Thursday, May 8, 2008

Just about to leap

I spent a long time on the phone with my friend J (sometimes known as Mrs. Unfocused. Eventually she will pick her own pseudonym and join us here) talking about our gifted kids and schools and a few other things. It helped a lot to talk to someone else who both knows AJ and understands the situation from her own personal experience. I'll let her tell you about her challenges with finding the right classroom for her daughter, because I know she wants to. But thanks for letting me bend your ear, J!

After reading all of your thoughtful comments and talking to J, I was feeling a little more clearheaded about what I need to do and the order in which I need to do it.

1. Email AJ's teacher to ask for her thoughts on approaching the school. I hope to do this this afternoon, or possibly tomorrow. But I was volunteering in the classroom today, so today would be a good day.

2. Have AJ tested. This is taking place a week from Saturday. We will receive a verbal assessment immediately following AJ's evaluation. This is not a full IQ test, but the results should still be something that can support our case. AJ's kind of excited about this, which is great.

3. Meet with the school principal. I plan to approach this as an informational/brainstorming meeting about AJ's Specific Needs request for next year and how it will be implemented and what I can do to help. I will also ask about class size and the teacher search. I would be interested in having the gifted teacher in on this meeting as well, but I think the principal is the one who needs to make that suggestion. If he doesn't, I'll meet with her separately. But one of the things I will ask for in the case of giant classrooms is one-on-one meetings with the gifted teacher. This is something that school policy currently doesn't permit for second graders, but it should be a low-cost way to help us in the event that the district doesn't come through with the extra teacher, which currently seems likely.

4. Meet with the gifted teacher to talk about continuity in AJ's curriculum. I think she's been providing great materials for AJ this year, but the things he does don't really constitute a curriculum -- they're not organized toward overall learning goals. But for AJ, they are largely standing in for a curriculum that is completely unsuitable for him. So I'd like to set some goals for him to accomplish and see if the gifted teacher can help us figure out how to make them work. I'm hoping she'll be able to be an advocate for him with his teacher next year, whoever that may be.

I hope to accomplish all of these things within the next 2-3 weeks. At the same time, I will be looking into state regulations and options and district history and I'm going to try to figure out how lobbying gets done. I'm not entirely sure who is in charge of what -- how is decision-making divided between the school board, district administration, and the individual school? I know the superintendent of the school district -- he was AJ's principal last year. Should I be trying to get in touch with him? And also, I'm going to be talking to people I know who teach at other schools in the district to see if I can find out what other people in the are doing.

I feel better having some plans in place. And I feel better after talking with J about keeping AJ in his current school despite all that's going on. Because the fact is, socially he is happy there. And for many if not most gifted kids, the social aspect of school is a crucial part of the picture, even if some of the other stuff isn't going right. I've also been impressed lately at how AJ gets himself through the mundane tasks and finds way to make them more interesting. For example, earlier this week he brought home a worksheet with a partially filled grid of numbers from 100-200. He was supposed to fill them in. Rather than writing them in order (101...102...103...snore), he filled in numbers randomly, picking a box and writing the number in. After he tired of that, he asked me to time him to see how fast he could finish the worksheet. This latter idea was probably not great for his handwriting, but it kept him engaged and that's really all I can ask.


Anonymous said...

Harriet - what happens next will depend VERY much upon the bureaucrats. We were offered "extra reading once a week." Don't leave out the private school option - you might get lucky and there are scholarships.

No Child Left Behind - you can't leave anyone behind if you never go anywhere.

re: testing - drop me a line if you'd like more info.


Harriet said...

Lemming, I've got all the information. I'm not ruling it out completely, but it seems like a long shot. Also, I want to try the public school route first. Fundamentally, I believe in the public school project. I won't let it take my kid down, but I want to do what I can to try to fix it. I would love to hear more about testing. I'll try to shoot you an email later tonight. Or, if you feel at all inclined to post here, I can set you up. I'd love to have your contribution.

FreshHell said...

It also sounds like it may be this upcoming year that could be problematic. That, starting in 3rd grade, a lot could change. So, yeah, yanking him out for a year may not be in anyone's best interest if it can be avoided.

Harriet said...

Yes, freshhell, that's exactly it, although I suspect that if they allow the overcrowded classes this year, that it will continue into third grade. But I also think there's a good chance we won't be here in a year (at least I hope so -- I'd like to be employed somewhere). And I've been thinking about the private school thing too and wondering if we are going to spend money on that, what is to keep me from homeschooling him by taking him on the road? What if we moved in with my brother in Thailand for a month (not that I know if he'd want us around for that long or that I've mentioned this to him) and travelled with AJ in Asia? I don't think it would be any more expensive and would, in all likelihood, be less than private school. And wouldn't that be an interesting way to get an education? Or travelled to my parents house and studied oceanography in an actual ocean? Or went to their other house and studied the desert and dinosaurs from fossils? I mean for us, private school is a crazy thought. So if you're thinking crazy thoughts, why not get really crazy?

FreshHell said...

Sounds like a wonderful opportunity. Is your brother in Thailand permanently or is this a temporary thing because if its the latter, I'd seize the opportunity while you can. He's old enough to really get something out of it and remember it. A lot of private schools offer really good scholarship packages but I share your reticence there. The traveling sounds great. But, eventually he'll miss his friends. What to do, what to do. I'm making myself crazy over Dusty's student placement survey I rec'd yesterday. I can't ask for a particular teacher (not that I know anything about them) but I'm struggling with the best way to describe her and her needs. Sigh.

Harriet said...

Nothing much is permanent with my brother. It's hard to say how long they'll be there. Maybe the thing to do is keep him in public school and yank him out for a good long vacation in the middle of it. Something to think about anyway.