In the beginning of my teaching career, I remember students that confused me. I thought that I was a good teacher, but I didn’t understand the ones that challenged my ideas of what a first grader should do. I knew how to support the “typical” students and those students not making sufficient gains. Honestly, the ones that confused me were the ones that came to me already knowing the curriculum. No one showed me how to extend their learning. Usually, they helped a buddy or did more work. I didn’t understand that “more” wasn’t “deeper” and that while it was nice to help, it wasn’t meeting that child’s needs.
As I look back, the part that was the most confusing was the emotional needs of these “quirky” students. If they were as bright as they appeared, why did they struggle with friends? If they knew the assignment, why did they challenge my directions? If they could read so well, why did they struggle with writing? I cringe when I think back to those days, but I remember the Maya Angelou saying…”When you know better, you do better!”
I believe The Universe decided to educate me! I was given a child that was like the ones that challenged me so long ago!
My son is “that kid” in the class. He is extremely bright but, struggles with the social aspects of school. He reads well above grade level but, doesn’t see the point of completing “comprehension activities” when he has already read it, explained it, and wants to move on. He struggles with activities that he perceives as “busy work” and tries to share “his way” of getting to answers. He doesn’t see the point of caring about handwriting, when he can type.
Today, we received the form that parents fill out to assist with placement for next year. I hated to see this letter because overall, my son has had a great year with a teacher that “gets him” and this has been an incredible blessing! The idea of starting over with another teacher is daunting. How do I explain the urgency that I feel as I write in my tiniest handwriting so that I can fill in as much information as possible? The provided boxes are just too small for a kid like mine!
What are my child’s strengths?
He is bright, creative, inquisitive, and has a wonderful sense of humor; however, these strengths are often overshadowed. He reads well above grade level and has a strong understanding of math. Although these are strengths, if the teacher does not meet his needs and understand how to differentiate…these very strengths will become a struggle.
What are my child’s struggles?
He struggles with smells, textures, germs, unstructured times, crowded places, loud places, mundane work, busy work, team sports, friendship skills, organization, handwriting, cooperative learning, gets easily frustrated, and often lacks the skill of “if you can’t think of anything nice to say…don’t say anything at all!” If I can’t fit all of that in, I am forced to write down the side of the paper because these are all critical pieces of the puzzle with a kid like mine.
What characteristics would work best for your child’s teacher?
For most parents, this is an easy answer…kind, approachable, talented, and knowledgeable. Our list…She must understand that kids don’t all fit in the box! She must have a sense of humor and take interest in his passions. If she isn’t truly interested, at least be a convincing actress! She must be tech savvy and have an interest in technology. She must be able to see that he is a good kid and that if she can form a relationship with him…that is her best tool for success. For a kid like mine…She must inspire him, understand him, and like him.
After many years, I am becoming this kind of teacher…and that is because of that sweet kid of mine!