Friday, October 29, 2010

School Conferences

Oscar and Ruby were home from school on Monday and Tuesday for conferences.  Our meetings weren't until Tuesday afternoon so Ruby asked to visit her old preschool. She spent Monday morning there while Oscar and I walked in the hills, talked and worked on our computers. 

Later in the day we drove a few towns over to Abe's cross country meet. It was a gorgeous fall afternoon and we hung out in the shade of the eucalyptus trees. Oscar and I cheered on the runners while Ruby practiced the monkey bars at the nearby playground.  Abe ran well and was exhausted. He plunked down on the team bench after his race and couldn't get up to cheer on his teammates, which was unusual.  (Good thing soccer practice was canceled due to the previous day's rain.)

Oscar cracked me up when, after Abe's race, he begged to stay and watch the 7-8th grade girls run.  We all know he has a crush on the fastest girl at Abe's school and we tease him endlessly.  I tried to capture his embarrassed smile.

I'm getting embarrassed!
On Tuesday Ruby, Oscar and I went for a bike ride. I'm still awed by the fact that we can do that with relative ease. We rode to the local bike shop where I finally got my brakes fixed (for free!) and then headed uphill to the coffee shop for steamed milk (Ruby and Oscar's snack) and a latte for me.  Ruby doesn't have gears on her bike but she just pumped and pumped without complaint.

Conferences were in the afternoon. Ruby and Oscar drew pictures and read up in the school office while Paul and I met with their teachers.  What a treat! I love the care and attention given to each student at this school.  Ruby is adjusting well to kindergarten and feels comfortable and confident with her new friends. She's working on her inventive spelling and writing notes and letters to me, her friends, her teacher.  We've noticed a huge improvement in her mood, behavior, and even her obsession with food since school started and I'm sure it's because she's finally getting to go to this school. She's been visiting her brothers' classrooms every morning for her entire life and always hated to leave. Finally she has a place there too.

Oscar's two teachers glowed with praise for him. Even though they've both known him for years, none of us really knew how this transition to fourth grade would go.  It's definitely a step up in expectations, organization, and content.  We'd all expected some more bumps -- but it's been pretty smooth so far. (I knocked on wood at the conference and I'm knocking again now.)

We learned that he's finally excited about writing.  He's had more tantrums and episodes of willful non-compliance about writing than anything else over the years. We've spent hours working with the behaviorist and coming up with new approaches and reward systems but his executive functioning and anxiety really impeded the creative writing process.  He started this year off using his computer with a couple of adaptive programs -- Co-Writer and Kidspiration -- but writer's workshop time was turning into typing lessons because he's really just learning to navigate the keyboard. The humanities teacher and aide switched tactics -- they're still using graphic organizers to help Oscar plan his writing but now Oscar's doing a lot of dictation.  I was amazed at the details he incorporated into his memoir piece about our family bike ride in Sea Isle this summer. He also used techniques and agreed to let his teacher share it as an example with the class even though it wasn't finished. (Oh the flexibility that required!!)  I'll put the finished piece up here when he "publishes" in a few weeks. His teacher also shared how much fun he is to teach, and that she's found that some of the modifications she's made for Oscar have proven to be really helpful for other kids in the class too.  She's so great at meeting each kid where they are and has helped Oscar settle on a "just-right" series of books where he can really focus on building his comprehension skills.

We also learned that Oscar seems to be really understanding the science curriculum (electricity and magnetism) and while he has trouble physically creating the circuits himself -- those wires are tiny and require fine motor precision - he's very observant and helpful in group work. He got 100% on the quiz!  (Abe said he failed that one in 4th grade).  The math and science teacher has also been creating modified math worksheets for him to do with the class so he has that sense of being in the group even though his math skills lag a couple of years behind.  As I mentioned in my Hopeful Parents post -- Oscar is so motivated by this and is finding math very fun despite knowing that he's behind. Pretty fantastic.

We also learned that he's enthusiastic, hard-working, and well-liked...all stuff we knew but it's so nice to have confirmation.  My favorite anecdote -- one time, towards the beginning of the year when everyone was still settling in, the math teacher was working with Oscar individually and congratulating him on really working through a problem. His classmates were eavesdropping protectively, not sure yet if the teacher would "get" Oscar (they didn't realize just how long she's known him!) and also unsure about how Oscar would do with this more difficult curriculum. When they heard the praise they apparently cheered "Way to Go OSCAR!" and "Yay Oskie!"  It was heartwarming to hear, again, how much they look out for him. 

Working on homework before music class
I'm so filled up with gratitude for this little school and the way they are able to meet the academic and social-emotional needs of both of my wildly different kids, and Abe before them.  And I'm amazed by Oscar's peers who adapt, encourage, and include so naturally.

Middle school is just around the corner -- I'm starting to consider the options.  I really don't know how we'll create a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment in an entirely new school.  We'll just have to...we'll just have to.


  1. That's pretty amazing to hear of a public school where things are going so well. I always hear of the horror stories. Is it a specialized school? What do you attribute the quality to - is it just the teacher or the school system in general?

  2. You will. You just will.

    Lovely post and so encouraging to read of this supportive environment that has been created for Oscar (and I can't imagine how much work it's been for you!).

  3. This school, and your conference stories, give me so much hope - for your kids, and for the future of our society. What a wonderful week - are you floating in a haze of joy? Your posting radiates it! (Just what I needed to read, amid all of the electioneering madness - thank you!) Congratulations to all of your family on these happy milestones.