Friday, 15 June 2012

My talk with the teacher


I recently wrote about our discovery that some of Mini’s less desirable behaviour was down to school. It’s taken us a while to link the two because, quite frankly, he is an angel at school. They’ve always had good things to say about him. His teacher has called him a model pupil. He has a small, mostly lovely group of friends (all girls). He’s never been in trouble. And he’s excelling at literacy and numeracy.

Over the last few months, we’ve learnt that when Mini is feeling emotional – happy, upset, anxious, angry, the first thing to go is bladder control. When upset he just can’t stop himself, or hold it in although sometimes when he’s angry he exerts control over his ‘little man’ and wees on purpose, telling us as he does so.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if Mini is dry (day and night) during the holidays, but wet (day and night) during school term-time, it’s because he’s anxious about school. Previous half-terms haven’t displayed it quite as clearly as the most recent break…which is why we’ve only just made the connection.

Today I had a meeting with Mini’s reception teacher (Miss U) to discuss what might be making him anxious – as we’re now pretty confident that Mini’s school related anxieties are specifically because of all these different teachers. Read more about why we think that here.

Miss U pointed out to me that now she has taken on the role of SENCO (earlier than planned) she has little choice but to be out of the classroom at times as the ‘powers that be’ are instructing her to do so. She told me that she feels guilty, and misses being in the classroom so much. I understand that she’s been thrown in at the deep end – and I understand that she has to do what her manager is telling her, but I’m really disappointed that the people at the heart of all of this – our children – are not being considered. And that parents haven’t been made aware of the change in teaching staff/routine. Incidentally I only know about her change in position via the school nurse, who happened to mention it a few months ago…no other announcement has ever been made.

Now of course I appreciate that we all want a well-trained SENCO, and I know that if Mini had special educational needs I’d possibly be feeling different. However for now, I have a little boy who is concerned that he’s being abandoned by us, concerned that he’s moving on, anxious about change and muddled when routine disappears.  He might not have educational needs, but he still has issues that need addressing and supporting by his teachers.
If other children without these issues are unsettled (and I know they are), how on earth can Mini be expected to cope with it? I pointed out that Mini needs routine, stability, reassurance, and that he’s probably worrying that she doesn’t like him anymore, and she is also (in his eyes) abandoning him. A bit harsh maybe, but from what I can gather from Mini’s actions and reactions – the truth.

So where do we go from here?
Well, I’ve been reassured that Mini will be with at least a couple of his closer friends when he moves up to year 1. So I can work on reassuring him too.
I know that those 2 regular sessions without Miss U will continue, but with the same teachers each session, so I can reassure him as to whom those teachers are, and remind him that for the other half of the day, Miss U will be back.
Miss U will also work on reminding all the children when she isn’t going to be there, and reassuring them that she’s still in school.
Miss U will look at including Mini in some transition sessions with some other children who she thinks will struggle with moving up a year.  And of course all children will take part in the moving up day too.
When class lists are announced and teaching assistants have been allocated to classes, we can work on establishing a link between Mini and an appropriate teaching assistant, to ensure that if teacher changes (like we’re currently experiencing) have to happen, at least he’ll have a constant known adult there.
And finally, Miss U will work on specifically reassuring Mini now she’s aware of the issues that can occur.

Am I happier?
No.

The trouble I have is that I find Miss U a little…uninterested? condescending? patronising? I’m not really sure, but I feel uncomfortable talking to her at times. I find it really hard to present to her just how horrid things are for Mini and us. And her responses are almost always the same – uh huh, yes, I see, well we’re keen to provide support…. It’s hard for her I know, because they don’t see the child that I do, and she needs me to tell her what support we want, but in truth, I don’t know. In an ideal world, he’d have one teacher not four, but I can see that’s not a possibility.

So despite the action points we discussed, I’m still concerned that the next 5 weeks are going to be really tough for Mini. Although I understand why things are this way, it doesn’t make me any more comfortable about it. And until the class lists and teaching assistants are finalised, I can’t work with Mini on easing the transition for him.

The next step for me is discussing all this with the CAMHS therapist and our parent supporter. I’m also going to put these points in writing to the teacher, and copy the head teacher in too, just so there’s a trail if we should need it in the future. I’ve got a funny feeling we might. And a funny feeling that even those Mini’s moving out of her class, this won’t be my last meeting with Miss U, the SENCO…

9 comments:

  1. Your little man isn't the only one I know of with these classroom difficulties around teacher changes. It just occurred to me that one way to help him at home would be to have pictures of each teacher on a chart and select the picture each day of the teacher(s)who will be in the classroom so that Mini starts the day knowing what to expect when he arrives in school. You could then discuss, on the way to school, what the routine of that teacher is so he's primed and ready to go. Just a thought. What do you think? xx

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    1. That is a great idea! I think if it was the start of term then that would be a really good way of getting him used to the teaching routine. And might be useful for September (although we hope he'll have a more stable time in year 1).

      For now and for Mini I don't think it matters who it is, whether he's prepared for them, what their routine is (which is actually almost exactly the same for all 3 of the regular teachers), it's more about it not being Miss U, whom he adores. Unfortunately, it appears there's no way around that one. Luckily it's only for 5 more weeks... xx

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    2. I was just going to say the same as Gem. I have taught her well!
      G had a similar issue in year one with 3 different teachers a week and a trainee for the last term. Sadly at the time I was away alot looking after my Mum, so G's main carer was not at home much either. The situation escalated into G having an IEP and me feeling like I had failed my son. I can only imagine this scenario is 10x worse for mini. i wanted to share this with you so you know you are not alone and that lots of children can suffer from disruption in the class room. Interestingly when G went into year 2 with just one teacher. He settled beautifully and the teacher felt the IEP totally unnecessary. Stick with it. I know we were counting down the days until he left that class! x

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  2. If you feel uncomfortable with Miss U, perhaps Mini does too. Perhaps it's her presence that's the problem rather than her absence. Just a thought!

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    1. Good thought izzwizz. I do happen to know though that Mini adores her, and these problems only occurred when Miss U started spending less time in the classroom. His first term was fine (when she was there full-time) - if anything that would have been the one I would have expected problems during because of the enormity of starting school.

      I think part of my discomfort with her is that she talks to me like I'm also a 5 yr old and I find that condescending especially as she's younger than me!

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  3. poor mini its so hard for kids to understand. my son is in yr3 his teacher was newly qualified in sept so still learning, my son has a IEP and on school action plus as he has a concentration problem and unable to when to stop they have no TA. I dont think the problems we get at the moment is the teacher its the head teacher. hes learning and happy to go school but only enjoys break times and lunchtimes he used to love going to school to learn. me and other mums are concerned as in sept a new teacher takes over. i hope the summer holidays are better for you.

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  4. Even though you may feel uncomfortable you need to persist with her and any other teaching professionals you encounter - you are the expert on him and you know him best! Whenever my son (autistic with a statement in mainstream school)moves to a new class I take the lead and make an appointment with the new teacher and go in to see her armed with a crib sheet I have made about my son - what works for him, things that have been tried, stress triggers for them to avoid, strategies that are proven to work etc, etc. For the last 2 transitions we have gone in with a camera and taken pictures of the new classroom, cloakroom, toilets, lunch hall, anywhere else he will go, teachers, TAs, dinner ladies & anyone else he will meet. Then we make it into a book for him and we look at it over the summer holidays and talk about it a lot so it seems familiar to him by September. The school have been good about arranging extra transition visits for him and he is allowed to choose a friend to go with him and then they 'report back' to their peers before they all go for the class visit.
    I wouldn't worry about whether he has a statement for academic needs or not. I work in a primary school and they should have a list of their 'vulnerable' children. I used to work in a secondary school for the Senco and we did lots of transition work for the year 6s coming up. A large amount of time was spent with the 'vulnerable' children, many of whom did not have special needs academically but they recognised that they all needed some TLC to help them with their extra anxieties.
    Don't ever assume that it will be done for you unfortunately we have to fight for them and make things happen.
    Good luck!

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    1. Thanks for your comment Louise. I'm well aware I need to fight for Mini (luckily our 'fight' was seen as a strength when we were approved as adopters), I'm just finding out how hard at the moment...I'm also quite lucky in that I have a parent supporter who is fighting with me too, and as she already has a good working relationship with school, she knows who best to speak with and how to approach things. If I'm not happy about things, I can talk to her and she'll speak on my behalf, or advise me how to proceed.

      As soon as I know who his new teacher will be, and who the teaching assistants will be I'll be in there. And hopefully, we'll be able to set up a close relationship with one of the TAs as well as the teacher. The problem with reception year has been that his issues weren't apparent when he started school...they are now, so we can work with school. The photo book you do sounds like a great idea, and something that will be useful to do, if not for this year for when he goes into junior school.

      Hope your son's move up in September goes smoothly x

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  5. Oh goodness, another child flying under the radar because he is so good at school! Loads of empathetic hugs (and not much advice, sorry) from me. School is an issue with us too though in my daughter's case it's particularly the issue of having to be liked by everybody because of her low self esteem, one of the boys in her class doesn't particularly want to play with her, he has his own set of friends and my daughter takes this very badly then takes it out on us when she gets home, teacher doesn't understand what I am trying to say about her issues, just bangs on about how good and popular she is, yes she is very good and popular but we need a bit of help convincing her of that!

    I wish she would just fly off the handle like she does at home, just once, it would certainly make them sit up and listen then!

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