How Do I Respond to this Parent?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by hojalata, Feb 5, 2008.

  1. hojalata

    hojalata Comrade

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    Please help!! We just gave out our first report cards yesterday, and this morning I got an e-mail from a mom saying that I am not challenging her son enough in math. I teach first grade, and she said she wants me to start him memorizing his multiplication facts.

    Now, he DOES understand the concept of multiplication (he can explain to me that 3x4 means 3 groups of 4. But I just feel like there is something wrong with having a first grader start memorizing x facts when it is an end of 2nd grade and 3rd grade standard. I already do a differentiated program in math, and he is in my high group with about 5 other really smart kids, but only one other one is really at the same level.

    I don't mind differentiating, but I can only break it down so much. If I don't draw the line somewhere, I will be coming up with 23 individual math curriculums.

    So I guess my question is this-- is it my responsibility to teach him where he is at? To give him what he needs? Even if that is 4th grade math? If so, how do I validate spending that much time on one student when others are still working on identifying coins? And what happens in 2nd grade and 3rd grade when he already knows everything? When did it stop being the parents' responsibility to challenge their kids if they are ready to go above and beyond the average kid?

    Is it okay to say that teaching mulitplication facts is not part of our first grade curriculum but if she wants to work with him at home on those, she is more than welcome to?

    Please help, I thought I was doing a great job of differentiating, and then this lady just ruined my day :(
     
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  3. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    That's exactly what I would tell her. I have a third grader who evidently began working on multiplication with his mom 2 or 3 years ago and was ready for it. That doesn't mean he had to learn it at school.
     
  4. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    The parent does have a legitimate interest in knowing their child will have an appropriate education, and that may include something beyond the normal curriculum. I'm not sure the law in MI (some states require enrichment), but on a basic level you want the child to be learning at an appropriate level also.

    Your school might have resources -- maybe he could be moved to a higher grade just for math. If he's well-behaved, that's probably what should be done. You'd want to discuss this with the parent, and of course your administrators. I think you should tell her you'll investigate, then go to the admins and see what they might be willing to live with, and then invite the parent in for a meeting.
     
  5. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    This is what we did with our son also -- he knew his multiplication tables, division, and negative numbers before entering first grade.

    However, math was incredibly boring to him in school. Kids who are that far apart tend to not pay attention, not be interested in the work, and sometimes don't behave particularly well. It's better to have them interested in what you want them to be interested in.
     
  6. MissFrizzle

    MissFrizzle Virtuoso

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    If he understands the concept like you say, then I think he is very advanced and deserves a bit of a challenge. I would offer to do some challenge work, that's it. Is there a way he can get tested ? Or pulled out for some math work...
     
  7. Olivesmom

    Olivesmom Rookie

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    If he is very gifted, perhaps have him go to an upper grade for math. Aside from that I think it is ridiculous for her to demand that you have him memorize the facts. Give her information and work for him to do at home. It should not be completely your responsibility. If mom wants him to excel and get ahead she should do her part at home as well.
     
  8. blue-eyed mom

    blue-eyed mom Companion

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    I think that's great advice. In moving him up though, you do just want to make sure there are no gaps.
     
  9. hojalata

    hojalata Comrade

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    Well, I am just throwing around a few thoughts/ideas here. If he went to another classroom for math, I have no idea how that would work because our school is very...."loose" and teachers don't do math all at the same time, and many times don't do it at the same time each day themselves. If he went up right now, I know there would be gaps because he has missed things like adding and subtracting with regrouping. I am not trying to discount what anyone suggested, I'm just rolling the ideas around in my head.

    Here is the letter I wrote back to her. I have not sent it yet. Is it too harsh?
    ****
    Hi XXXXX,

    Thanks for the e-mail. I am sorry you feel that XXXX is not being challenged in math. Please know that I spend a lot of time planning differentiated math lessons, and XXXXX is in the top group with 5 other students. This group is already working on 2nd grade standards like becoming fluent in subtraction facts (20 in under a minute and a half), fact families, counting money fluently, giving change, and learning the concept of multiplication (ie- repeated groups). Generally, teachers begin teaching the concept of multiplication at the end of 2nd grade, and then they begin working on quick recall in 3rd grade. So while I am happy to begin working with XXXXXX on the concept of multiplication, please know that it is not part of our 1st grade curriculum. I encourage you to continue to work with him at home on this, though!

    Also, please understand that while I would love to have time to come up with an individual math curriculum for each student, I have to draw the line somewhere. Even planning for 3 different groups takes hours and hours of thought and set-up. I will be happy to work harder at challenging XXXXXX in math, but please understand my limitations since there is only 1 of me and 23 kids. I have put a lot of thought into what each group does on a daily basis, and XXXXXX is doing appropriate work.

    Thank you for your concern,
    Mrs. XXXXX
     
  10. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    The letter is pretty good. However, I think no matter how good it is, it will come off as dismissive.

    I still think you should conference with her directly if possible, even if it's essentially to deliver what you've just said in the letter. Explain that you make three sets of curricula and cannot yourself provide more, ask why she's interested in multiplication specifically (as compared to any other mathematical skill). The parent surely doesn't want to have gaps either, so it may be that she's picking multiplication just because she knows it's important.

    Also, reflect on how much he needs the acceleration. Is he far advanced beyond the other four in the group? Could you move them all to more advanced topics than what they're currently doing?
     
  11. hojalata

    hojalata Comrade

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    Thanks for your response. There is one other student within his group that is at the same level. I don't mind making a separate Math Ticket for the two of them.... but then where do I draw the line? I have 3 kids that are kind of between my middle group and low group. Do I make a separate one for them too? So then I'd have 5. 3 is putting me at my limit-- I really put a lot of thought into each one. I can't imagine 5!!
     
  12. blue-eyed mom

    blue-eyed mom Companion

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    I think that is exactly correct. One of the biggest "pearls" I've learned over the years, is that although it may be harder in the short run, the best thing is a phone conversation or one on one meetings.

    Too many things such as tone can be read into notes. Even your harshest parents back down many times on the phone or in person.
     
  13. Bernard

    Bernard Companion

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    I think your letter sounds a bit too apologetic. One thing that I have learned over the years is that, if you apologize for something, the parent feels validated in being angry about it.
    You might try something along the lines of "While it is not possible to create an individualized math curriculum for each child, lets try to work together to think some challenging and stimulating enrichment activities to help your child build math skills."
    Do you have a computer in your room? Perhaps he could work on Timez Attack or a similar program there. Or, perhaps he and your other advanced student could play Othello, Blokus and other logic/reasoning games that would not require much direction from you.
    If you are not completely certain that he has mastered the skills you are covering, though, I would insist that he take part in regular instruction and do extra enrichment at home, if mom desires.
     
  14. mrachelle87

    mrachelle87 Fanatic

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    How about a computer program? I think if he is ready, allow him to do multiplication facts.
     
  15. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    I think this paragraph:
    Also, please understand that while I would love to have time to come up with an individual math curriculum for each student, I have to draw the line somewhere. Even planning for 3 different groups takes hours and hours of thought and set-up. I will be happy to work harder at challenging XXXXXX in math, but please understand my limitations since there is only 1 of me and 23 kids. I have put a lot of thought into what each group does on a daily basis, and XXXXXX is doing appropriate work.
    could be taken out completely and probably should. Although I am sure it is not your intent, a parent could interpret the tone of this paragraph to be patronizing, whiny, or even dismissive. It is too easy for miscommunications to occur via written correspondence, in spite of that being the best "cover you butt" form of communication.

    Personally, I think that you should speak with your grade leader, school coordinator, principal, someone with whom you can intelligently discuss the curriculum, then set up a conference with this parent (without the child) AND the person with whom you have discussed the situation (never ever alone). Perhaps the three (or more) of you can come up with a workable solution

    Yes, at some point, differentiation goes from being appropriate to being ridiculous, but clearly this child has some special needs -- no different from one who is learning disabled or physically challenged. Does your school have a program for gifted students? Do they even start as early as first grade? I will be watching this thread carefully, as I find it VERY interesting!
     
  16. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    It is interesting and begs the question, if a child is intellectually capable, does that mean that it automatically is appropriate for him to be working on that in the classroom? I don't know.

    I move ahead my advanced students a bit, but don't go that far. My 3rd grader knows how to add integers and loves to suggest equations with integers at calendar time and that is fine. I even quickly showed the group a number line with integers and explained the concept. They didn't care too much. But the student still has a few multiplication facts that he is weak on, so I'm not going to exempt him from those lessons or reviews.

    I do give my kids silent free choice, though, and I can include opportunities to practice advance topics there. That might be one way to allow him to work on something different from the group.

    Otherwise, shouldn't the child be in gifted if he tests in?
     
  17. hojalata

    hojalata Comrade

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    Thanks everyone for your responses. We do not have any sort of gifted/enrichment program at the school, unfortunately. I am glad I didn't send my e-mail yet. I knew I had written it too quickly after receiving hers, and needed to cool down a little bit. I think I will go talk to the principal today, and maybe some of the 2nd grade teachers that I really look up to. I'll keep you posted. I appreciate everyone's thoughts. As you can see, this topic is giving me a very hard time.
     
  18. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I will give you a hint. Parents don't care what your limitations are. They only care about their child. You have to work around that without sounding like you are dismissing their child because you can't.
     
  19. teachingmomof4

    teachingmomof4 Groupie

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    In our school district, we have special classes (students are transported there for a day) called "Challenge." It's for those students who excel in the regular classroom and are gifted. Students are tested for it after a recommendation by either parent or teacher and paper work is filled out. If they qualify, they are in the program throuhout the rest of the school days, as long as parents want to keep them in it and they make good grades. Do you have something like that in your district? If so, have him tested. This will show mom (and you) whether he is capable or not. Sometimes those parents that want their kids challenged don't always know what they are talking about. Something like this may be a telling point.
     
  20. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    I think that's quite wise. While the parent may have expressed their wish as "Please teach him multiplication", that's not what they mean. What they really mean is, "Are you thinking of what's best for my child?"

    You can express what your limitations are. Parents understand that you have them. I only kind-of disagree with cutNglue, though -- parents will be irritated at you discussing your limitations if you have nothing else. If you can approach it positively, with active advice and recommendations on how to follow up either with additional school activities or with other outside services, the parent would know you'd paid attention to them even if you are limited in what you can do.

    She's probably not the only parent with this as an issue. If your school has no gifted program, telling the parent that you'll approach the admin about a gifted program may make you a hero in her eyes even if nothing concrete comes of it.
     
  21. Miss Kirby

    Miss Kirby Fanatic

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    I'm going through a similar issue. Except the parents went straight to the principal before talking to me!!

    I think you are doing a great job differentiating for your three levels. That takes a lot of extra planning and I admire you for that! Next year this is something I want to try.
     
  22. Major

    Major Connoisseur

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    The kid is lucky that he has a parent that cares....... lots of kids don't...:(

    Major....:)
     
  23. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Thanks for making the point I wanted to make. :cool:
     
  24. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    He sounds gifted to me. Has he been tested? What's his I.Q.? I teach gifted second graders in a self-contained class and have had one working in a fifth grade math book while the others work in a second, third, or fouth grade math books. When this child who worked in the fifth grade math book was in the third grade the GATE coordinator took him over to the jr. hi. for Algebra. In my class some read Harry Potter while others might be reading Junie B. Jones. This child deserves to be challenged. I think with NCLB bright kids are shoved under a rug. The slowest kids get I.E.P.'s where the brightest are told to help just help others in the class when they would benefit from an I.E.P. on the other end of the spectrum. You might talk w/admin & have him skip a grade. Generally first graders are a little socially immature. It's a big decision. I'd do some testing first to see.
     
  25. GardenDove

    GardenDove Habitué

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    My son was very gifted at Math. I never pushed it like this parent wants. My son had a natural interest but I never believed in pushing. He excelled anyways and came in 12th in the State math bowl due to his unusual ability. He is now 22 and makes $47,000 a year working in the computer field. He bypassed college after one year.

    I tend to think of natural Math ability as an unusual genetic mutation that is innate and can't be taught. It is a rare deviation from the intellectual norm for someone to excell at Math. It's something that benefits society as a whole.

    I personally think this mother should chill out and quit living through her child. She might turn her son off if she pushes too hard. That's my personal 2 cents worth.
     
  26. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    hojalata-
    I like the first paragraph of your letter- get rid of paragraph 2- parents really don't want to hear you don't have time to meet their kid's needs. Instead why not offer to make up challenge packets for him- when he has successfully completed his differentiated math work for the day he can pull out his challenge pack. This could be pages photocopied from the second and third grade math workbooks, brain stretchers, logic problems, problem solving...That way he can choose the activities that challenge him and you don't have to get too crazed trying to come up with an individualized program...
     
  27. hojalata

    hojalata Comrade

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    I feel like you got the wrong idea that I do not differentiate. Everything I do in class is differentiated-- math, reading, and writing. Of course I am having them read at their level, so some are reading Boxcar Children while some are reading **** and Jane.

    Responding to a different response--
    I don't like worksheets and that's why I haven't really made up a challenge packet for him yet. To me, just shoving harder worksheets at him isn't really teaching. But honestly, I think that is the best answer right now because it will 1) help me keep my sanity, and 2)placate the mother.

    The boy has not been tested, as we have no programs at our school. We would like to, but with the budget cuts...well you know the rest of the story.

    I agree that every child deserves to be challenged, but I can't do that if it is going to hurt the rest of the kids, especially those who are way below grade level. When did the burden become the teacher's instead of the parent's?

    Anyway, here was the response I ended up going with. I think it was a little more level-headed. It showed I was trying to please her.

    Hi xxxxx,

    Thanks for your concern about xxxxxx. Please know that the students are placed in 3 differentiated groups for math, and xxxxx is in the highest group. I spend a lot of time each week picking out
    appropriate-leveled work for all the groups. Right now, xxxx's group
    is working on 2nd grade standards, like subtraction fact fluency, fact
    families, fluently counting money, and giving change. Multiplication
    fluency is a 3rd grade standard. Even though xxxx has been counting by 10's from the time he was 3, it is a 1st grade standard, mandated by the State. The state standards are what we base our curriculum off of, and while these come easy for xxxxr, they do not come easily for much of the class. Here is a link to the standards that we are required to teach in first grade:
    www.aaps.k12.mi.us/ins.glces/files/gr1_glces.pdf

    I wish I could spend more time with each group and differentiate even within those small groups. Unfortunately, because there are 23 kids and only 1 of me, that can't always happen. I do have some ideas of how the highest kids could be further challenged if we just had someone to work with them. If you have any time available to come lead a math enrichment group, please let me know. I would welcome this opportunity for more enrichment for xxxxx and a few others. I have given xxxxxx a 3rd grade math book to work from during the day. Also, Mrs. B will be doing the sunshine math with a small group. The book is meant for advanced 2nd grade students. Thanks for understanding our limitations with so many students at different levels and only one teacher. It is frustrating for all of us.


    I hope I answered your questions. Let me know if you need anything else, or would like to meet in person. (And if you can lead a math enrichment group). Thank you,
    Mrs. xxxxxx

     
  28. Bernard

    Bernard Companion

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    I like it much better than the first draft! Way to go! :2up:
     
  29. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    I think this is a terrific response, good enough that it serves as a model of how to communicate with parents. It notes both your limitations and the collective desire to help all students as much as possible, within a framework that's mandated by the state.
     
  30. hojalata

    hojalata Comrade

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    3Sons,
    Thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time to type that out. It makes me feel a lot better. :)

     
  31. blue-eyed mom

    blue-eyed mom Companion

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    You did a great job with that response. Can't wait to see what happens. I really like the part of asking here to come in...many times that cools parents off because they don't want to come in and volunteer.

    Way to go:up:
     
  32. dreaming_luke

    dreaming_luke Rookie

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    If the child IS actually gifted and it isn't just the parent pushing the child, then whatever it is that you are working on in your class, why not give that child some enrichment activity that is the same concept as you are working on but at a higher level? I certainly wouldn't be having him work on something completely different than the class. I have three gifted students in my class, and for example, when my class was working on long division, they were working on division with decimals. If I were you I'd run it past my administrator before responding to this parent. There may be a history??

    :)
     
  33. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    eeekk- I'd go the math packet route...1.You really don't want this mom in your class, 2.you don't want her to question why you aren't doing the enriching (she's already questionning it...) and 3. It's just easier for you as you are already jusggling enough balls!!:eek:hmy:
     
  34. Oregon Sub Girl

    Oregon Sub Girl Rookie

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    It sounds to me like you are already doing more for differentiating than most teachers! That's sad that this parent made you doubt how well you are doing that. I had a similar experience with a student. I was teaching Kindergarten at the time and the mom decided to move him to 1st grade, even though he wasn't the brightest boy in my class. I was pretty frustrated, mostly because I didn't feel like he was ready to be moved up. His 1st grade teacher and I agreed that he is going to receive what we call a "swiss cheese" education. You can't jump a child to multiplication when he hasn't mastered all the steps that lead up to it. It's just as important for him to learn 2nd grade geometry and probability and reasoning as it is for him to start 3rd grade multiplication facts.

    Ok, I've rambled long enough, but I think we do our children a big disservice when we skip steps in their education.

    Plus, once again, it sounds to me like you are doing a GREAT job and that you are very concerned about your students' education.
     
  35. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    They are going to skip a grade for two children here because they are bright for their grade and the rest of the class is special ed (small class). They want them to be with their "peers." The problem is exactly what you just said. They will recieve swiss cheese education. They are in Kinder writing 1 sentence and they want to jump to 2nd grade. Yikes.
     
  36. hojalata

    hojalata Comrade

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    My thought exactly-- I was just thinking yesterday how crazy that is. Yeah, he could start doing multiplication, but he hasn't even learned place value, expanded notation, etc. into the hundreds yet.

     
  37. hojalata

    hojalata Comrade

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    Don't worry, I said that knowing that she works full time and will not be able to come in.

     
  38. hojalata

    hojalata Comrade

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    Yes, I think it's so hard not to take it personally. I mean, I love these kids to death, and spend SOO much time thinking about how I can do things better for them. Of course, I am always thinking what is in the kids' best interest. When a parent questions that, it hurts.

     
  39. bonneb

    bonneb Fanatic

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    What does your curriculum say?

    If you teach him 3/4th math, what will he do then?
    Enriching does not mean go outside the curriculum. I have had parents say this too, but hey, first grade math is pretty simple. We are learning ABOUT numbers and what they can do.

    I would get him to some online math games, MahJong, chess, mapping, etc. Make him a notebook with fun math. I use Penrose books, I Hate Mathematics Book, Everything Kids' Math Puzzles Book, Constructing Ideas about Counting. There are a lot more. I would enrich with puzzles and challenging first grade stuff. I use these books and make a big fat notebook for my kids who need the challenge. He could work on it when he is done with his first grade work for the day.

    It is tricky. But we only have so much that we can do, and no one is going to be giving him high school math if he does all the elementary math early!
     
  40. hojalata

    hojalata Comrade

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    Thanks so much for those book ideas. I will definitely check those out.

     

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