14 May 2010

30 school days left in the year

I yelled at J's Assistant Principal today. I know, I know, there will be no 'Best Parent' trophy for me as a result. Definitely not my proudest moment, but I have seriously had it up to my eyeballs with this school.

J was getting yet another suspension today, J said it was because he called detention stupid, AP said it was because J didn't attend his detention. I went down to the school to pick J up and promptly lost my noodle at AP because I am so damn sick of J being in detention, tutorial, or suspension. The only answer I'm given as to why he has another in-school suspension (where he spends the whole day in a cubicle beside the office) is that it's because he didn't attend his detention. The detention was because he didn't attend the tutorial. The tutorial was because he didn't do his homework. This happens every single time he has homework. He has homework with almost every math class.

It took the better part of an hour with the Principal (AP and I had been reduced to yelling like 5 year olds so Principal took over) to finally get some basic information. J is doing fine in class. He is not disruptive, he completes his assignments, he attends class, he is not rude or cruel to the teachers. This is with all classes, not just one or two. So, if he's doing ok in class then what's with all the detentions and whatnot? I found out it's because he refuses to do homework, mostly math. The school will not accept assigning a student a zero for not handing work in. J won't do homework. His reasoning is that his home time is his time and he won't spend his time doing anything for the school. I turned to J and asked him if he eventually does the work during class time, and he said he did. He just will not do it at home. I asked if he would complete assigned homework during class instead of home, he said he would if that was allowed, but the math teacher assigns it so there is no time to do it in class. I turned to Principal and she agreed that this is how the math teacher operates. Work is expected to be done at home.

Sigh. I see J's point of view, I don't do anything for work outside of work, ever. I see the teacher's point of view, there is not a lot of time in class so work is expected to be completed at home. And not much work, it's not like J is being loaded down with it and other teachers don't assign homework (that I know of).

So I asked Principal to clarify: J is doing fine in class, no complaints from teachers, all in-class assignments are completed on time; the problem is with J attending after school detentions to reprimand him for not attending tutorial, which is a reprimand for not doing work at home. Yes, she said, that's it. So then, I said, do you see that your discipline system is not working for J? If he's completing his work with the exception of a bit of homework in one subject, and he's attending class, and he's not defiant, rude, cruel, or disruptive, then why are you persisting in pulling him out of class almost every day to serve detention time? This method is not working, he's missing too much class time to keep up with the work, which can create more homework, which he will not do, so he's assigned tutorial, then detention, then suspension, then he's behind in class, creating more homework...you see? She said she won't change the system to suit J as other students will then be expected to be treated like J.

Sigh. Ok, I see her point. What was left unsaid was that I could force J to do his homework and that would solve the problem. Except that J has not once ever done homework. Not ever. I have tried keeping in contact with the teachers, picking him up from school and making sure he brings home the appropriate materials to complete the work, I have stood over him with the work spread out in front of him, I have read the work out loud to him to help him understand, I've rephrased the work to use smaller words, I've grounded him for not doing the work, I have taken away privileges for incomplete work, and I have given up. J's grades are not fantastic but he's not failing either. He understands the material presented and is able to communicate his understanding to the teachers. When he has time during class (any class) he finishes the assigned homework. So I figured that homework done at home was not a hill I'd like to die on.

And I suspect homework is just the topic, the issue is J's principles involving time usage. He believes that his time is his to manage. He accepts that he must go to school (although slowly he's been saying he'd like to drop out as he doesn't see the point in school) and will do the required work - during their time not his. I can fully understand why J is so stubborn on his principles, he gets it from me. And thank you, I don't want to argue with me either on principles.

So J is generally a good student with a decent understanding of the courses but he won't do homework. He has been placed in a school that puts a prime focus on completing all assigned work. To me, the Big Picture is for J to get his diploma. The world has changed so that a diploma is a requirement to get a decent job. To me, one of the details to that Big Picture is homework. While I understand the need to encourage students to study and complete the work, as long as J has a working knowledge of the material taught I don't see the point in battling him over doing the work at home.

At this point, I'm on The Countdown. There are 30 school days left in the year. Next year J will be going to a new school. I may set up a meeting with all of J's teachers at the new school to discuss J. I don't know if it will help them to understand J's attitudes or perceptions, but at least I can set the groundwork for communication with the teachers.


Anonymous said...

Ummm... there is one avenue that might be open to you. J see's (or saw) a psychiatrist, right? And it seems like the problems J is having with his school originate somewhere in his deep past. So it may be possible to present his case to the psychiatrist in such a way that he will label J as special needs student and force the school to take his needs into consideration.

I know 'special needs' brings up images of kids in wheelchairs or sub-average intelligence, but it's really much broader than that.

Just a thought from his loving grandmummum.

Marc said...

Hi Robin, thanks for visiting my blog. Sounds very frustrating, this whole detention/tutorial/not doing homework thing. I hope J and you can figure out how best to deal with his needs so that in the end, he graduates with having learned something. Good luck.

Chantelle said...

Working can be way easier than going to school because most people get to leave work behind them when they go home, and almost no one gets to leave school behind them.

There will be lots more homework in high school. If J is refusing to do homework now and nothing changes, chances are he won't do it then, making it less likely that he would get his diploma.

It sounds like you've tried a lot of different approaches with J, that none of the work, and that you're fed up. You sound so frustrated and unhappy.

I know I get control-freaky when things aren't going well and I don't know what to do, so I wouldn't be surprised if you did that, too. Part of me knows that being control-freaky is counter-productive because if I don't know how to solve the problem and I won't let anyone else help, it doesn't get solved. I've found that reaching out for help is the only thing that helps solve the problem. Plus a good cry from being all tense and angry and control-freaky.

So I was wondering if there was a place where you can get some counselling on dealing with J. Dealing with kids who have behaviour problems is hard and you can't be expected to know what to do once you've exhausted all of your ideas. Honestly, this is way too much for one person to deal with, and it's ok to get some help. Even more, you deserve to have help. You don't have to do this alone and you don't have to know everything.

Maybe the AP or P might have some resources that can help. I can also do some research on possible resources, if you'd like. It might turn out that J will listen to someone else... maybe S or T can connect with him somehow.

I love you so very much, and it pains me to see you so frustrated and upset.


The Hyperlexian Aspie said...

there are some other parents out there who don't agree with homework:


i didn't really ever assign homework as a teacher, as it didn't agree with my own values.

however, homework isn't really the issue, is it? i'm not in anybody's shoes, so i am not certain what the issues really are, but here are my observations about the 3 main stakeholders:

1. j = wants freedom to choose his own path, both in general and throughout the day. does not want to be bound by rules that do not serve his immediate purpose. he sees himself as an individual person who is not served or supported by the current school system. might eventually see no point in continuing school, as he knows people who are semi-successful without any job or schooling.

2. school = wants peace, which means having all children follow the same rules (or risk anarchy). wants j to learn all of the curriculum. wants j to understand the importance of education, the necessity of following rules, and the importance of being respectful to authority. wants help from the parents in keeping j under control.

3. you = want your child to be happy, healthy, educated and well-adjusted. want the school to understand that your child is an individual, and to understand that you as a parent know your child more throughly than anybody else. want to have support from the school in supporting j.

this appears to have become a battle between the three stakeholders, all of whom are trying to work in the best interests of j. the aims of the three groups are not all that different, but there is massive disagreement about how to achieve the goals. instead of working towards the greater good, the situation has deteriorated into a power struggle, because the three groups don't really seem to believe that j's best interests are at the heart of each other's choices.

i don't have a simple solution. but if the stakeholders are not willing to communicate positively and even compromise, j will lose.

j will think he has won, because like all children he fundamentally understands that when the adults disagree, he gets more freedom to do what he wants. this is a major way that children manipulate their way into a powerful position - they push their parents and teachers / principals into opposing positions.

there are no easy answers.