We just got back from parent-teacher conferences for Jack. Jack’s in his junior year in high school and this year’s conferences have been the best we’ve ever had. It was one of those that you wanted to give everything to your guy, all the sugar he wanted, extra-large waffle fries and unlimited screen time for days and days.
Conferences have never been very fun for me. From 3rd to 9th grade, they have been painful. The kind where your 7 minute conference doesn’t even allow you to get pleasantries down with the teacher and talk about the real issues at hand then you’re rushing off to your next teacher’s conference. Some years, I’ve purposely booked a couple time slots back to back with the same teacher so we can at least cover a few issues with the teacher.
This year has brought so many changes for Jack that in prior years could have sent him in a tail spin and would have been a very stressful, long school year for him…and us. Just this school year, Jack has embraced these changes in his life:
- New IEP
- New special education teacher assigned to him
- New home room teacher
- No more in-class supports
- No longer using the school planner we designed for him but the one the school provided and making it work for him
- Added tech school to his schedule: ½ day at the high school, ½ day at the tech school
- Home room is cut short so he can get to the tech center by noon each day
- Home room is now co-ed where all the other years its been just the same group of guys
- Jack had a teacher assigned to him to drive him to the tech center as our school doesn’t have buses – Jack has to eat his lunch in the teacher’s car because he doesn’t get a lunch hour anymore
- His sister moved away to college
- All household chores which he shared with his sister before, are now his
So grades are now a very big deal because college is right around the corner. Jack is a very smart kid and pretty much nails all tests but lacks the executive functioning skills to turn in homework complete, on time and aligned to a grading matrix. He knows how to do step 1 and step 10 but gets flubbed up on steps 2 to 9 to master completion. Homework grades have many times been zeroes or ½ credit because he turned it in late. We would tell him he’s leaving an easy A on the table. And it wasn’t that we weren’t helping him identify what was due, work through how long he thought homework would take that night, check grades online or email the teachers. We would spend hours on homework with him. No joke, in 4th grade we would spend 3-4 hours per night on his homework for him to write just a few sentences. We would stay up super late, he’d get it done and then he would “forget” to turn it in. He couldn’t stay organized. He has yet to go to his locker at school since 5th grade because he’s afraid he’ll be late or will forget something. Last year I weighed his backpack and it was just over 41lbs. He had all his text books, all his notebooks with all the homework and notes for the entire year because he’s afraid he’ll forget something. I remember in 4th grade, we had the teacher explain to us that Jack hasn’t turned in any homework. Both Jeff and I were shocked! What do you mean he hasn’t turned it in? We’ve been slaving over that work with him. It was torture. He’d sit at the table in a fit because he didn’t want to write, he’d erase over and over again because he was stressing about his penmanship and 2 hours later, he had only gotten 2 sentences on the page. Our kids missed out on so much because we were a slave to the kitchen table working on homework every night with Jack. For years, we did 3-4 hours of homework each school night. And for the teacher to tell me in March, that Jack hadn’t turned in homework. Why didn’t you call me? Why didn’t you stop me when I popped in your class? I broke down and cried. That was the worst parent-teacher conference we had. 4th grade is when Aspergers started becoming really real to us. We were walking on eggshells most days with his moods and puberty was making itself known.
From then on, we ALWAYS included Jack in teacher conferences. We wanted him to hear straight from the teacher’s mouth how he was doing. Since 10th grade, Jack now runs the conferences and he asks the teacher questions: What am I doing well, what can I work on, when are your help times and how can I support you in the classroom? The last question often takes the teacher by surprise. We always encourage the teachers to reach out to us as we want to partner with them and are here to support them and are appreciative for all their hard work for our son and other students.
This semester’s report card is all A’s I am happy to write. There was a time we were considering Jack repeating the 8th grade because his grades were C’s, D’s and F’s. How can he start high school with those grades? He’ll never get into college. Because Jack doesn’t think of the future, he doesn’t understand that in just a short time, he will be entering college and with adult responsibilities. We fretted over whether to hold him back. At the end of 8th grade, Jack went to China with his school and something changed in him on that trip. He came back mature and determined of what he wanted.
Jack has made so much progress. It takes an army to raise a child. We are blessed by family, friends, youth leaders and countless teachers who have poured in him over the years. You’ve earned this report card as well. We couldn’t have done this without you all!