Friday, November 14, 2008

The conference and the rule

I wrote a terribly angry post yesterday (that had nothing to do with the topic of this post and could be another post entirely but I don't need to go there). I did not get to finish it, so when I pulled it up this morning and read it over I decided to delete it. Time and sleep (not a lot of sleep, but apparently enough) will do wonders for attitude and outlook.

I had a conference with Bella's teacher Wednesday afternoon. These were the major points:
  • Bella was good as gold when the school year started, and then out of nowhere became the biggest talker in the class (although this week has been much better, she noted).

  • When I asked who she was talking to, the teacher answered that she is mostly talking to herself. She is seated between two non-talkers, so she just sits and chatters to herself, hums and sings and apparently doesn't internalize anything - the girl has no inner monologue, it's all out there.

  • When I noted that Bella went on a destructive bent at home, the teacher noted that she has been breaking pencils. Intentionally breaking pencils, but they have all been her pencils so it wasn't a huge problem. I asked if we could arrange for her to speak with the guidance counselor, to see if there's something bigger going on.

So there you go. And when I mentioned the issues I have with homework - how every night there is homework confusion and mix-ups, she said that starting that very day she was having them copy their homework from the board and into homework journals (up to this point the homework has only been available on the classroom web page). And the difference has been just amazing. Instead of being completely removed from the process and never having any idea of what she is supposed to do, she sits down and follows the instructions in her notebook and gets her homework done pretty much on her own. It's wonderful. Homework time has literally been cut in half, and neither Bella or myself are complaining nearly as much. Hooray!

The talking problem seems to be getting better, too. We have tried everything over the last month or so. There was a two-week stretch in which Bella couldn't really do anything fun - she couldn't play outside or watch TV or play video games and had to go to bed early and that did nothing, had no impact on her behavior at all. So what did we find that worked? We made Bella's rule, a rule that is based on the idea that there are times at school in which it is OK to talk (recess, lunch, etc.) and then there are times that you are not supposed to talk.

So now every morning before school she recites her rule for me: "If it is not time to talk, I will not talk to anyone except the teacher if she calls on me, and I will always raise my hand before I talk to the teacher." After the conference we amended the rule to include talking to herself. And since we started the rule and its' recitation, incredibly enough her talking issues have improved considerably. Her teacher actually started sending home a daily behavior reports when things got really bad, and the first couple of weeks she alternated between "I had an OK day" and "I had a bad day but will do better tomorrow". This week she has received all "Excellent Day!" notices. I'm amazed.

It just goes to show me that, in the world of parenting, what you think will work doesn't necessarily do so, and what seems to be the long shot is worth a try. Lesson learned. I'm proud of Bella and very relieved that it worked out. Whew.


Jennifer said...

Oddly enough, Drama Queen got into trouble for talking during school too. Maybe it's a "being 6 years-old" thing. Her school has a Green light, Yellow light, Red light system. Anyway, she brought home her first yellow light of the year (talking) but when my sister asked her about it, poor thing got herself worked up into such a crying fit that she couldn't talk. Turns out Drama Queen "accidentally" talked while the teacher was talking and promised to never do it again. My sister was amused that such a minor thing like getting a yellow light sticker had that big of an impact on Drama Queen. Let's hope that internalizing sticks around for a while...

Laura said...

Such good news.
At first, I didn't know how this was going to go.
I think kids are so eager to please that when they know that the parents and teachers are observing and looking for "the change" in behavior, they want to meet the expectation.
It also sounds like you did a great job of staying on top of it and rewarding her with praise when she improved.
Nice success story.