Of course, my mommy guilt has been kicking in. Little K has a cold but not a fever - maybe if I had kept her home yesterday when she wasn't feeling well, we could have avoided this issue. But it's important for her to attend school and she didn't have a fever... I have to keep working, so homeschooling is not an option. Our family budget can't afford private school, but I have received information about a free charter school near us and will be completing an application for next year.
I just wish that this year was more like Kindergarten and First Grade. She loved school and looked forward to going every day. I hate that she doesn't feel that way this year. I want to make it better but am feeling pretty lost.
The meeting is at 3:30 today and I would appreciate your prayers.
Little K’ father and I are divorced. Her father lives in Florida and she visits him for Summer Break, Winter Break, and Spring Break. We are aware that he has a different household than we do, without much thought to childhood development or the appropriateness of language/media she is exposed to in his home. Their household is run in a very strict disciplinary manner. Although she loves her father, she comes home from visiting him in a heightened emotional state, having frequent emotional breakdowns, feeling unheard or misunderstood, and taking attempts at correction very personally as if aimed at belittling her core worth or character rather than directed at changing her outward action. We call this her Stress Behavior and it usually takes two weeks for her to readjust to being home.
In contrast, Little K spends the other nine months of the year in our home in North Carolina. We are a Christian household and hold Biblical principles in the raising of our children. This is characterized, not only by being mindful of our children’s development and language/media they are exposed to, but also in our interactions with our children. Everything we say to our children, whether praise or correction, is done in a loving manner with the goal of reinforcing their sense of worth in our eyes and in God’s eyes. When Little K is treated in this manner, we have few, if any, emotional outbursts and we see quick adjustment to her behavior as she realigns with our expectations.
If you were to summarize the difference between these two households, you could describe it as Strict Discipline verses Loving Correction. When Little K is treated with Strict Discipline, she feels that her core character or worth is being called into question, causing her to react emotionally, either immediately or by internalizing and releasing these emotions when she comes back to her safe place: our home. However, when Little K is treated with Loving Correction, she understands that the adult still values and cares for her as a person and will adjust her behavior in order to reinforce the adult’s positive opinion and perception of her.
One of the ways we accomplish this is by using I-Statements and Reminders with Little K. For example, if Little K is having trouble focusing on brushing her teeth in the morning, I will tell her, “I am ready to do your hair but I need you to focus and finish brushing your teeth before I can do that.” The combination of an I-Statement from me (which reinforces that Little K will be helping to meet my needs by finishing her task), a reminder of what she is supposed to be doing, and the word “focus” work together to help Little K set aside distractions and complete the task at hand.
We have noticed that, since starting Second Grade, Little K has been operating out of her Stress Behavior rather than the usual calm, cooperative behavior we have come to expect when she is in North Carolina. We are concerned that this is due to her classroom environment. While we fully expect Little K to be held to classroom rules, we are concerned that the manner in which these rules are enforced is having a negative impact on Little K. Although the above method of Loving Correction takes more time, it yields a faster change in Little K’ behavior and helps to improve her emotional health.
2013-2014 School Year
Throughout Kindergarten and First Grade, Little K looked forward to school. She had good relationships with her teachers, to the point of telling them “I love you” and excitedly informing them of her brother who is on the way. With very few exceptions, she brought home papers marked Mastery. Although abiding by the classroom rules has always been a struggle for her, her teachers and teacher aids worked in cooperation with Little K and I in order to improve her behavior and stay focused on the task at hand. She loves to learn, makes up math problems to solve, and reads constantly. We see evidence that she is a bright child and an active learner.
Since starting Second Grade, Little K has been saying that she doesn’t like school and has been having frequent emotional breakdowns when coming home from school. Little K has said that, with the way Mrs. C treats her, she must think Little K is stupid. She feels like Mrs. C is more strict with her than any of the other girls or students in the class. She feels like Mrs. C mixes up her voice with other girls in the classroom and calls on her for talking when she is not talking.
Little K often talks about how Mrs. C treats her and the things she tells us makes us concerned that this classroom is not a good fit for her. Some recent examples are below:
Shoe Situation, Mid-October
Little K was unaware that her shoelaces were untied. While sitting in class, Little K lifted one foot and her shoe came off. When Little K went under desk to pick it up, Mrs. C saw that she was out of her seat and got very upset. Instead of telling her to put her shoe back on, Mrs. C told Little K to place her shoe in front of the cubbies. Little K wasn’t allowed to put her shoe back on until it was time to leave.
Result: Little K was in tears when I picked her up from school, saying that Mrs. C humiliated her. Once we got home and Little K had calmed down, we talked about possible solutions in order to keep this from happening again. Little K became an active problem-solver and decided that we should try triple-knotting her laces, since the double-knots were still coming untied. We have triple-knotted her laces since then and have had no more shoe issues.
Monday 10-28-13, Rough Draft/Question Issue
Little K came home very upset, saying that Mrs. C never listens to what she is trying say. She explained that the class was reviewing their final copies of a writing assignment which Little K was not finished with, since she was still working on corrections on her rough draft. When Mrs. C asked her why it wasn’t done, Little K tried to answer but said Mrs. C kept interrupting her and not listening to her answer. Little K felt that Mrs. C was ignoring her and interrupting her when she was just trying to answer the question Mrs. C asked her.
Result: Little K remained upset for quite some time at home, going to her room and crying that she hates school and that Mrs. C is rude and mean. Once Little K was calm again, we were able to work on her homework and corrections in her weekly folder. Even during this time, Little K would have bursts of negative emotions which made it difficult to work through these assignments in a timely manner. In all, it took over two hours to calm down and finish the assignments.
Monday 10-28-13, Cold: Hand Sanitizer and Tissues
Little K says that she had her hand sanitizer attached to a band on her wrist since she has a cold and did not want to spread germs. She says that Mrs. C took her hand sanitizer and did not give it back at the end of the day. When I asked if Mrs. C gave her a warning or asked her to put it in her desk before taking it, Little K said that she did not.
Result: Little K’ hand sanitizer was not returned to her at the end of the day and she is afraid that she is spreading germs to her friends.
Little K currently has a cold with a very stuffy nose. As a result, she needed to blow her nose several times on Monday. Little K said that Mrs. C stopped allowing her to get tissues to blow her nose, causing Little K to have to sit at her desk and sniffle her nose. She then said that Mrs. C got upset with her for making noise with her sniffling. Little K feels that, if Mrs. C had allowed her to get tissues as needed, she would not have gotten in trouble for sniffling.
Result: Little K is getting in trouble for something that could be easily avoided if she was given access to the classroom supply of tissues.
Recent Parent-Teach Conference, Beginning of October
I attended a parent-teacher conference with Mrs. C the beginning of October. In this conference, Mrs. C and I talked a bit about Little K’ struggles in the classroom and I requested a copy of the classroom rules so that I could work on reinforcing classroom expectations with Little K at home. I have not yet received the requested copy of the classroom rules.
Since the parent-teacher conference, I have worked with Little K on the specific issues Mrs. C brought up: talking during class, staying focused during centers, and reading at inappropriate times. At home, we regularly reinforce that the classroom rules come first, before being social with her friends or even good manners (responding when a classmate asks her a question). We have told her that it seems like following the rules is the most important thing in Mrs. C’s classroom and to focus on following the rules in order to avoid being called on. Little K feels that she has improved with reading at inappropriate times and her behavior during centers. Little K feels she is getting better at talking during class.