I remember these days as a kid. A day off of school. Waiting all morning with a mix of excitement and dread for it to be time to go to the school. Sitting in a chair in the hallway with my siblings while mom talked to each of our teachers, one at a time. I'd sit there with butterflies in my stomach, swinging my legs against the metal folding chair and wringing my hands in nervous anticipation of what was being said in that room. I was never too worried--I aced every test, answered all the questions correctly, handed in my homework on time, and raised my hand to talk in class. I was quiet and calm when I needed to be, smart and articulate when the situation called for that, and stayed out of trouble. But you never knew what the teacher was going to throw out there that might not be taken so well by the parents! I'd sit in that hallway reliving every moment of the last quarter, wondering if each little incident might have been one that would get me in trouble, until Mom finally walked out with a smile on her face and I knew I could relax. Yeah, I was a pretty good kid. I didn't ever have anything to worry about, but I worried all the same--guess I've always been that way.
Now I sit in the parent's seat at these conferences. And I enter them with the same mixture of excitement and dread. I can't wait to hear what level Munchkin's reading at, or what a magnificent writer Squirrel is. I love hearing which subjects are their strongest ones, and which ones really give them a creative outlet. Like myself at that age, Squirrel doesn't give me much to worry about. She's intelligent and articulate and creative. She aces her tests and answers all her school work correctly. This is Munchkin's first graded year of school, but he's following in his sister's footsteps--every test paper he's brought home so far this year has a big red A+ on it. Yes, I'm a proud momma. And no, I don't worry about their academic performance at all.
So what do I dread about conferences? For some people, it's the unknown--not knowing what the teacher might throw out there as a problem or concern. For me, though, it's a combination of the unknown and the known. I KNOW what problems will be thrown on the table for both my children. What I don't know is what new way this is manifesting itself in now?
Squirrel's fabulous school lets me come in and visit anytime. I speak to the teacher several times a week at pick-up time, and I am welcome to stop in and see her any morning before school if I have a question or concern. So anything that's going to come up at a conference has already been addressed. There probably won't be any surprises there--but you never know for sure!
Now, Munchkin's school is another story. In writing, they say they welcome visitors. In reality, you must sign your life away to step past the office! I've been to his classroom exactly one time during the school day since he started there last year--and that was because I insisted on walking him to class one day after a very rough and late start to our day. So I don't know what goes on in his school. What I do know is that Munchkin brings home a Behavior Book everyday, where the teacher lets me know what "color card" he was on (the cards are coded for behaviors). He's been on red or black (the lowest colors) a lot this year, so I know his behavior is far from perfect. But finding out why has been quite an ordeal! What he tells me rarely matches what the teacher tells me, but I'm starting to get a clearer picture of how his explanations of the scenarios leading up to a red card actually mesh with the teacher's explanations. And what it basically boils down to is sensory overload that is not being met--which means, his IEP is not being followed.
I am prepared for Parent-Teacher conferences today, though. I have a notebook full of articles and checklists on Sensory Needs and how to meet these needs in the classroom. I've highlighted ideas that address Munchkin's specific needs as I know them to be. I just found an excellent book on this too, which I printed the title and author of and will be giving to the teacher as a recommendation for her to use in the classroom. Will I offend his teachers? Possibly, though that's certainly not my intention. My intention is to help my Munchkin succeed in school, and his "behavior" seems to be holding him back from that success.
So, yeah, I'm going to Parent-Teacher conferences this afternoon with a combination of eager anticipation for the glowing academic reports, almost overshadowed by fear and dread of the unknown and known social and behavior reports. Wonder if all parents feel this way today, or if it's just those of us with special kids? I'm guessing we all do!