Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Fresh Start in a New Classroom

Kai attends a small, public therapeutic day school. For as long as he’s been attending, the school has had only one fifth-grade classroom with the same person teaching it, Miss S.

When Kai was in second grade, he went to Miss S’s class for math. Ever since then, he has been assuming that he would return to her class when he became a fifth grader himself.

This school year, the school had to open up a second fifth-grade classroom due to an unusually high number of students at that grade this year. Because this is a therapeutic school, the composition of students fluctuates as new kids get sent there while others return to their home school. This year there happened to be more fifth graders than they’ve ever had before.

Kai was placed in the “other” second grade classroom.

From the very beginning, he was not happy about it.

He complained about the teacher and other staff. He was unhappy that most of the kids he liked were not in his classroom.

I thought that this was a disappointment that he would just have to learn to deal with. In time, I figured, he would get used to the situation and everything would be fine.

His teacher certainly did everything she could to teach him. She was very dedicated and communicated well with us so that we felt a partnership.

Months passed, but Kai never did seem to get over his initial bad feelings. Every time he had a major incident, he lashed out about the staff, or moaned about how he had no friends and that no one liked him. We spoke to him constantly about how he had to accept responsibility for his own actions, that the staff wasn’t to blame, rather they were there to support and teach him. But no matter how much we said, he couldn’t seem to adjust his thinking.

As his incidents piled up, I was wondering if we would just write off the rest of the school year and hope to re-set when he went to middle school.

But with four months still left in his fifth grade year, it seemed too long of a time to just write off.

I wrote to the school principal and asked if she would consider moving Kai to the other fifth grade classroom. We had absolutely no issues with his teacher, but since Kai’s mindset seemed irrevocably negative, perhaps a new environment would give him a fresh start. Of course, I understood that there would be concerns about sending the wrong message that students could switch teachers whenever they wanted, so we would support her to make sure the right message was sent to Kai.

I was very happy when the principal and her staff gave the matter serious consideration. They came back with a plan – Kai could switch classrooms if he could write an essay explaining why he should move.

It wouldn’t be easy for Kai. Writing is his most hated subject.

But he was happy to have an opportunity to state his case.

Over the next day, he outlined his thoughts and then put his ideas down in a letter to the principal. I was pleased that he came up with the thoughts on his own. The crux of his position was that he would stay safer and be more focused on schoolwork because he would have his friends in the new classroom to help support him.

The principal agreed to the classroom switch. Kai was very happy. I think just knowing he would be moving helped him to have four really good days in his last week in his old classroom.

This was Kai’s first week in his new room. Even though the change was something he wanted, we were nervous about how things would go as Kai generally takes time to adjust to new things. In his new classroom, Kai would not only have to get used to a new teacher and new classmates, but different routines, different order of subjects, and other changes.

On his first day, this past Tuesday, he scored a 100% on his school point sheet. He followed that up with a 96% on Wednesday, another 100% on Thursday, and an 89% and Student of the Week honors on Friday.

We have no illusions that this change of classrooms has suddenly eliminated all the issues with anger and frustration. We know that there will be difficult times.

But I do think that a positive mindset makes all the difference. It is great to see that Kai has gotten off to a good start in his new classroom. Hopefully, he will maintain his new positive outlook and continue to stay safe and perform well.

Monday, February 9, 2015

School Assignment

Kai began working on a school assignment. Each student in his class picked an explorer to write about. Kai chose Hernando DeSoto.

The first part of the assignment was to write a timeline of key events in the explorer's life. Kai is still not much for writing, but with the help of Wikipedia, he did his research and created a basic timeline.

The next part of the assignment was to draw a map to show the places that the explorer went to and the direction of his voyage. This part Kai eagerly worked on, as he loves to draw.

The other parts of the assignment are to create a treasure chest, fill it with artifacts that the explorer may have found, and to write a one paragraph journal entry that the explorer may have written about his adventure. That last one will be the most challenging of all. I think we'll have him work on with his tutor.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Snowy Super Bowl Sunday

We got our first blizzard of the season yesterday, which meant it was a happy day for Kai.

He was up early to work on his origami. He has been reading the Origami Yoda books, the funny yet authentic series by Tom Angleberger about a group of middle school kids, and what happens when the loser of the group creates an origami finger puppet of Yoda. In addition to the stories themselves, Kai likes that the books give instructions on creating your own origami Star Wars figures.

Here he is with Origami Yoda and Darth Paper:

And here with Han Foldo and the Fortune Wookie:

I like the books as they are at a reading level that is more appropriate and challenging for him.

After doing some math homework, we went outside.

This was the scene outside our house.

The picture was taken in the morning before the blizzard had officially started.

Of course, Kai wanted to go sledding, so we went out before the storm was supposed to get worse.

Later, he did more math, some step aerobics, and a lot of Pokemon.

And then it was time for the Super Bowl.

It is the one sporting event I have a reasonably good chance of being able to watch as we make our own little party out of it.

My wife prepared our Super Bowl platter which included Buffalo Wings, nachos with ground beef and wieners, peanuts, tortilla chips, and celery.

I enjoyed the game. Kai enjoyed getting to party. His favorite part, of course, was getting to dance to Katy Perry’s halftime entertainment.

Today, he is home from school due to the weather. I have a feeling my wife will be origami-ed and Pokemon-ed out by the time I get home from work.

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