Struggling Student: Is this Giving In or Helping Out?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by TeacherShelly, May 14, 2009.

  1. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    May 14, 2009

    OK, here's the scenario... a parent in my class told me she was disappointed in me letting her daughter off the hook when she was crying hard about not wanting to sing in our Art Show performance. The mom is concerned that her daughter is getting away with not performing in school (in general) by being very stubborn and volatile.

    Example... We wrote detective stories as a culminating activity to a long Mystery Unit. This girl (call her Malia) struggled for a long time, finally telling me she could not finish her Planning Sheet because she writes things as she thinks of them. She'd tried for so long, I gave her a waiver on the Planning Sheet (didn't give anyone else this waiver) and let her just start writing. Next, she wrote several pages but couldn't finish the story. She was very persuasive that she could not finish the story. Most of the class was done with theirs and I was eager to finish this unit, so I gave her an alternate way to demonstrate her knowledge of a Mystery. She wrote a paragraph about the required elements, defining what each were (crime, suspects, clues, means of solving the mystery, detective, etc). She did this easily since she gets it, but got stuck in the writing.

    Her mom is worried that I just let her off the hook (by giving her a way out) when she struggles. I agree, in hindsight, that I've worried about breaking Malia, sending her over the edge - she seems unbalanced and emotionally rigid. But now I guess I've taken away opportunities for her to break out of her rigidity.

    Anyone have any advice? Reactions?
     
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  3. teresaglass

    teresaglass Groupie

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    May 15, 2009

    I think you should talk to your school psychologist about this. This sounds like the girl might have some learning and emotional issues. Maybe an SST is in order.
     
  4. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    May 15, 2009

    I have very strong opinions about forcing children to perform in front of an audience. I am opposed to it. I think it puts too much stress on the child. If she doesn't want to perform in a play, so what?
     
  5. frogger

    frogger Devotee

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    May 15, 2009

    I agree with Old teacher on forcing a kid to perform. I wasn't a performer back in school or much now so I wouldn't want to force a child to do that either. I also agree with the Teresaglass that you probably need to refer her or set it in motion for next year to your school's committee regarding the child's emotional, learning or other factors that can be involved.
     
  6. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    May 15, 2009

    The new idea is that if kids perform frequently in class it alleviates the public speaking fear. Many states require public speaking at school and Texas is adding more speaking requirements for next year. Also, most colleges require a speech class and speaking/presenting in almost all classes. I think you should refer her to the counselor and be a little tougher in the future. I have to say though, if you felt she was emotionally fragile, it was probably the right thing to do to let her slide a little.
     
  7. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    May 15, 2009

    Advise me on this... the mom has told me about the unusual things the daughter does. Very strange "stim" like activity done obsessively. However, the family is working hard to find solutions, including taking her to different therapies, programs, etc. Would you still do an SST?
     
  8. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    May 15, 2009

    Yes, 1) your counselor is the person to start the paperwork for the school. The counselor may find it to be justified to write an IEP that the student shouldn't do public speaking activities or may have other modifications if it is causing her stress and clearly understands the information, 2) the counselor can help the parents find the right resources and maybe a therapist that can help, 3) the school can serve as a place to objectively record her behaviors and reactions to situations and that can become a very vital part of treatment.
     
  9. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    May 15, 2009

    I do agree that learning to speak in front of small groups helps for future performances. Maybe some small steps would be useful for this girl.
     
  10. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    May 15, 2009

    I have a very sweet young girl, who is an aspiring scientist. Her life will be tough to be a female scientist, but I hope this year she blossomed some and want to continue this path. Her Mom, sadly, is extremely competitive with other parents and doesn't see why her daughter should be in regular subjects, but pushes for more advance courses.

    All of this has led to extreme anxiety and low self-esteem from the young girl. It hurts me inside to see this happening to her, especially I so very much enjoy her ideas and creativity.

    Recently I gave a notebook check--- this young girl had 3 out of 4 assignments missing. I *KNEW* she did them, but probably did them not in her notebook. She started freaking out when I told the class they'd have to get notebook checks signed. Knowing how the mom pushes, I told her to find the work and I'd redo the notebook check.

    Is it fair in general? No, but I will not be the one who destroys her dreams of being a great scientist and since I grew up with a lot of performance anxiety, I won't force her to get in trouble by her mom. I love how she works and I think she's shown me already that she's learning the content and skills.

    It's a shame that not all parents can see that we have to be sensitive sometimes. If a child really feels insecure about one activity, you don't want him or her taking that insecurity and then feeling bad in class every day.
     
  11. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    May 15, 2009

    Thanks for the posts. I appreciate them all.

    About this girl. She is a kind, gentle student who can be found following the rules and trying her best most of the time. She is a talented artist, a prolific writer, and generally is a good student. She has certain "hang ups" though and when she gets hooked by one of them, she gets this kind of stormy but frozen body language. Picture someone completely stock-still but the emotions are raging in her eyes, and her face turns teary when she tries to talk. But she won't say more than one word at a time, usually, "No" or, "I can't."

    During our Mystery unit, she sat and tried and tried to complete the planning sheet. She seemed to be doing her best, which I think is different for each person, so I signed off on it and let her start writing the story. THEN, after about six pages of writing, she "couldn't" finish the story. I asked if she wanted to keep trying with it, or start over. She didn't want to do either. I told her to find a friend, read it out loud, and see if the two of them could come up with a direction for the story. She said she couldn't. I said she could either find a friend, or come to my computer to read what she'd written so far for me to type into Word. She got into that position described above. I was concerned that she was so upset, so I talked about how nothing is permanent, words on the computer can be deleted, sometimes reading aloud helps get the creative juices flowing... She was stock still and seemed about to crumble. She managed to croak out a sentence, one word at a time. Writing time was over, so I said she could make a choice to either write some more or start a new story.

    The next time we had Writing, she was adamant that she could neither continue to work on this story nor start a new one. I was so perplexed over the level of her misery (plus I had two others who were stuck with this story writing) so I gave two optional ways to complete the assignment: write a 5 question M/C test covering the basic elements of the story; or write a definition of a Mystery covering all the elements. She chose to write a definition. I figured in 2nd grade, the expectation that they write a mystery is pretty high and that understanding the genre's elements would cover my learning objectives.

    Her mom was disappointed, though, because she sees Malia learning to manipulate her learning environment (and me).

    I could use some more advice.
     
  12. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    May 15, 2009

    Oh, wanted to add - apparently Malia is really a terror at home. The opposite of the kind, easy child she is usually at school. She is demanding, angry, miserable, and lashes out. And she has some "stim" like obsessive physical activities (e.g., standing on her head for hours every day until her hair starts balding; crawling instead of walking for weeks on end but only at home).
     

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