Wednesday, October 26, 2011

School, school, school

I cannot believe it is already Wednesday! It just seems like this week (or this month really!) has flown by! Monday, I worked in Oralee's classroom and that was interesting. This time, the teacher and her practicum student (formerly called student teachers) were teaching lessons and I spent my time walking around the room, going to kids who had their hand up to ask questions, keep kids on task, etc. I find actual teaching to be so much easier to be honest, but I still enjoyed it.

After helping out in Oralee's classroom, I dropped by Cephas' classroom to offer my assistance there for future Mondays. Beginning next week, I will be going into the classroom and helping in his classroom when I am done in Oralee's classroom. And next week is also their Halloween "party" time and I have been recruited to help pass out snacks and do some fun activities with the kids for the last 20 minutes of the day. Man, have times changed! I remember our classroom parties went for an hour or so when I was in elementary school.

Then yesterday (Tuesday) was parent teacher conferences. Cephas was our first conference. He is doing really well. For the first time in probably 3 years, he is reading on grade level. Just barely but he's on grade level. No interventions needed. I think that he just needed time to come into it on his own. But regardless, he is doing well. His teacher even asked us if he has trouble with other kids and adults and social situations. The VERY first teacher who recognized it! It was refreshing to have her ask. For the last three years (2nd, 3rd and 4th grade) Cephas has had issues with students and teachers alike. And I think part of it is that with other students, he tries too hard sometimes and then he gets to be annoying to them. And he is a social kid. He likes to talk a lot. His teacher doesn't view that as a bad thing either. She said we just need to continue working with him on what to say and when to say it. Which has been something that we have worked on for 3 or 4 years. She said that sometimes he seems to be missing that internal filter on what to share. And she said that one of the problems that he may have had in the past with what Cephas called "being singled out by the teachers and getting into trouble even when it wasn't my fault" could simply be because his voice carries. So when he told us that his classmates were talking to him and he was trying to tell them to be quiet so that they wouldn't get into trouble, his voice was probably the one that teacher heard and that was why he was getting into trouble. So nice and refreshing to have a teacher with 22 years of experience for him! Now the question is, can we keep her? Oh - and we ended up with a 30 minute conference instead of a 15 minute one because she had a gap in her schedule and there was the social issue to discuss as well.

Then we went on to Koren's class. His teacher had rave reviews for him. He is an incredibly hard worker, he is serious and the other kids look up to him for his work ethic at school. He received a couple of 2's on a math test (I'll explain the grading system in a minute) and will need to have a re-teach on those concepts. He has NEVER had a 2 in math before. He has even been in the highest math class possible too, even testing out of a full chapter in second grade to be able to move up to a higher math class.

Okay, quick side note, our school system grades as follows:
4 - exceeds district standards
3 - meets district standards
2 - approaches district standards
1 - does not meet district standards (and generally interventions are put into place)

He continues to struggle in reading but is continuing to progress. He has struggled in reading for the longest time but it could also be caused by the fact that he is actually legally blind in one eye without correction and doesn't see that great even with correction. We have been told by his optometrist that he will never be able to drive because he won't be able to pass the vision test. I think if he can have larger print books, he will do much better. That is something that I will email and suggest to his teacher later today.

She also said that he is an incredible artist and recommended that we enroll him in art classes. However, on his report card, his art teacher graded him at a 2, so I think I may need to meet with her and find out what the difference is between her opinion of his art and the classroom teacher's opinion of his art.

Then it was time to meet with Oralee's teacher. It was a quick meeting and I really didn't learn anything new about her, since I'm in the classroom every other week anyhow. She is a social child, but she is also an eager learner and participates in class. She holds back a little bit until she is sure of herself or her answer. She also is still working on recognizing her letter names and sounds.

We had a little bit of a break and then it was time to meet with Jeriah's teachers. We met with his classroom teacher, his special education teacher and the speech language pathologist who is working with him. He had two basic goals on his IEP that we set at the beginning of the year and he is rapidly working towards one of them. We may even have to meet earlier to redo his IEP with new goals if he meets them before the end of the year.

One of his language goals was to create sentences that had 5 words or more during 75% of his utterances. At the beginning of the year, his sentences had an average of 3.7 words. Now, two months into the school year, his sentences have an average of 4.3 words. This is based off of 100% of observed utterances. Also, at the beginning of the school year, the average amount of sentences that contained 5 words or more was 13%. Already he is at 33%. If he continues at this rate, he will likely reach the goal of 75% around February. His IEP is to last until August of next year. And most likely, he will reach this goal before then.

Also, his teacher did a Kindergarten preparation book where she is testing the kids on their knowledge of Kindergarten concepts such as shapes, colors, numbers, uppercase letters and lower case letters. Jeriah knew every shape, every color, every number, every uppercase letter and all but one lower case letter (l) when "tested". The teacher had numbers 1-20 on the page but she had only prepared (and therefore only "tested") for 1-10, not realizing that there may be a student who could go higher. He also can rote count to 16 (he missed 17 when she did it) and can count 1:1 correspondence to 16. She said that was really good because often times, kids can count more quickly by rote than they can when doing 1:1 correspondence so that when they try to do the 1:1, they will often end up with a number higher than the actual number of objects. But not Jeriah. He was on track with it.

The thing is, Jeriah can recognize numbers up to 100. Not just up to 20. I plan to take some numbers and additional shapes with us for our Home Visit next Wednesday to show her the differences in what he actually knows and the kind of activities that he is currently working on at school.

She also had him draw a picture of himself. His picture included a body, head, legs, arms, hands, feet, eyes (with pupils), nose, mouth and hair. No ears though. Maybe that's because he doesn't like to listen so much anymore! :) He is really coming into himself and is showing more independence and asserting his own opinions and thoughts more often now.

Let's see, there was also a page where she had them try to cut out shapes. He did not do well on that one at all. I think probably because most of the time at home he is told, "No Jeriah! Put the scissors down!" So we might need to work on that a little bit at home.

She also mentioned that Jeriah could drop kick a playground ball. We already knew this because he started doing that his summer with soccer balls. But it was neat to see her excitement about it. I did mention to the teachers the fact that Jeriah only kicks with his left foot. He will not kick with his right foot at all. I don't know if it something that we need to be concerned about. I know that for me, personally, I tend to kick more with my right foot than my left, but I'm right-handed. Jeriah is also right-handed, so I would think that he would also be more likely to have his right foot be dominant, but since the exact opposite is true, I felt it was pertinent to mention to his teachers.

For his next "testing" for Kindergarten skills, his classroom teacher said she may need to come up with some other options for his numbers and letters, shapes and colors. Instead of testing to see if he knows his letters, she is going to see how he does on letter sounds. I am not sure what her plan is for the shapes and colors and for numbers, she is going to just need to increase the parameters that she is "testing" him on. All good things though!

It's actually kind of amusing to us that our Special Education preschooler has more Kindergarten-level skills than our neurotypical Kindergartener. I actually feel a little bit of compassion already for Jeriah's Kindergarten teacher. He seems to be about a grade or two higher in letter and number skills, on par with fine motor skills and lacking in his social abilities. What a combination! But it very much reminds me of, oh, myself, in the early years at school.