Monday, July 21, 2008

Out of the frying pan

Amazingly, school starts in just over a month. AJ is ready. He printed out his school supply list yesterday and we went to buy his supplies. AJ loves school supplies, but he especially loves them in a huge pile waiting for the start of school. He was disappointed that the school has specified notebooks and folders without pictures on them this year, but he was won over by the fact that he gets his very own ruler and, finally, scissors with pointy ends.

One of the items on the list was flash cards of addition and subtraction facts. AJ looked skeptical. "We don't need those, do we, Mommy?" And I hesitated, because I want AJ to understand that there are some things he will need to do with the rest of the class even if they are easy for him. I want him to have respect for his teacher and the rules he or she will set in the classroom. At the same time, I want to teach him to stand up for himself and what he needs to do in a way that isn't just bragging. It's a hard line to walk with a seven-year-old. Seven-year-olds are not inherently tuned into nuance. But the cards were not inexpensive and frankly, AJ can add faster and more accurately in his head than I can. He already knows these facts by heart. So I really didn't see the point.

"I'm not sure, AJ. It says here, though, that these are for use at home. So maybe we'll check with your teacher after we know who it is. And it doesn't hurt to practice even the things you already know sometimes, to make sure you're paying attention."

This might actually be an argument to pick up the flash cards. When things are easy for AJ, he rushes and sometimes misses key details, like whether it's an addition or a subtraction problem.

But the flashcards are now another thing to add to my list of things to talk to the school about. And the question at the store reminded me that I needed to write up something for the school so that we can have that meeting we've been planning with us, the gifted teacher, the new classroom teacher, and maybe his fabulous last year's teacher and possibly the principal.

Last week, I heard from the mother of one of AJ's friends and my partner in gifted advocacy, that the class lists had been drawn up. She's a former teacher so she has some inside contacts. She only knew where her son had ended up and that, since they've decided to loop his class, AJ probably won't be in the same class, although that is not definite. The school won't announce the lists until the week before school, a policy I'm pretty sure has arisen because of parents badgering the school for classroom changes. But if they know the class lists, I may be able to arrange an earlier meeting than we'd thought. It's at least worth an email to the principal to see.

I didn't really have a plan when I sat down to write, but I ended up with a five-page draft of a document that summarized AJ's interests and abilities and his participation in extra-curricular gifted programs this summer. I included a summary of test scores and will attach copies of documentation, and I outlined the curriculum modifications that were used last year. The second half of the document I laid out as the opening to a discussion on establishing concrete educational goals for him this year, along with some of the things I've been thinking about. I was careful to say that while these were things that were on my mind, that any actual plan would need to be a collaboration between us, the teacher and the gifted teacher. Although I was extremely diplomatic, I'm not sure that everyone would receive it well. My intention is to help bring the new classroom teacher up to speed, not to take over, and also to begin the conversation that needs to happen in order to establish individual educational goals for AJ this year. But the fact is, that some people might be threatened by my proposal of involvement. I don't want to come across as if I'm telling the teacher what to do, but as a concerned parent who wants to help. I'm going to sit on this for a few days and see what will happen. In the mean time, I will draft an email to the school's principal to start the ball rolling. Wish us luck.