Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I am feeling a little more rational about everything today (or perhaps I have just temporarily channeled my irrationality towards the government for making the annual filing of taxes so arduous and incomprehensible). Those of you who have commented and emailed have all helped immensely. This post will address your comments and finish with a plan of action.

My Kids Mom asked about the possibility of the school retesting. I'm not yet sure what the answer to that is. The classroom teacher says that they will retest. She thought they'd retest before the next official spring testing period, but she wasn't sure. She was, however, reasonably sure that they would not retest before the start of the next school year, which, in my opinion, is too late. I'm also skeptical of retaking a test that didn't work the first time. But in that regard, we'll do what we have to.

Jill and Eleanor, I agree that some gifted programs are largely a waste of time. However, so is the regular curriculum a waste of time for AJ. Some gifted programs are better than others and I'm not at all sure that a pull out program is the best way to go. However, in my own personal experience, pull out programs -- even bad ones -- kept me from total school shutdown on more than one occasion. I wouldn't have survived the second grade without one. AJ has been getting a great deal of curriculum intervention in the classroom for the last three years. That may not continue at the same level once he hits third grade and there is a policy for gifted students that doesn't accommodate him. That would be deadly for AJ, who is already struggling with boredom-related behavior issues. Moreover, while the school should be looking for ways to include AJ, there are a couple of reasons why they might not be. The first is practical -- it is an underfunded, overcrowded school in a semi-rural, largely blue collar area with a huge ESL population. They are looking for ways to cut down on programs, not expand them. The second is that I think AJ doesn't fit their idea of a gifted kid. As Siren said, his brain is wired differently. He doesn't necessarily do better at classroom work than his peers. It depends on what it is and whether he thinks it's important. And like many very gifted kids, he is a pattern seeker and often sees options others don't. This means he doesn't perform as well on multiple choice tests as you might expect. He doesn't know how to sift through the many options that sound correct to him and figure out what the test is likely to be looking for.

If he's not a good fit with their idea of gifted, does it matter if he isn't in the program? Maybe it's for the best. But there are several reasons why I think it is still important that he be included in the school's gifted program.

1. As Jeanne mentioned, identification is important. It sticks with a kid through school. He can get into the program later, but it would be better and easier for him to get in sooner and stay there. Regardless of the nature of the program, identification keeps doors open for him.

2. Self-esteem. Readersguide put this well in her comments. He is used to thinking of himself as gifted, as "the smart kid." And while he is very ambivalent about the label, there is no question that being in the gifted cluster class without being in the gifted program would negatively affect his self-esteem.

3. Peer contact. The gifted pull-out sessions is the only time AJ would be able to be in a group with other gifted kids. It's something he looks for and doesn't get nearly often enough. When we were on vacation and met a friend's daughter, he asked later, "Is she gifted? Because she seems like she would be gifted." And I had to agree. As Siren put it on the phone yesterday, "smart people can smell other smart people. (Or, as her son, listening in, put it, "Scientists can smell other scientists -- because scientists are smart people.").

4. We can't afford private school and Mr. Spy has made me promise not to homeschool.

5. It's where he should be.

Lass, regarding yoru mom, I think I'll hold off on that until after Monday's meeting. I want more information. But if she has any general advice for this situation, I'd love to hear it. And thanks for offering.

Jeanne, I will definitely talk to his teacher further. I would also like to talk to his first grade teacher, although I want to tread carefully so that I don't upset a balance of power. I was pleased to see that in her reply to my request for a meeting, the gifted teacher had cced AJ's classroom teacher and the school principal. This really needs to be bigger than me one-on-one with the gifted teacher.

Freshhell -- I think (hope) you're right about AJ doing okay either way. The ADA part I know about at least. I filed the special services request form for AJ last year and I'll do it again for next year. If nothing else, it provides some continuity in paperwork.

Siren, I've been on the fence about being direct about AJ's giftedness with him. I think we mostly have been direct. But I'm so uncomfortable with the label, that I tend to balk at it. We have not talked to AJ about the test scores. I don't plan to talk about them with him before Monday. I want to find out what it's going to mean for him before we have that discussion and I don't want him to be feeling discouraged. He is exceptionally hard on himself in such situations and he has been going through a difficult time lately where he is constantly feeling like he's not good enough at, well, just about everything. I don't want him to think I care too much about the test scores too much, because I really don't. What I care about is that they might not reflect who he really is and what he can really do.

And so, the plan. I am assuming the test scores are a huge problem, because that is what this short conversation with AJ's classroom teacher has led me to believe. But I don't really have all the information. I will on Monday. So part one of the plan is to get as much information as possible. That means talking to everybody I can talk to and finding out what the options are. It means putting together a portfolio for AJ for our Monday meeting. And it means giving some thought about what we will do if the school tries to shut us out.

The next part of the plan is wait and see. Wait and see what comes out of the meeting. Then we'll be able to evaluate any necessary course of action.


Anonymous said...

I sent my comments over at t'other place. Hang in there - and do what's best.

Jeanne said...

Just to clarify, because I TEACH WRITING and still CAN'T DO IT, I meant that you should enlist the help of other teachers you know, if you know any. People who work in your school system but haven't necessarily had A.J. in class. Of course, it definitely can't hurt to include any and all teachers!