But, He Can Do It At Home….

Have you ever had a parent tell you, “But Johnny (insert any child’s name here) can count to 100 by 2’s (insert any skill here) at home with no difficulty at all. He does it all the time!”

As a classroom teacher, a Learning Support Teacher and even as a Vice-Principal, I’ve heard this countless time, as I am sure most educators have as well.

What have you thought when a parent tells you this? How have you responded?

Your reaction may have been something like, “Yah, ummmm sure!”. Those words were muttered only in your head, of course, I hope.  Yes, I’ve muttered those same words to myself on a number of occasions.

Being a parent though, has really opened my mind in so many ways.

I understand parents and children so much different now that I have my own children.

Take my 4-year-old son as an example.

He is having difficulty with his speech. He has difficulty making certain sounds and is on a wait list for individual speech therapy. In the meantime, we have activities to do at home with him which have really been helping.

We were invited to a Summer Speech Camp, taking place once a week for 5 weeks. We go to class for 1  1/2 hours to work on s-blends (i.e. spot, spider, stop, snake, etc…).

At the beginning of the Summer Speech Camp, my son couldn’t even make the /s/ sound. Not at all.  It was a real struggle and I had a real challenging time helping him. We didn’t argue about it or anything like that, I just wasn’t sure how to help. I wasn’t sure what to do. My suggestions just weren’t working.

But, after completing 3 weeks of the 5-week Speech Camp, he was making the sound so much better….

Well, I thought he was.

At home he was saying…. “ssssssnake”,  “ssssssnow”, “sssssspace” (this is very hard because of the two /s/ sounds), “ssssspot”, “sssssssoup”….  and on and on. I was so impressed with his effort and progress (which I told him multiple times each day).

Then we went to the 4th week session of the Speech Camp.

We walk in and I was so proud of my son. I couldn’t wait for him to show off what he was now able to do.

Hmmmmmm…. I guess that expectation was my first mistake.

When it came time for us to play our games with each other, Pauli just couldn’t seem to make the /s/ sound at all.  Just couldn’t do it. He was too excited about the game. He wasn’t really focusing on the sounds, but rather, he was focusing on ‘winning’ the game. Poor little guy. Of course, he wasn’t bothered in the least. He was confident and he just kept persevering. As the speech therapist was watching, I almost heard myself say to her, “But, he made the /s/ sound at home all week.”

I didn’t say it. Instead, I continued to encourage and tell my son what great effort he was putting forth and for him to keep trying. In turn, I reflected upon what this was teaching me – as a parent and as an educator. I would like to share the following tidbits:

  • It is important not to put too much pressure on your child(ren)/student(s).
  • Continue to be patient and understanding, knowing that your child (student) is trying their best and that he/she wants to please and would do anything to please.
  • Continue to encourage, both your students and their parents.
  • If a parent says, “But, he does it at home,” please do not judge. Please do not think that the parent is making this up. Trust and believe that the parent is telling the truth.
  • Know that it takes time to develop skills. As parents and educators, we must demonstrate patience and understanding.
  • Know that regardless how comfortable you make your classroom and your school, many students will feel most comfortable at home and, as a result, may actually demonstrate certain skills where they feel the most comfortable first. This does not mean that they won’t demonstrate these skills in their classroom, it may just take a little more time.
  • As an educator, you may think you know your students quite well, and you likely do, but remember, the child’s parent will always know their child better. Our student’s parents are their first, and most important, teachers.
  • Acknowledge the parent, let them know that yes, they may be able to do this skill at home, where they feel most comfortable, but, in time, they will demonstrate the same skill at school.

I hope that you will consider some of these points when dealing with your students and their families this year. I know I will.

I want to thank my son for teaching me another important lesson.

About Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am an elementary educator who recently returned to the classroom after 12+ years as an elementary school administrator. Lastly, I am passionate about helping others, learning about abuse, helping others in abusive relationships, and helping others understand their worth.
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3 Responses to But, He Can Do It At Home….

  1. Heidi says:

    Hi Tia,
    What a fabulous (and important!) post!
    As a parent, i’veprobably said this more often than I can count. (yeah, I know, I’m sometimes “that” parent… Sigh.)

    But sometimes, it’s important to speak or show a teacher what your kids can do.

    When my son was in Grade 3, French Immersion, his teacher had been talking with me about how distracted he often was, that she was having challenges with getting him to pay attention and listen. This didn’t surprise me – he’s a very creative little one, often disappearing into his own head.

    So, in preparation for his IEP meeting (at that point, he was classified as gifted), I researched boy-centric classrooms – things like yoga balls or those one-legged stools, stand up desks, etc… I wanted to contribute to the solution, if I could. I wanted to bring ideas.

    On the way to the meeting, I also just happened to see his “dream journal” (he’d been watching Shark Boy and LavaGirl – one character keeps such a journal). I took it with and, when I shared it with his teacher, she looked through it – at his many drawings, mind maps, attempts at writing, etc and sat silently. She looked up at me and said “I’m getting NONE of this from him in class. I had no idea…”

    We looked at each other for a moment and I said “we’re not talking about just attention problems here, are we? We need to have a different conversation…”
    She agreed.

    With her support and through many conversations, we moved my son to another school, mid-year. He has thrived in a Montessori program, has since had a full psycho educational assessment, has both gifted and LD designations, and has received amazing support from his teachers, school and district! Three years later, he’s reading at above grade level, and uses his laptop daily, with various assistive technologies to overcome written output challenges. He’s a confident, happy learner now, going off to middle school in a month!

    Sometimes, I wonder. How much longer would he have struggled if I hadn’t taken in that journal? I might have said “but he does that at home…” – but that book showed it in black and white. In our “wait to fail, then diagnose” system, it breaks a parent’s heart to see their child get more and more frustrated or discouraged, almost withering before their eyes, until it’s “bad enough” to become top priority for student services.

    Yes, parents all think their child is special (and they are!!)
    And yes, parents don’t have the perspective of working with 20 or 30 kids each year, to understand the range of normal development.

    But parents also, as you said, know their kids. See their kids in a different context. So, instead of rolling their eyes next time, if teachers could ask more pointed questions – use their expertise to help guide parents instead of dismissing them. Maybe ask “can you bring in samples?” or “tell me abut a time when…”

    Maybe parents just need help knowing WHAT to share?

    So, thank you!! For writing this post! Wonderful, as usual!

    • T. Henriksen says:

      Hi Heidi,

      Oh, your story is such an amazing one! You were so smart to bring in that journal with you to your son’s teacher. I also can’t imagine what it would have been like for your son in the years following. Such an important step. Yes, teachers need to know what questions to ask, but, parents also need to be advocates for their child(ren) – as you have so wisely demonstrated.

      Thank you for including this important message. The home and school definitely need to work together as a team to find the best way to meet the needs of our students and children. So important.

      Thanks Heidi,
      Tia

  2. Pingback: Leadership Lessons | It's All About Learning

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