The Daughter Chronicles

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mixed signals at Mia's parent-teacher conference!

Last Friday Krys and I went to visit with Mia's teacher, the one we'll call Ms. First-Year, as it's relevant. It was the quarterly review, and we hoped that Mia's school issues had been worked out. Ms. First-Year had a great deal of praise for how Mia is doing right now in school. Mia has been working harder and enjoying herself more. Part of this is due to the fact that she's eating more, so she has more energy. She's also been feeling better (for the most part; we have an appointment with her orthopedic surgeon tomorrow to discuss something that's vexing us about her recovery) and is able to do more around the classroom. Ms. First-Year told us that she's doing fairly well with numbers, she does well on the computer, and last week she assisted on a spelling test by saying the words the other kids had to spell out loud (after some help from the teacher, of course). She is eating well, as I mentioned (she went to the gastroenterologist yesterday, weighed in at 39.5 pounds, and got kudos from the doctor), so that's not too big an issue anymore. She still pinches way too much, but it's rather odd - she doesn't pinch Ms. First-Year all that much, because Ms. First-Year is stern with her. The aides, I guess, are less stern with her, and also (apparently) a lot slower, because Mia pinches them. It's not that difficult to anticipate her pinching, so they must not be paying attention when she's in a "pinching" mood. We've been trying and trying to get her to stop pinching, but nothing seems to work. It's quite annoying.

So, all is well, right? Well, not quite. Ms. First-Year still seems quite flummoxed as to how to deal with Mia. As I wrote in November, she's still locked into this mindset of Mia keeping up with the rest of the class, even though that's not the point. The point is that Mia's IEP is the only barometer of her progress, and if they're working on the goals in the IEP and she's doing okay with those, that's what matters. Ms. First-Year still seems obsessed that Mia is the "lowest performer" in the class (she told us that directly, which might seem crass, but it's not like we don't know it) and that she has to devote so much individual attention to Mia. Well, first of all, she does has three aides in the class, so I'm not sure how much attention she's devoting to Mia (although if Mia doesn't pinch her but she pinches the aides, maybe she is devoting more time to Mia). But it gets back to the whole idea of a special education class - each kid has an IEP, so even if the other kids in the class are similar, they still have individual goals that they have to meet. Perhaps all their goals are similar so she can work on them all as a group, but that's just luck. Mia deserves an individualized education plan (in a perfect world, every child would get one), and if you can't handle that, perhaps you shouldn't be in special ed.

The option she brought up was moving Mia to the "moderately disabled" class. A few years ago, when Mia was first going to elementary school, we checked out both the moderately disabled class and the one she's in now. We decided that the moderately disabled class was beneath her skills while the one she's in now (I don't think it's technically called the "mildly disabled" class, but let's call it that) was above her. When the program at her former school was disbanded (much to our regret, as it worked perfectly for her), we decided that we'd rather put her in a class that was difficult for her than one that was too easy. Ms. First-Year made a big deal about how in the moderately disabled class she'd be one of the best students, but that's just not a big deal for us. I told her I'd call the Traumatic Brain Injury specialist who works for the Mesa School District and see about checking out the moderately disabled classroom, but I don't really think it's the thing for Mia. Krys and Mia's speech therapist don't think I should even check it out, but I told them that at Mia's IEP meeting at the end of the year, I don't want anyone to say, "Well, you didn't even take a look at it" and give themselves an out. I want to look at it, even though I doubt it will be a place I want to put Mia. I would much rather her be the lowest-performing kid in her class, because then she can look at the other kids and see what they're doing and try to model it. Last week her horse therapist put her in a "regular" wheelchair just to see what Mia would do. Mia immediately grabbed the wheel and began rolling it forward (it was in a narrow hallway and someone was steering without pushing forward, so she didn't go in a circle, as she would if she just used her right hand, which she did). Mia knew how to operate a wheelchair because she was in a class with kids in wheelchairs the past two years and she watched them. So why can't we have her in a class where the other kids are learning, and she can learn from them?

It gets back to my suspicions about the motives people do things. I've written about this before, but it's still pertinent. I wonder exactly why Ms. First-Year wants to put Mia in the other class. If she's selfish, it's because Mia is a lot more work than she anticipated and she just wants to get rid of her. I think that's part of it, because she does seem to be in over her head just a little, which is certainly normal for a first-year teacher (I know it was true for me). It's frustrating thinking that you can go into a class with a curriculum all set and then have all sorts of circumstances come up that thwarts you, but that's what teaching is. If Ms. First-Year doesn't figure that out soon, she's in for some trouble down the road. Another reason could be that she wants us, Mia's parents, to feel better. I don't know if parents desperately want their kids to be "top of the class" even if the class isn't anything special, but we're not like that. We want our kids to be in the best learning environment. If that means she's further behind the kids but the potential to learn is better, so be it. I don't think she's suggesting it for Mia's benefit, even if she might try to convince us it is. Mia is perfectly happy in the class, and she is definitely learning. Yes, it's incredibly slow, but that's the way it is with Mia. If she has to stay in that class for a few years, it won't bother her at all. And she'll learn what she needs to. Krys is of the opinion that the kids in the moderately disabled class are the ones who are "stuck" (for lack of a better word) at a certain developmental stage and will never progress. That's not true of Mia - even though her progress is very slow, she does progress. So I'm not sure why Ms. First-Year suggested it. I suspect it's because she just doesn't know what to do with Mia. Which is odd, because in the first part of the meeting, she was telling us what she's been doing with Mia, and it seems to work. I guess she just feels like dealing with Mia is taking away from dealing with the rest of the class, but she didn't say that. Nor should it be true, based on the fact that she has three aides.

So we're heartened by how well Mia is doing in school, and we're hoping she continues to do better. I'm probably going to go check out the other class, but I'm also going to let the TBI specialist that I don't think it's that great an idea. We'll see. I think Ms. First-Year is doing a fairly decent job, even though she has room for improvement. If she can realize that things are a tad bit different when you're the teacher and not the student, she should be fine. We'll see if she can step up. According to her, Mia has!


  • Huzzah for Mia!

    I think Ms. F-Y is probably trying to please you by suggesting Mia be placed where she'll perform better in relation to the other kids; obviously you'd know more about this topic than I would, but it seems that these days a lot of educators and policies seem to revolve around appeasing parents, to the detriment of the students.*

    *Like most of my opinions and comments, this is pulled out of my butt.

    By Blogger layne, at 20/1/10 10:38 AM  

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