Tuesday, September 20, 2011

9/20/2011 Ice Cream Social

Today Dave and I joined the kids at school for their "ice cream social" put on by the PTA, since we happened to be out for a late lunchtime together anyway. It was unbelievably hot here today, it's been in the upper 90s for a few days.

I'd expected to hang with the kids and maybe chat with teachers, and that happened, sort of. I caught Julian's teacher and struck up a long conversation with her. They'd had a tough day, with Julian defying the P.E. teacher, giving his teacher attitude and even getting sent to the principal's office. She was really frustrated with how to get through to him. He's only been getting worse, giving her attitude and rude comments and forcing her to repeat instructions several times. She said she doesn't want to spend all her time with him giving him consequence and threatening, but that's what it was turning into. She said something like, "at some point he just has to do what he's told." Just like at home.

I'd planned to spend the afternoon working with Julian on his book report, but had to redirect him to my room to talk alone. "Talking doesn't do anything, Mom," he complained as we walked in. "You're right," I told him. I walked into my closet and pulled out the black belt. "NOOO!" he cried out.

I didn't belt him. But thanks to the one time I did belt him, seeing it looped on a dresser was a necessary threatening message as we talked.

And we talked. First I told him that he had to obey -- not "listen to" -- but obey adults. I told him he especially must obey teachers, and explained that teachers work hard and do their jobs out of conviction and are there just to teach him and other kids. It's their job, that's why they're there, and he can't interfere with that.

Then I wrote down "actions" (such as rudeness, not accepting responsibilty, disobeying and others), and then wrote down "consequences" (giving away toys, no dessert/allowance, grounding, the belt and others), and then wrote a chart of actions mapped to consequences.

Then I had him practice obeying -- I had him walk away a few paces, and I'd call his name and he'd have to stop immediately. This was because of his causing trouble in P.E. today, when the coach called him numerous times and Julian ignored the coach. S.O.P. at home.

By now, he was agreeing with these exercises, because The Belt was looming.

Then I told Julian that now he has to say "yes ma'am" and "yes sir" to adults. This sounds extreme, but I'd threatened that before, during the summer when he was being so much trouble at the CDC. I got the idea from Kung Fu where he has to say "yes sir." I made him practice with me, but he rolled his eyes and said "yes ma'am" with irritation. So I took the belt and whacked it LOUD against a bench, and told him sternly to try again. THEN he said "yes ma'am" with more sincerity. (This is where he departs with Gabriel; Gabriel is very likely to continue resisting; Julian does have his limits.)

I told Julian that absolutely no resistance would be tolerated today. Though it took a ton of energy, I managed to follow up every incident of him ignoring an instruction or talking back with glowering and insisting he say "yes MA'AM." It's amazing how many of those incidents there are in the space of 5 minutes. It's amazing that it's come to this -- I would never have believed that I'd ever threaten a belt or insist on "yes ma'am." How on earth will I have the energy or time to follow up on this when I'm working?

For the rest of the afternoon, I worked with Julian on his book report and homework, and to my surprise, he was pretty cooperative. He blew through his math homework -- the whole weeks' worth took him about 20 minutes, because he wasn't distracted or resistant. Just like Gabriel, the math is really easy and straightforward and needs little intervention. The language homework on the other hand, such as writing definitions for two words from his spelling/vocabulary list, took much much longer.

Julian needs a lot of help with his book report -- but wouldn't any 7-year-old need help? For example, he needs to write a sentence on each of "where" and "when" a folktale takes place, but all our "Jack and the Beanstalk" book says about "when' is "once upon a time." Kids need help with this!

Or do they? Incredibly, Katrina also had a kindergarten version of a book report to do this week, called a "story map." She has to do the hard part: picking a book, writing down who are the main characters, what the "setting" is, and what happens in the beginning, middle and end of the story. These are pretty sophisticated concepts for even a 2nd-grader - summarizing isn't easy, and they don't get that the end of the story isn't necessarily what happens on the last page.

But so unlike her brothers, Katrina insisted on doing her Story Map by herself. Given her determination, I let her just copy the words from the last page of the book for "end of the story." I was blown away by how insistent she was on doing her "homework" that was clearly designed for parents to help with. 5th-week kindergartners can't possibly be expected to write this stuff themselves, when they're technically not even expected to be reading yet.

Well, kindergarten is the least of my worries -- and apparently, 4th grade isn't eithe. Not only is Gabriel doing his homework, but he's keeping track of it -- arguably the biggest achievement. (We passed Gabriel's teacher bicycling to work this morning; Gabriel said the teacher told the class that bicycling to work was a "resolution".) So far, 2nd-grade is our -- and the teacher's -- hugest challenge.


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