Thursday, May 31, 2007


My youngest son is what is commonly referred to as an underachiever. I have heard this since he first entered Kindergarten. Some fine, experienced teachers have been puzzled by him. They furrow their foreheads and say, "I think he can do the work...he doesn't seem to have any problem understanding the actual process...I'm just not sure how to motivate him." Over and over again, I have heard this. Probably as his mother, they were looking to me to solve this mystery. It is just one of those personality type quirks though. He lacks motivation and I haven't found the key to turn him on, so to speak. Here is the funny thing, he truly enjoys school. Wants very much to please his teachers. He doesn't have distracting behavioral problems. His problem of sort of drifting off doesn't bother others, it just hurts him, especially when taking timed tests.
This year has been particularly difficult. He has a very demanding teacher. I am fine with that, but he also seems to be completely unable to relate to Handsome Lad on any level at all. When I talk to him, I often get the feeling that he takes everything about Handsome Lad's behavior very though he is unmotivated just to get under Mr. W's skin! We really sort of got into it at our last Parent-Teacher conference. He suggested that Handsome Lad left his possessions scattered about just to spite him. He also suggested that he might benefit from being placed into the Special Education classroom...or at very least he should be repeating the 4th grade. Where to begin? First, Mr. W refuses to believe it, but Handsome Lad does want to please him and would never do anything just to spite him! He sometimes simply can't for some reason keep himself organized and/or on task. Second, I have a great deal of respect for the Special Education alternative available to everyone at the public schools. It addresses real needs that children have and some kids, of course, need intensive help to succeed. I assure you that this level of help is NOT what Handsome Lad, sorry, but he doesn't need the stigma that goes along with it. As for repeating the 4th grade, if I thought that would help I would do it. I have nothing special against retention. I think sometimes another year is all that a kid needs to get where he needs to be. I didn't see this as being the case for Handsome Lad at all. So, we had some strong words between the two of us about these issues.
Finally, I requested that the district psychologist come in and do some testing to assess what is going on with my son. The teachers have gotten nowhere, although most of them have been much kinder about getting nowhere than Mr. W. After some sessions with Handsome Lad, she met with the resource teacher at his school to draw up a plan to help him succeed. We had a meeting this morning: me, Mr. W, the district psychologist, the resource teacher, and the Principal. I went in not knowing what to expect, but walked out feeling 100% better and totally vindicated in how I saw my son. It turns out that he scores quite high in all areas when he was tested one on one by the psychologist. She was especially impressed with his complex thinking skills and his memory. She did note that he has very poor fine motor skills, which I had also emphasized in my portion of the evaluation. After spending time with Handsome Lad, she determined that aside from motivation, which is still a bit of a puzzler, most of his problems stem from his poor fine motor skills. Think about it...if writing was difficult for you, and you were asked to answer a question would your response be a three word sentence or an involved paragraph? So, the psychologist and the resource teacher decided that based on this "disability" he does have a right to some special accommodations. Next year he will spend 30 minutes 4 days a week with the resource teacher getting one on one help with whatever written assignments they are doing in his class. Also, he will be permitted to have extra time when taking tests to eliminate the pressure and accompanying performance shut down that seems to occur with him.
Mr. W didn't seem that happy with all the positive talk that was going on. The Principal, with whom I have a complicated but respectful relationship was fairly quiet during the whole thing, mostly just there because it is her school and all. The psychologist expressed her great affection for Handsome Lad and said a lot of his problems seem to do with a lack of confidence (and I felt like saying 'no wonder' given what his teacher has been telling him all year). The resource teacher is excited to work with him. She feels that by the time he enters middle school he will be right on track.
I am so glad now that I asked for this assessment. I knew that Handsome Lad was bright, even with the gap between his potential and his performance. It felt good to know that I was right and even better to know that he will get a little extra attention to help him achieve the success that he deserves.


Tara said...

I'm glad he'll get the attention that he needs! I'm sure he'll do much better now. I wish him the best of luck!

BTW, you've been tagged. Hehe...Muah ha ha ha ha...(crack of thunder, lightening splits the sky...)

Rachel said...

Sometimes teachers just don't get it. It seems that Mr. W might feel that he is a failure because he can't get HL motivated. Then he decides to take his frustrations out on HL? That will certainly be effective, eh? HMMM maybe not.

I am glad that you stood up to this wanker and were able to prove that he is just full of shit.

Teachers that push their own insecurities onto the kids just drive me up a wall.

Babybull40 said...

He is an underachiever.. I can't believe that for a second.. He seems bright and why would he try to spite his teacher Mr.W? I think the teacher needs to go back to school himself.. Everything will work out and I'm glad you had to chance to be vindicated...

evil-e said...

When I first started reading this, I thought maybe he was bored due to being too smart, which still could be a possibility. A certain person (I assure you, not me) I know was always very disorganized, messy, and displayed a general disinterest in school. He never did well in school-based learning. He also had some issues with motor skills at times. Years later, after specialized training (in a field) the world finds he has a very high IQ and is very quick and smart at what he does. He also makes some very good money.

Sometimes school (the 3 Rs-ha)is not necessarily the answer to an education. Well rounded can look to be somewhat deceiving. Some people have the ability to grasp and retain certain things, but do poorly at others. Learning in a specialized manner could be the answer.

Just wait, he could be the person who solves the riddles that plague mankind one day. Writing a sentence or adding some numbers might not be the way to get there.

Viki said...

Believe me - dont listen to anything teachers say...I was always told _ I was too stupid to finish school...10 yrs into the future - shazam!
Not only did I finish school I did so with amazing grades and have a job where other type-A's actually ask me for my advice.

I think the problem maybe the teacher - he seems crazy to think that some student does things to spite him!

What I can say is sometimes all you need is someone to believe in you!

David in DC said...

I'm very happy for you. You did exactly the right thing and got the right result. Those two things don't always go together.

My mom taught in the NY State public schools (elementary schools, mostly Kindergarten).

When Monkeyboy started scxhool, she gave me a serious talking to. "David," she said, "You must always be his advocate with the schools. No one will know him better than you do and no one will be as protective of his needs.

50% of teachers graduated in the bottom half of their class. Also, some teachers are in school to work out issues lingering from their own childhood's.

If they sound wrong to you, it's entirely posssible that they ARE wrong."

Some of the best advice she ever gave me.

I'm so glad the District Psychologist knew her stuff and the principal felt no need to back his teacher over the specialist.

Hoorah for you.

laughingattheslut said...

10 year olds are nuts. It's a normal thing that we all go through a bit, but most of us don't remember.

If you ask him why he didn't do something he was supposed to do, he probably says "I don't know" a lot. So you'd think that he did something on purpose to get on someone's nerves, but really, he probably doesn't know.

But it's normal and we all go through it and we all still had to do school work, even when we were nutty 10 year olds. Not sure that giving him extra time is the answer, since it is not something people do for you later in life. But maybe it will work for now, and then maybe he'll grow out of it.

l.b. said...

Tara: Thanks, I do think everyone will see some improvement and feel better.
Tagged! Yay!

Rachel: It is sad, because HL was so excited to be in Mr. W's class, probably because there are so few male teachers. Turns out, it wasn't such a good thing.
I have always believed that parents absolutely must be the ones to advocate for their children, otherwise they don't stand a chance.

BabyBull: This teacher definitely needs to be watched. Even the stellar students aren't too fond of him, so that tells you something.

Evil-E: I believe that for HL, the future could be just as bright as it has been for the person you mentioned. I definitely believe that there are many different ways in which intelligente and capability can assert itself.

Viki: You must have had someone who believed in you and I know that I will always stand behind my kids and assume that they are capable of succeeding, even when no one else seems to believe it.

David in DC: Thank you. You're mom sounds like she must have been a wonderful teacher. And it is useful to remember that just because a person carries a teaching credential doesn't necessarily mean they got it by being number one in their graduating class. Someone has to be in the bottom half, but you always sort of assume it isn't going to be your own child's teacher!

LATS: Yes, I have had four other ten year olds...each of them different from one another.
I believe the extra time option is a way to help him gain confidence. Since he seems to freeze up when rushed, it is a way to get him to move forward. Then he at least has a fighting chance of doing better when tested, will feel better about himself, and eventually will not need special accomodations. And the fact is, some people do require special accomodations in life and can often get them if they ask for them.

AlienCG said...

I think the biggest problem with our educational system is that it is treated as one size fits all. Every child has different needs in one way or another. I'm glad to hear that he is going to get the attention he needs.

minijonb said...

You're doing a great job supporting the interests of your son. Kudos to you!

Shot in the dark here. Are there ways to improve the fine motor skills over time? Does learning to type help this? Just asking.

l.b. said...

AlienCG: You are exactly right. And if your child is right on task or a very good student they will probably do fine, even if they aren't challenged quite as much as you'd wish. Any little issue though, and that is when the whole system can fail a child.

MiniJonB: That is a good question. There are exercises he can do to improve his fine motor skills, so I think we will focus on those over the summer. Plus, once he gets a bit older all of the most important stuff will need to be typed anyway. Like most other 10 year olds he has been on the computer most of his life and types better than he writes. That should help.

Sebastien said...

That is really good news. I can't imagine how worried you were over this, but it must be wonderful knowing that he will most likely be able to get back on track!

It's amazing how much a teacher is able to affect us when we are young, if they have bad energy, that really cuts down on a kid's confidence. I always appreciated the teachers I had who were positive. It makes such a difference. Actually, when people are positive, it makes things easier no matter the circumstances and life situation.

The Furtive Wangler said...

Some teachers do more harm than good for some kids. I hope that the appreciation of your son's abilities shown by the other professionals who assessed him helps this teacher overcome their own narrowmindedness.
It sounds like your son just needs some extra help at this time, that's all. It sounds to me like he will grow into a fine young man.

l.b. said...

Sebastien: It is almost scary how much influence teacher's attitudes have. I guess that would be the argument for homeschooling, although I could certainly never do it.
And you are so right...a positive attitude can go a loooong way.

FW: I too hope that Mr. W took something away from this whole experience. Maybe next year he will look at a student like Handsome Lad a bit differently.
And thank you for your kind words. I believe that you are absolutely right.