Image by J Schackai
New School Year, New School. Change is the Only Constant.
Man Cub and Mini Me are going to a new school this year. Starting next week, they are moving from a small private school with class sizes of 12 or 13 to a public school with an average class size of 22. (Compared to some parts of the country, this is still amazing!) Still, it will be quite a change. Their old school didn’t even have a cafeteria or gymnasium! Now they will be getting a more typical school experience, and I am having some pretty typical mom-anxiety!
Am I crazy moving my kids to this bigger school?
The reasons for this are many: One reason is the cost. Another reason is the time. My kids were spending two hours a DAY on the bus commuting to and from the old school (no wonder Man Cub was getting in trouble on the bus!), and they already had a long school day. A third reason is that the old school offered no special ed services and they were cutting back on their counselling services, which Man Cub utilized often.
Now it’s becoming a bit more clear, right?
Man Cub has no 504 or IEP at this time, but his last school made unofficial accommodations for him in the classroom. My guess it that he may need something in the future, and a bigger school system will (hopefully) have the resources and experience to help him as he gets older and the academic expectations increase.
Man Cub and Mini Me are excited about the change. We live in a nice town and this public school is very nice. It’s practically new and has a wonderful reputation. It offers the kids a fresh start and an opportunity to make friends in town. Man Cub, in particular, is looking forward to a clean slate without a “behavior journal” to welcome him from day one.
That being said, I decided it would be best to write a letter to Man Cub’s new teacher. Not to “warn her,” so much as to give her a heads up and let her know what to expect. Hopefully, this might help them get to know one another with fewer “bumps” along the way. I spent a few days drafting this letter and I plan to email it today. The teachers have Monday to prepare classes ahead of Tuesday as the first school day, so I’m offering to come in if she’d like to speak with me then. Here we go!!
Man Cub making robiots, a favorite activity of his!
A letter to my ADHD child’s teacher:
My name is Carolyn, and I am the mother of one of your new students, [Man Cub]. I wanted to let you know a little about [Man Cub] and to open the lines of communication.
This will be both Man Cub and his sister Mini Me’s first year at [New School]. Man Cub is excited about his new school, but he may be surprised by the differences by this much bigger class and building! At [Old School], his class had 12 students, and it was the same 12 students each year because there was only one class per grade level. There was no lunchroom (kids ate packed lunches on the lawn or in class) and no gym (PE was outside or yoga or games in class). I wanted to let you know that to give you an idea of where he came from in case he seems unfamiliar with some of what seems like normal school stuff to you.
Man Cub is a wonderful boy with a zany sense of humor and I hope you will enjoy him in your class. He is intelligent and enjoys reading and science. He does, however, have ADHD, which shows up in impulse control issues, inattention, and hyperactivity. To date, his academic work has not suffered too much, but with the increasing demands of second grade, we want to be sure to keep an eye on it. He does take medication, but feedback from you will be helpful in making sure the medication is effective for the classroom.
Along with his ADHD, he can be very sensitive, especially to perceived criticism or rejection, embarrassment, or by a change in schedule or expectations, and this is often expressed with anger (followed by tears). I find that recovers quicker from these meltdowns if he is calmly and kindly guided somewhere to cool off without an audience (he gets less embarrassed this way). This tends to lead to a shorter time needed for him to “return to calm” than with a big interaction, which sometimes feeds into it.
Due to his distractibility, I think seating him closer to your desk and/or the front of
class and near other students who tend to be on task would help him. Other silly students tend to encourage his silly side. He also benefits from reminders a minute or two before changing or ending activities because he gets immersed and has a hard time changing gears. A touch on the shoulder or asking him to repeat what you said ensures he heard the reminder or instruction. Visual reminders or printed lists of the schedule or tasks to be done can help him a lot (that’s how I organize his AM and PM schedule). He gets frustrated by big jobs, but breaking them down into smaller tasks works wonders for his motivation.
Man Cub actually LOVES to please, so if you give him special little jobs to do for you, you’ll win him over and have a great class helper! He is very excited about the new school year and motivated to have a great year, so I hope you and I can keep him feeling positive about things! I hope you can also express to him the sense that you also believe he can do well and learn the ropes in the new classroom setting. I’m sure you have plenty of classroom experience with all sorts of children, and I look forward to working together to be sure Man Cub succeeds in your class.
I hope this email is more helpful than overbearing. I just want him to have a great start to the year at him new school, and I hoped that by sharing this info it might help you and Man Cub get off on the right foot with each other. I work from home, so please call or text me anytime day or evening if you have any trouble or have questions. My number is [###] and I can be reached by email or phone in the daytime.
Hopes and Fears for a Brand New Year
I am crossing my fingers that this teacher will be good with Man Cub! He had a rough time the last couple of years, and he’s been to the point where he’s said that he “hates school,” and “hates life,” which breaks my heart as a mom! This boy is brilliant! He’s a strong reader with a curiosity for science and a zeal for engineering… It’s a real shame that the framework and of the classroom might squash his enthusiasm for learning! I know he needs to learn to adapt to the structure of a formal classroom setting (after all, I cannot homeschool him), but I also know that he shouldn’t be left feeling stupid or incapable of fitting in!
Such a curious boy! Man Cub wanted to inspect his tooth under the microscope after it fell out!
I hope that the new school might offer him a fresh start, but I feel like his new teacher holds the cards here. If she works well with him, this could be the place that “fits” or it could be the start of a long process to find accommodations to “make it work.”
I am hoping and praying that the teacher and the school have enough experience that I don’t need to fight for the right kind of help for Man Cub.
But, Dear Readers, I will have to make this work for Man Cub. I won’t let him fall through the cracks.
. . . . .
Question: Have any of YOU sent letters to your children’s teachers about their special needs? Did you find that they were well-received?