the morning cleaning out our garage. It seems to be a spring rite of passage. We found a stain that was shaped like a heart that led to Chuckles writing with chalk several declarations.

Who knew garage cleaning could be filled with so much love?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bookng It - Book Club Selection

Why do you lie to me?

I always thought I told the truth.

Why did you lie to me?

Because the truth lies like nothing else and I love the truth.

Mark Strand, "Elegy for My Father"

For our book club, we read for March the book "Old School" by Tobias Wolff. This book was the chosen book for Whatcom Reads this year. The book is about a Prep School Student who plagiarized another student's work for a literary contest. The book is set in the 1960's. Most of us agreed that we wouldn't have picked out "Old School" on own. There was only 1 who really enjoyed the book. Out of 6 participants only 4 read the entire 197 pages but everyone had read most of it. The book did generate a whole lot of discussion. It was perhaps the most spirited discussion we had yet. We used the discussion questions found here. The above quotation is the dedication to the book that I failed to read until the discussion. If you read the book with this quote in mind, it really changes your perception of the events. Check out Life as a Mom and all the other Mom's Booking It 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The US Mint

We visited the US Mint in Denver during Spring Break. We tried last summer but were unable to get a reservation. This time I planned ahead and got a reservation. If you just show up, you can try to get a spot on a tour as a stand by. None of us had ever visited the US Mint.

There are no pictures because the Mint doesn't allow you to take pictures inside. There are no pictures outside because basically you walk almost naked inside the Mint. We left everything we could in the car trunk. You are allowed a very small wallet and all batteries from cell phones had to be removed. You have to walk through a metal detector and I thought the screening was more thorough than the airport.

While we were there no coins were being made. They were at lunch. There were plenty of displays to look at as well as guide to lead you through the various rooms that looked into the production areas. The Guide was very informative and really pretty funny.

Coins are the only thing made at the US Mint. I guess I thought paper money was made there as well. The Denver Mint also hold as small portion of the gold reserves - 14%. We didn't get to see the gold. The new pennies that are being minted could take up to 6 months for the average consumer to see depending on the economy. The newest Lincoln Penny to come out is called "Preserving the Union." The US Mint is also one the Departments of the Federal Government that actually makes money. They sell the coins to the Federal Reserve which buys them at face value but it cost the Mint very little to make the quarter, dime, half dollar, and dollar coins. So the Mint makes a profit. Isn't that interesting?

My kids are still talking about the tour especially about how the mint has never been broken into but there is a robbery called the Great Mint Robbery that happened on the US Mint steps but no coins were stolen only paper money from the Federal Reserve. We had talked about the pennies that depicted Lincoln's life - Lincoln's birth, Lincoln's Youth, Lincoln's Career, and Lincoln's Presidency. So my kids are really interested at looking at the coins.

They have a nice gift shop. The jewelry made out of coins really caught my eye. I love that you can see the actual coin image in the back of the piece. The jewelry was out of my price range but really cool.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Break Recap

We spent Easter and the following week in Loveland, Colorado. We had a really good time at my parent's house. Chuckle's was thrilled to spend time with his cousins and I love hanging out with my parents. #1 Son loves to travel and the Giant Man Child got a vacation, too.

Some of the things we did were-

My hubby decided he was old as we couldn't find 1 of the Easter Eggs he had hid. He couldn't remember were he hid it. LOL

We ate a very delicious Easter Dinner with my 1st grade Teacher. We sat and talked and laughed for over 4 hours.

I got to harass my older Nephew. (not pictured) We got to see his skater look. Did I mention I harassed him every opportunity?

Chuckles, Grandma, and I got to see my nephew in his play. It was so sweet. It was fractured fairy tales.

We visited the US Mint in Denver (Post to follow)

We visited the Forney Museum (Post to follow)

The Giant Man Child won $11 on a Colorado scratch ticket. I lost a dollar.

We visited 3 thrift stores, 2 pawn shops, 1 garage sale, and 1 flea market and all we have to show for it was 2 juice glasses and 1 Nancy Drew Book.

We enjoyed some snow. I don't think we remember what that looked like. In Washington we have been having such a mild winter. The good news is the snow melted by the afternoon.

We got to visit Rocky Mountain Park and see it all in it's winter beauty. It looks so different during the winter. We managed to see some Elk and Mule Deer.

We got to go to my Nephew's Art Show. There was some pretty amazing stuff including his stuff.

This is just a glimpse into our trip.

It's Monday

I'm trying to get back into the swing of things. Spring Break was fabulous but it is time to get back into the non vacation mode if you know what I mean. I have a couple of spring break posts coming. I know you can't wait. I have about a zillion photos to down load.

I want to give a shout out to my Sister, the Polyester Princess, and my Nephew - Happy Birthday!!!

It is also National Licorice Day so I made sure that the kids had lots of red food dye. What is back to school without a little red food dye?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Break

Long time no post. We are currently on Spring Break. It was about time as all of us have Spring Fever. At our current vacation location, we have snow right now but we had been enjoying some sun. I can't wait to post all about it next week.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Vignette

OK, I love candlesticks. I like to use them for everything but candles. I am weird like that. I usually put plastic eggs sitting on top of candlesticks but this year my thrifting buddy, Mrs Epi, found these cool ceramic eggs at VV, value village. For $2.99, I couldn't resist. We found these right before Christmas and I have been dying to get them out. The eggs didn't balance the greatest on the candlestick holders so I have been using Clear Mounting Squares by Scotch to help hold them in the candlestick holders. I know that is not it's intended purpose but it is working and you can't see the adhesive.

No, I am not a spokesperson for Scotch but the Removable Clear Mounting Squares rock. For the final touch, I added the pipe cleaner wreath.
Talking about outstanding egg displays you've got to check out Eddie Ross and his Easter Table Display. If that isn't inspiring I don't know what is. You are amazing Eddie Ross!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Banana Farm

I have a confession. I have a banana farm in my freezer. The picture above is short about 6 bananas. My kids love bananas but we can't seem to eat them fast enough before they become overly ripe. I just freeze them in their skin. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem,right. Here is my go to recipe lately for banana bread. I got it from an Albertson Ad and Albies got it from Dole.

Banana Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup margarine, softened

3/4 cups packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 medium, ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup chopped almonds or walnuts, toasted

1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl; set aside

2. Beat margarine and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. beat in eggs. Beat in banana, sour cream and vanilla until just blended. Add in Flour mixture; beat until just blended. Stir in nuts.

3. Pour into 9x5 inch baking pan sprayed with vegetable cooking spray.

4. Bake at 350F, 55 to 65 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes.