I talked in my last post about my first grader's problems in school. In this post, I’d like to share with you what solutions I worked out to help her.
As I mentioned, the teacher’s main complaint was N.’s behavior during the first period of school. So this is where I focused the main part of the plan. I’m sure there’ll be other things to add, but I like to phase in one part of a behavior plan at a time.
So the question was, how to help N. settle down for the first period?
The teacher suggested that N. come earlier to school. The theory being that if she had more time to play and talk with her friends, she wouldn’t feel the need to do so in first period.
When she said that, I felt a little guilty. It’s true that N. doesn’t get there early; she usually just makes it in time. I have to wait with my littlest for his bus, which often doesn’t come until 8:10, or later. Then I run home and take the two girls to nursery school and first grade.
Even though the school is within walking distance, we still take about 10-15 minutes, assuming there are no bathroom stops or forgotten items. Although the teacher said they could arrive as early as 8:00, that still didn’t help me since I need to wait for the younger one’s bus before 8. I’m not taking any chances on missing his bus and having to travel 40 minutes to bring him to school.
But perhaps the teacher was correct? I thought about it for a bit, and then reconsidered. Does N. really need more time to settle herself? Or did she just need more structure? If the latter were the case, then getting there earlier would just mean more time for her to get out of control. By the time the teacher walked into the class, it would take even more time for her to settle down than before.
Just to be sure, I asked my oldest, who just finished high school in the same school. She’s been really involved in helping with the girls, and I trust her opinion. Because the high school and the elementary school are in the same building, she’s had plenty of opportunities to keep an eye on her. “Mom, that’s the last thing she needs!” was her emphatic answer. “Unless you want her to get sent home…”
Okay, that’s out.
So I came up with an alternate plan. I decided to give N. some sort of worksheet to take with her every day. It could be anything from writing numbers to coloring, but the main point was that she was to do it until the teacher came in to the classroom.
With some kids this wouldn’t work. You’d never be able to rely on them to remember to do the worksheet, or they’d get distracted in the middle. In that case, you’d have to ask the teacher to stop in the class to get them started, or if that wasn’t possible, find an older child in the school who would be willing to do the job.
Fortunately, I can rely on N. to do as I asked, although I am considering hiring an older child to just check on her from time to time, since my daughter is no longer there.
So I prepared a few worksheets for the week, and rehearsed the “what to do until the teacher comes into the classroom” routine.
This is what it looks like:
1) Go into the class.
2) Put your backpack on the back of your seat (there aren’t any lockers – books are kept in the bag during the day and taken out as needed).
3) Take out your worksheet and your crayons.
4) Do the worksheet until the teacher comes in.
5) When the teacher comes in, put away your worksheet and crayons, look at the teacher, and listen to what she says.
For my daughter a verbal run through was enough. I review with her every day what the procedure is, on our way to school. I also take the opportunity to quiz her on what she needs to do when she needs to ask a question, go to the bathroom, or needs help from the teacher.
If she had trouble remembering the steps, though, I’d probably make a visual schedule for her to remember what to do. I’d probably print it out in a smaller size, laminate it, put it on a keychain, and attach it to a zipper on the outside of her backpack.
Or, since there’s a plastic covered section for a school schedule on the inside of her backpack, I could put it there if she were embarrassed- which she almost never is, anyway.
So far it seems to be helping. Only once did I need to make a slight reminder: another child had also colored in her worksheet, so I explained to her that only she can do her worksheet. So I guess I can breathe again- at least until the next time I speak to the teacher J.