My son started grade 6 this year. In most states of Australia that would be the last year of primary school but in South Australia he’s in the second to last year. He’s now in senior school and there’s a noticeable difference in teachers’ expectations of him, particularly when it comes to homework.
My son has never been organised – never. I’ve tried all sorts of methods to get him to remember stuff but I’m not at school with him when he finishes as he goes to after school care so I have no control over him bringing home the things he needs for homework including the diary that’s supposed to have what homework he’s supposed to be doing written in it.
I’ve never been a fan of homework because it just seemed stressful to me, and it seemed stressful for him. As he goes to after school care most days he’s tired when he gets home and the last thing either of us want to do is more work. Spelling lists were a nightmare where I would get annoyed with him for not trying, and he would get annoyed with me for not being patient enough. A couple of years he’s had a homework contract where there’s a page to a week and there’s different tasks to do from maths, spelling to saying what sport and jobs you did around the house. Many weeks saw him whiz through this the day that it was due with a real half-hearted effort. Gentle reminding from me never really seemed to help when he didn’t really want to do it.
In week three of this term I finally saw his diary – after repeatedly asking him for it – and there were some notes in it from the teacher saying that it wasn’t signed and that he hadn’t done aspects of his homework. One of the notes said it might be a good idea to meet to make a homework plan.
This was on a night when he was having huge trouble doing one of his assignments. This year is the first year that he’s had a weekly assignment to do and this one was a huge one it seemed to me.
See, he’s had trouble with his spelling from early primary years. Having trouble spelling means having trouble writing for him too. So the first part of this assignment involved writing ten things that he observed about an exhibition they’d been to the previous week. Not that hard you would think. But it was for both of us. See, he said he couldn’t remember what he’d seen.
Come on, I said, you’re really observant. Surely you can remember what you saw there?
It took an hour to get nearly ten things down on paper and this was only the first part of the assignment. There were still six or so other questions – most of them involving writing. It meant by the end of the hour both of us were frustrated. This is why I could never home school my own child. I might be okay with someone elses, but not my own.
I never thought he would finish this assignment.
The next day on Twitter I asked for help with resources for helping a kid to improve their spelling and the lovely Joh messaged me and made me feel a lot better. She asked if he enjoyed reading and when I said that he did she said not to worry too much about spelling as that would follow. That made me feel a bit better but I thought he’s still got to wade through the rest of that bloody homework. And the amount of homework is only going to get worse from here.
Meanwhile I made an appointment for both of us to meet with the teacher.
She sat down with us after school one day and went through the data she’d collected about JJ since the beginning of that year – all three weeks of it. I’ve never had a teacher talk data before. She’d noticed that his comprehension was really really good, but his spelling let him down and asked both of us why we thought that might be. I mentioned that a previous teacher thought he might be dyslexic. She also asked if JJ had missed much school and I said that no he hadn’t.
I mentioned that he’d had behavioural issues in class before that meant in some classes he was sent out a lot as that was how some teachers seem to manage it so it was partly his fault that he’d missed out on some schooling. I asked how he was in her classroom and she said that he wasn’t disruptive at all. I said that this would be the first class he hasn’t been disruptive in. I know from meeting her that she won’t tolerate it and she seems to have the respect of the kids so that they don’t want to be disruptive.
It’s only taken seven years of schooling to get to this point, HALLELUJAH! Go JJ!!!!
She basically told us that JJ was a bit lazy when it came to some aspects of his schooling and while that’s not great to hear it made perfect sense. She told us that so long as he makes an effort now, it will reap rewards fairly soon and that he will catch up.
We were with her for about twenty minutes, and JJ and I left the meeting both feeling really good. He has improved out of site since. He managed to finish this assignment and while he hasn’t been given his mark yet, it looks fairly promising although his teacher said he didn’t need to write so many slabs of text. He’s even mentioned to me that he feels smarter.
He’s since done another assignment and got a B+. He did this assignment without any stress on his part, or mine.
He used to ask me how to spell words that he should have known how to spell, like ‘with’. His confidence has picked up that he now doesn’t, but if he does I tell him that he should know how to do that and he at least gives it a go.
I emailed the teacher to thank her for the meeting and to say that I’d noticed an improvement.
She replied back with, ‘He certainly seems switched on and very keen to learn. I have already noticed an improvement in what he is handing up to me. I think he is the kind of child who likes to be challenged as he is a bright and creative thinker.
He already is a “smart” kid!’
I’m hopeful for the rest of his schooling years now. And it’s such a relief.