Archive for the 'school' Category

Level up!

Bedtime Stories

Charlie read these two books to me tonight, even though his throat hurt and he was ready for sleep at 6 pm.

When we finished I Went Walking, he said, “Did you see what level it is?”

“No,” I said, flipping the book around to see.

“It’s level C.” He smiled really big. “I moved up a level.”

I wish I had a picture of his proud smile. He knows just how hard he’s worked and how much he’s practiced to make that move happen. He deserves bragging rights.


Lean education

The goal of lean education isn’t teaching or learning; it’s creating lean workplaces where teachers are stretched to their limits so that students can receive the minimum support necessary to produce satisfactory test scores. [emphasis added]

–“Lean Production: Inside the Real War on Public Education” by Will Johnson in Jacobin

I went to a PTA meeting last night.

First, the music teacher, who is also the school’s union captain reminded us that the teachers have been working for 3 years without a contract, and there’s no new contract in sight. Tomorrow, he’s supposed to vote on criteria for teacher evaluations but the mayor and governor have not agreed on what those criteria should be. If they can’t decide, our school system loses $250 million in funding.

Second, the principal, who has been working for 15 months on expanding the school from an elementary to a K-8 program, said that the expansion looks like it won’t happen. Yes, the DOE’s department of new schools approved their application. Yes, the DOE’s buildings department located a space and approved it for the new program. But now, the next level of DOE paper-pushers say they don’t want to expand a program like ours–an all inclusion setting funded partially by special education spending and partially by general education spending.

Their decision is related to the special education reforms that came in August, which force all kids with IEPs to attend their community schools, even if those schools can’t meet the mandates on the IEPs. The DOE has said the reform allows kids to be in the least restrictive environment. In reality, the reforms are a way to save money by cutting back on therapists, differentiated teaching and the small classes needed for some special needs kids. It’s lean production for special education.

Third, as I read the article in Jacobin handed out by the music teacher and listened to the principal talk about the DOE’s numbing, frustrating bureaucracy, I remembered touring special ed private schools just a few months ago. Spit-shined floors. Glowing lockers. Hushed halls. Class sizes of 12. Specialists and a gym and a two-story library.

The DOE has no problem paying for the $50,000-a-year educations of kids whose parents can afford lawyers, advocates and the cash to front tuition while they sue. And yet the DOE consistently denies or delays basic IEP services to kids who can’t afford a $50,000 down payment. And now they want to save money by refusing to pay for an expansion of a special ed school that would meet the needs of hundreds of kids and lessen middle school crowding for hundreds more.

The DOE pisses me off. They are the kind of agency that creates disillusionment, or encourages political action.

Saying yes to violent video games?

Ready to game?

We’ve been trying every promising trick to improve my kid’s working memory, auditory processing, language development and other brain skills. Motor coordination, pre-frontal cortex and visual acuity, spatial reasoning, decision-making–all of these have been bandied about as delays that may need attention.

Then I read this:

“In neurological terms, action games seem to ‘retune connectivity across and within different brain areas’…That means gamers ‘learn to learn.'”

–“Brain-Changing Games” by Lydia Denworth, Scientific American MIND

It seems first-person shooting games improve attention, spatial reasoning, visual acuity and decision-making. They can also be addictive and lead to an increase in aggression.

As if the kid didn’t have enough screen time already, I’m actually considering introducing him to more video games. I just wish I could find a first-person action game that wasn’t about killing people.

The ADHD Kid’s Bill of Rights


After yesterday’s post, I found out that my kid’s para actually didn’t know about his diagnosis of ADHD! That’s my lesson learned: Don’t think that telling the half of the IEP team that you see on a regular basis means that the other half of the IEP team also knows what’s been shared.

When I mentioned that the loud time of day during drop-off really highlighted his ADHD symptoms, she said she didn’t know about his attention problems. And though she has more than twenty years of special education experience she said she’s never worked with an ADHD kid. Then she said this: “He’ll just have to learn to tune it out. I hear all of this, and I can still focus.”

Oh, dear.

I explained then that actually he CAN’T learn to focus. That’s actually what ADHD means. It would be like telling me to learn to see without my glasses. (Come on, girl, see better!)

So I found a copy of the ADHD kid’s bill of rights that I’m passing to the para today. I first saw this during a talk by Cindy Goldrich from PTS Coaching, but I found the version below online. We’ve hung it in every room of our apartment.

The ADHD Child’s Bill of Rights by Ruth Harris

Help me to focus. Please teach me through my sense of touch. I need “hands on” and “body movement.”

I need to know what comes next. Please give me a structured environment where there is a dependable routine. Give me an advanced warning if there will be changes.

Wait for me, I’m still thinking. Please allow me to go at my own pace. If I rush, I get confused and upset.

I’m stuck ! I cant do it! Please offer me options for problem-solving. I need to know the detours when the road is blocked.

Is it right? I need to know NOW! Please give me rich and immediate feedback on how I’m doing.

I didn’t forget, I didn’t ‘hear’ it in the first place! Please give me directions one step at a time and ask me to say back what I think you said.

I didn’t know I wasn’t in my seat! Please remind me to STOP, THINK and ACT.

Am I almost done now? Please give me short work periods with short-term goals.

What? Please don’t say “I’ve already told you that.” Tell me again in different words. Give me a signal. Draw me a symbol.

I know, it’s ALL wrong, isn’t it? Please give me praise for partial success. Reward me for self-improvement, not just for perfection.

But why do I always get yelled at? Please catch me doing something right and praise me for my specific positive behavior. Remind me (and yourself) about my good points, when I’m having a bad day.

I may be hard to live with, and have ADHD, but I still have feelings and would have never chosen to behave like I do sometimes.

(Reprinted on from Newsletter of The Delaware Association For The Education of Young Children, Winter 1993-94) © 1991, Ruth Harris, Northwest Reading Clinic


Don’t take it so personally

Don’t take my picture!

During the holiday school festivities I had a chance to chat with Charlie’s para (an aide who helps him negotiate the school day). She’s a lovely lady, with kids of her own, but the part of our conversation I’ve found it hardest to forget was when she said, “Oh, I know when a kid’s an only child. They’re the spoiled ones.”

As any parent knows, a negative statement about your kid, or about your parenting style, feels very personal. It was if she’d punched me and then said, “You suck.”

After I could breathe again, I asked what she meant by spoiled. (I have definite ideas about what that means!) It seems she didn’t mean he was having trouble sharing or taking turns; he was being “resentful” of her help, saying “I can do that!” or “I don’t need your help.”

We’ve been working on that rude tone of voice for a few weeks now. He picked it up suddenly, right after school started. It especially comes out when he wants to do something independently but doesn’t realize his skills aren’t there yet. He gets frustrated and reacts by blaming the nearest person without thinking things through.

Taking a cue from our ADHD research (he needs to have social cues spelled out for him; not considering consequences is part of his wiring) and from the techniques we’ve learned in a parenting skills class for disruptive behavior, we point out the problem behavior, ask him to re-do it correctly and praise him when he gets it right. Especially when he gets it right without prompting.

So yes, the para is right. The rude voice is annoying. It needs to be addressed. But treating him as “spoiled” is not treating him in the right context.

My son’s neurological make-up causes him to be over-reactive. The positive side of this trait is that he’s very energetic, enthusiastic and curious. The negative is that he can also be very angry, frustrated or sad. His high emotions can carry him away. Meltdowns are common in our house—and sometimes in public—even though we’ve found ways to make them shorter and less frequent.

Getting angry, yelling and punishing him actually make his disruptive behavior worse. Stricter is not better. Being too relaxed or inconsistent, even with things like free play or bedtime, make the disruptive behavior worse, too. Lack of structure is not our family’s friend. It’s a thin line to walk, especially when very few parenting books address how differently a parent must handle an ADHD child.

We work hard. He works so, so hard. It’s very dispiriting to have all that hard work dismissed.

But I’ve come to realize that just as there will always be people who believe that if he just “tries harder” he’ll do better, there will always be people who think his disruptive behavior is caused by bad parenting. There will always be people who say we’re too strict, or not strict enough, that we “let” him scream and cry, that a “good” kid wouldn’t act that way.

These people are wrong. And I intend to keep on parenting the kid I have–not the kid they wish I had.


I work as an editor at Harlequin, but the posts on this site are all mine and don’t represent my employer's positions, strategies or opinions.
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