Handling Classroom Conundrums
Coping with first-grade antics
Question: My son, a first-grader, is a saint at home but behaves terribly at school. I get an e-mail from his teacher almost every day about his constant talking, making funny noises and getting out of his seat. The teacher has tried sending him to the principal, eliminating recess and putting him in the hall. I have taken away privileges, from TV time to play dates with friends. What can be done to change his behavior? The teacher says he appears to be gifted academically.
Answer: What your son is doing in the classroom is not unusual behavior for a first-grader. It would be best handled in the classroom. Since the teacher doesn't seem to know how to handle the child, she should ask for help. One or more experienced teachers could visit the classroom and make suggestions.
You are too removed from your son's behavior to punish him after he has misbehaved. Instead, tell him that you expect him to behave well in the classroom. Also visit the classroom and observe his actions. You might come up with some good suggestions for the teacher based on your knowledge of what type of discipline works with your child.
For example, a behavior chart helps some children. Your son might give himself a checkmark each time he talks to classmates. The goal would be to reduce this number of checkmarks each day until his talking is at an appropriate level. Seating him in the back of the room could make his behavior less noticeable.
A bright child sometimes misbehaves out of boredom. Perhaps he could be assigned more challenging work after he has completed routine assignments. He may also need to work on his social maturity to handle being in the classroom environment.
This teacher is spending an inordinate amount of time e-mailing you about your son. She also may not have good classroom-management skills. While it is rarely possible to change teachers, a different teacher might be a better fit for him.
Parents' role as teacher
Question: My daughter's preschool wants parents to leave teaching the students to the teachers. Should we not supplement the learning experience at home as well?
Answer: We're not 100 percent sure what the school means by this statement. It may refer to the formal teaching of reading and math, which could include teaching your children phonics, sight words and basic addition. Why don't you ask exactly what the school means?
Parents are their children's first teachers. It is definitely your job to encourage and guide learning by:
Providing an adequate supply of playthings.
Exposing children to a variety of adventures to help them learn about the world.
Giving them the opportunity to play with other children and engage in both indoor and outdoor activities.
Practicing and encouraging reading skills and talking to them about stories and reading signs and menus.
Teaching them to count and recognize numbers.
What you don't have to do is to use workbooks and worksheets to prepare your children to read and do math. This may be what the preschool is referencing.
Motivating an underachiever
We have been struggling with our 10-year-old son, who is definitely an underachiever. He has been evaluated/tested recently and was not found to have any learning disabilities. His IQ tested in the gifted range.
Last year, it was a nightmare trying to get him to do his homework. The same thing is happening this year. Punishment/rewards simply don't work. Do you have any recommendations to help him?
Ask him what it is about his homework that he doesn't want to do. He may say that he doesn't want to do what he already knows. In this case, both of you should talk to his teacher or teachers about making a deal to reduce the homework load provided he is succeeding on tests without this practice. An alternative is to have him do more challenging assignments.
On the other hand, if your son says homework is boring but he is not doing well on tests, ask what is holding him back on tests. He may say that he has trouble writing out the answers to test questions. In that case, he can be taught to organize his answers.
Whatever he says is the problem, see that he gets help in this area.
High IQ scores are not always predictive of success in school. Many bright students need help learning how to study or have areas of weakness that need work. Your son needs to learn the discipline of handling appropriate homework assignments. Look now for the help that he needs.
Parents can send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.