Meeting with the teachers

Forums Quarterly Parent Focus Childcare Communication Meeting with the teachers

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #5136
    Avatarjen
    Participant

    A week from today I’m meeting with Ruby’s 1st grade teachers. (Her classroom has two teachers equally in charge, shrug.) In counseling over the last two months, it became clear that Ruby has been experiencing some “intolerance” (the word that the therapist used) from her peers at school. Of course everybody is different and Ruby’s differences happen to be religious ones. She chooses not to participate in birthdays, holidays, and activities that involve magic. The teachers don’t seem familiar with students that share our religious beliefs but they’ve been very cooperative all year. They ask me smart questions and they seek advice from Ruby’s very experienced Kindergarten teacher.

    Apparently there’s a student (or a few students? I’m not sure) in her class who are teasing or excluding Ruby from certain things because of this difference. Outside recess has always been the worst. Playing indoors is comfortable for Ruby because she can go off and read, or play independently if she feels like it. Outdoors for some reason that’s not an easy option, and Ruby feels tons of stress over being included in others’ activities. She won’t sit on the buddy bench because she can’t be sure who will come up to her and invite her to play. She won’t approach others sitting on the buddy bench if it is someone she doesn’t know well. Totally opposite of the way the buddy bench is supposed to work, sigh. We thought this anxiety about recess was mostly a matter of developing social and coping skills, but the therapist said that if it’s rooted in intolerance, that isn’t something a 6-year-old should be expected to handle without help.

    Before Christmas the teachers sent me a note describing how Ruby hated Christmas and wanted it to be destroyed, arguing with another student about whether Santa was real. The teachers stepped in and reminded both girls that everybody has different beliefs and they should just agree to disagree. Ooof, I stepped up my reminders about respect for others after that.

    Anyway, the school counselor has been chatting with me over email for a couple months and has been checking in on Ruby regularly. She encouraged me to meet with the teachers and so did Ruby’s therapist so I scheduled a meeting with them where I pointed out these main areas I want to cover:

    • Any “intolerance” you detect that Ruby might need help to handle
    • Outside recess has been rare lately but that’s usually a good predictor of which days she’ll tell us about a “bad day”
    • Anxiety-related barriers to her classroom participation
    • Our efforts at home to instill respect for others and equip her with coping skills

    I’m not sure what my question is for you. I have reason to expect the teachers to be understanding and supportive. I guess I’m nervous that I will forget to say something important. And interested for any other advice you might offer around my first-ever teacher meeting as a parent!

    #5139
    Karen Lock KolpKaren Lock Kolp
    Keymaster

    I’m super sorry that Ruby is going through this.

    I think that’s a really good take from the therapist on intolerance being at the root of some of this, and it’s smart to look on how to help her with that/recognize that she can’t deal with it on her own, she need some good coping strategies.

    I also love that the teachers have a resource in the kindergarten teacher.

    And I’m grateful for the examples that you gave, which helps me understand how this is showing up in her school life (like the altercation about Christmas and Santa.)

    Of course I’ve got your back 100%! And I know you will rock this!

    I would ask you to definitely communicate to the teachers that you are all part of a team, that you can help Ruby best working in concert, together. Sometimes teachers can get the feeling that parents just want them to “take care of this whole thing.“  I always felt most comfortable with a parent who came in with an attitude of “how can we work together on this,“ as opposed to “what are YOU doing to address this.“

    The flipside of that is being sure to communicate, as clearly as possible, if you disagree with a pronouncement that they make, or feel strongly that something they’re suggesting will not help Ruby. Just, remembering that they don’t own you or her!

    Ask for observations and data, if any. Out of a week’s outdoor recesses, how many end in frustration for Ruby? Stuff like that. If it all possible try to work from concrete facts instead of anecdotes. That may not always be a possibility, and if not that is OK.

    I’m glad they seems supportive, and I know from experience how great you are at working with others when it comes to your beautiful girls.

    If I can think of any questions, that you have not already thought of, or things you might want to bring up I will let you know.

    It will be good to get this addressed. And as I said above I know you’ve got this!

    Host of the We Turned Out Okay podcast
    Author of Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics: Key Tools to Handle Every Temper Tantrum, Keep Your Cool, and Enjoy Life With Your Young Child
    Head Honcho of the Ninja Parenting Community

    #5140
    Karen Lock KolpKaren Lock Kolp
    Keymaster

    Would you like me to speak with Janine Halloran, most recently of WTOO episode 201, who is an expert at teaching coping skills and has a few workbooks on that subject? She might be able to direct you to some exercises, or something, that might be helpful.

    And with your permission I would like to bring this up with Tricia Tomaso so when we record this weekend.  She may have some insights into intolerance, or kids making fun of other kids, in school that may be helpful.

    Host of the We Turned Out Okay podcast
    Author of Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics: Key Tools to Handle Every Temper Tantrum, Keep Your Cool, and Enjoy Life With Your Young Child
    Head Honcho of the Ninja Parenting Community

    #5143
    Avatarjen
    Participant

    Oh yes oh yes, please do! I wanted to send in some questions for those expert interviews but this one is the perfectest.

    Might inspire some good discussion too, to bring up some of these things (which you’ve also taught) that have been reinforced for me, after these first two months of play therapy:

    Teaching vocabulary of emotions is super-important and it NEVER ends. Once young kids understand basics like happy / sad / angry / frustrated, it surprised me how soon they’re ready to use the words describing subtler emotions (disappointed, hurt, unsure) and to recognize mixed feelings, like in the ending of the Inside Out movie. Ruby likes the visual aids that put words next to facial expressions, but she loved one that had 16-20 (!) different feelings and faces on it. I printed an emotion wheel (Google Images easily finds several versions) and handed it to a grateful 10-year-old friend who was dealing with some tough stuff. Even the grown-ups’ mindfulness apps use artificial intelligence to try and label our emotions for us. I use Wysa.

    Kids need mindfulness exercises for all the same reasons we do. Teach them, do them together in good times for practice, in rough times for real coping, give them the experience to draw upon when they’re away from you. We use a breathing ball to calm ourselves out of a fit, we watch Cosmic Kids on YouTube, and I have seen classroom teachers guide the whole room through a 3-minute exercise. Google easily brings up a wealth of resources.

    Books, as always. We read Wilma Jean the Worry Machine (YouTube has a reading of this book that you can check out) and showed Ruby how she can bring us her anxieties and we’ll help her manage them. One called Playground Survival gave her a lot of phrases she’s found useful when she feels mistreated by other kids — on good days I hear her say things from that book like “I like being me,” and “seems like that’s your problem, not mine” and “we will just have to agree to disagree.” I remind her regularly to use Ignore It as we’ve discussed in the forums before — to handle someone who does things on purpose to annoy her.

    Make a coping box, decorated with intention and put in it all the stuff that helps your struggling brain. Fidget putty, bubbles, blankie, stuffed animal, whatever… so that it’s all in one spot and you don’t even have to think about what you need and where it might be right now. It’s all in the box, and you can use it ALL if you want to.

    When the therapist explained she was going to teach “coping skills” I had no idea what that would look like. THIS stuff has been great so far, and I can’t wait to see what else is out there.

    You got me started on a long-winded burst of praise for coping skills but my meeting next week is probably going to focus on the other stuff more than this. Thanks so much for the explicit advice to project “team spirit.” I definitely have that attitude but I’m sure it can only help to put it on the table, clearly and with words. And I’ll consider what they have to say but make sure to courageously challenge it if necessary. “How many times in a typical week” is a good way to seek data-driven observations, thanks for the suggestion. I can see how it would help them to hear my observations in a similar way. It’s not a one-time anecdote, it’s a recurring thing, and here’s how I know, and that’s why we can’t dismiss it.

    Thank you for boosting my confidence. You’re awesome at that.

    Jen

    #5193
    Avatarjen
    Participant

    The meeting was a resounding success.

    The teachers reported that Ruby’s classroom participation has improved. They highlighted structured lessons recently about accepting and honoring differences between people. They told me they intervened in a situation where a boy was asking Ruby about holidays in a mean-spirited way to provoke her. With outside recess returning soon (weather-wise), they’ll keep a special eye on Ruby. I could tell they were poised to ask about the buddy bench but I pre-empted their questions explaining what Ruby has told me about that solution that doesn’t work for her. They said she’s been less isolated lately even in inside recess. We all wonder who “Tessa” is, the kid Ruby named as a tough part of her day… so I’ll gently try to uncover if it’s a bus kid, or someone from another class. Also the teachers offered an experimental burst of outside time with their classroom only, to see if regular recess (4 classes of 1st graders) is at the root of Ruby’s anxiety. I described my teaching method that gives her control over whether she’ll participate in a holiday: we read about the origin (I simplify the explanation as needed) and check in with her conscience to decide if the whole thing is objectionable or just this part of just that part… and how to be respectful of others who do want to celebrate it. Valentine’s Day went really well with this approach, and soon we’ll do St. Patrick’s Day and Easter with the same methodology.

    I appreciate your support. Thanks!

    Jen

    #5202
    Karen Lock KolpKaren Lock Kolp
    Keymaster

    I am so glad Jen! It really sounds like you are in the groove on this.

    I love that you really are working as a team with Ruby’s teachers, and that you taught them your method of helping Ruby decide when to participate or not in a holiday.

    And also how to be respectful of others who don’t want to celebrate it.

    My husband grew up in a non-dominant religion, and he really help me understand the struggle. I’m so proud of you and the way you are bringing Ruby through it all <3

    Host of the We Turned Out Okay podcast
    Author of Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics: Key Tools to Handle Every Temper Tantrum, Keep Your Cool, and Enjoy Life With Your Young Child
    Head Honcho of the Ninja Parenting Community

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.