Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just Like the Preacher's Daughter

I'm on a first name basis with Ben's kindergarten teacher. He's been in school just over 3 weeks. Yes, this sucks like you can't imagine to have to do the walk of parent shame every day at pickup.

As a teacher myself I can tell you that when I know a student's name by the end of the first day, it's not good. So I can tell you that Ben's teacher most likely had already moved his seat after the first day.

Ben was very excited to be starting kindergarten. We talked it up in the weeks leading up the the big day. He had a great staggered entry day back on the 30th of August and started full time later that week.

On the first day, really the FIRST DAY of his public education I was met at pick up with a Come to Jesus meeting about behavior in class. It went a little something like this:

Me- "I hope he had a good day"

Teacher-" Can we talk just a minute, and I want you to know that I appreciate the note you sent about the recent events (moving, grandparent death). I think it's always important to know what is going on at home and how it impacts what happening in the classroom." Ben had a really rough day with behavior.

Me- "Can you give me some insight? Examples? What did he do today so that I can talk to him tonight"

Teacher- Examples given. Tons o examples including shouting out answers, getting up during circle time, telling the teacher, "I'm not going to do that", "I don't hear you" and turning his back to her. Also included lots of talking, horse playing in the hall, lunchroom, bathroom basically anywhere they were expected to be in a line". He even tried to pull a 5th grader to the ground over some paper airplane. Really Ben, a 5th grader? It's almost like he never went to preschool and was socialized.

Me- Biggest SIGH ever. I go on to say that I'm not surprised and elaborate that we have seen all of that at home at different times but that overall he had a good summer. I go on to talk about what we do at home for discipline, the ground rules in our house and also go on to say that Ben needs someone on him like a hawk due to a recent development of lying.

I think at one point I may have said he's acting like a 5 year old tool. Maybe. I hope I didn't say anything worse in my total embarrassment. I did say as the conversation got around to what I teach and that my freshman may be easier to handle than a manipulative five year old.

I at some point make the statement, "You will see him more than I will Monday-Friday for the next 10 months" I want us to be on the same page and we will do whatever it takes to reel this in and shut this down.

And we have. Most of the last weeks I have been in almost daily communication in email with his teacher. I like her. She's old school and doesn't put up with anything. She's the taskmaster that Ben needs over a touch-feely "honey don't do that kinda teacher." Ben's best preschool teachers were those that loved him but did so with an iron fist to shut down behavior. Remember the teacher that help get him potty trained. I owe her big time.

In the past weeks behavior has gotten better, but it almost is 2 steps forward and one back. For the time we are in the car alone before picking up Ian we talk about his day. Some days Ben tells me, "I am not going to talk to you." Big clue to wait until later, maybe have Bill ask. But for sure to check in with his teacher in the next 24 hours as most likely he got into trouble.

I hate this. I hate that my kid is the problem child, the one she is having to spend what time I know she doesn't have to communicate with me. If this was last summer I would take responsibility for some checked out parenting contributing to this mess.

Overall we had a good summer, even in the weeks after dealing with the stress of my mom's death and all the stuff of going back to school I swore that I was going to not check out on parenting with him. I can honestly say that where I've faltered in other areas, I've been sticking to my guns with him.

The good news is that Bill and I are on the same page. At home we are in lockdown mode on the worst days including no tv, bins of toys that are locked in my car that have been taken away, dinner in his room following by early bedtime. We are using a progression of discipline where we go over what will happen, which punishments will occur if I talk to his teacher or the after school director and have a bad report. I greet him with a big hug everyday but he also seeing me talking to the adults before we leave. Believe me, after a really long day this the last thing I need before starting the dinner and bedtime dance.

We have had some improvement and ever so slowly Ben is getting back privileges and his beloved Legos/cars/action figures. The one thing we will not take away is bedtime book and nighttime routine. We are using that time to also reiterate that he is a good boy and needs to be the "Best Ben he can be at home and at school." Since he is obsessed with superheros we have a cheer and hand gestures to go along with this daily mantra.

In the meantime I expected some type of adjustment to new school, new schedules, new friends, but holly hell child, there's nothing like you showing yourself on the first day. The teacher's kid is just like the preacher's daughter being the biggest sinner in church. For real this SO sucks.

I want Ben to like school. I want him to be a good student, even if he's ultimate C or God forbid worse student. If that's the best he can do, then that's all I can ask. I was the most average of students who played school well and gave it only what I had to get by. No amount of punishment from my parents made me any smarter or try any harder. I want lay the starting school groundwork carefully and not turn Ben off now or make him feel that he is a bad kid who can do nothing right.

I don't want Ben to be the kid that the teacher looks at and counts how many more years 'til retirement. I have this fear that Ben is the 5 year old version of my checked out, totally disinterested, waiting to get out of the house freshmen. I find myself thinking what else can I do to turn this around and am trying really hard not to second guess how we have parented in the last 5 years.

So far our strategy is to partner with Bill and his teacher on a daily basis and be consistent with discipline and consequences from school to home. I have asked his teacher how we can best help support what she is doing at home. We are all staying on Ben even when it would be easy to parent from another room or another floor or let him do something because it's easier on us. We are trying to be a united front and we are both just drained already with this fall schedule, so this is just adding to our stress.

So not the most happy of starting school reports. I know that on some level he likes going, loved this first homework project of creating a life-sized Ben complete with a rainbow shirt, camo shorts, and tattoos of a race car and a cement mixer. We sing Chica Chica Boom Boom in the car. We come up with a list of 5 good things that happen every day.

I love him too much not to fight for him and rather against him. I know that Bill and what is proving to be a divine intervention of teacher placement, Mrs. S, do too.


LauraC said...

Thanks for the update, hopefully this will be something that will seem like a blip on the radar in the future.

Gillian said...

Sorry that it is a rough start - rough on everyone. It sounds like you have a great team of people all trying to do right by Ben. Is he able to talk about what is going on when he makes the choices he does? Probably too much of a question to ask but just wondering if he has been able to shed light. The picture of the two Bens is adorable!!

Beth said...

Oh man--you'll get past this and it sounds like you are already on your way, slowly but surely. Discipline is by far the hardest thing about parenting. Hang in there and keep us posted on your progress. I want to know what works and what doesn't! William seems to be well-behaved at school but then unleashes the wrath of God on me when he gets home. I'm like a punching bag! I'm being more tolerant than I probably should be, but I know they're adjusting to such big changes right now. It's so hard!!!