03 March 2012

Keep Calm And Carry On

I see the "Keep Calm And Carry On" meme everywhere now.  I first saw them on some mugs that I promptly bought for hostess gifts and shared with my girl friends.  I kept one for myself.  I must have known I would need the reminder this year as I tangoed with mother bear instinct to defend my young versus the desire to have my son behave in socially acceptable ways.

To read about my roller coaster of a fall, here are the posts to catch up.

Part 1:  Snails & Puppy Dog Tails
Part 2:  Wild & Wonderful

We had our second parent teacher conference for ZZ yesterday.  It was the shortest, cleanest, simplest conference any of my kids have ever had.  I saw a half dozen pictures of him working with friends in class, mostly building bridges, houses, pyramids.  I saw the progress he has made with his penmanship and number lessons.  I heard that he is calmer, doesn't fidget during circle time.  He does not communicate physically anymore (aka pushing, shoving, hitting) in fact the most abrupt action he's shown in class was puncturing some playdoh with a tool.  And he is the defacto leader in class and on the play ground.  The other children regularly ask him for direction as he directs a group river excavation or igloo assembly.  All signs point to a future builder in one way or another.

So, what made the difference?  

We were told he exhibited unusual learning behavior and they were concerned about his aggressiveness.  We were asked to take him to an expert in child development for suggestions, which we did.  We were told he was perfectly normal.

My suspicion, which simmered beneath my mortification, was that he was being pushed too hard.  That he was not ready for the work sheets and lessons they felt he needed to accomplish.  This is a highly regarded Montessori program, so I found it a little odd that they did not view him as the individual he is and consider the possibility that he may not be ready.  I wondered if he was shoving, hitting, pouting and reverting to baby talk as his immature way of saying, "I can't do what you're expecting."

During my investigation process, which took at least two full months of my undivided attention (which is why I wasn't able to blog or work on my novel), I found out that his day was upside down and backwards.  The morning, when he has the most energy, was spent primarily on life skills tasks.  Free play with various "work" projects such as playing with landforms, play doh, architectural forms, matching objects, snack, feeding "Puff" the dragon or the little birds that fill the room with their sweet melodies.  His classroom in the morning is bright, cheerful and very peaceful.

The afternoon seemed to be where the problems were cropping up the most.  Whether he came to the afternoon tired or not, that's where the more academic lessons were assigned.  He balked.  And misbehaved.  And we eventually discovered the frustration was mutual with the afternoon teacher.  Turns out, there are a few active boys in the afternoon.  We learned yesterday that this increasingly wise teacher, changed her program to accomodate the energy and learning needs of the group.  Is it a coincidence that our little guy has not had any negative incidents to speak of since the winter holidays?

His main teacher confirmed yesterday that since they backed off their expectations for him based on his age, he is doing much better.  He is calmer in the classroom and goes about his daily play and inquiry with ease.  His fine motor skills are developing a little more slowly, which is the NORM for boys generally, so that the handwriting and work with pencils or crayons feels a bit awkward for him.  He naturally wants to be successful so he gravitates to activities he can master.

We all smiled and sighed with relief that the panic over what to do with a rambunctious boy has faded.  I have to give a lot of credit to the teachers.  I was obviously very concerned about him being labeled and struggling.  No one wants their child to hate school or themselves for any reason.  But because the teachers brought it to us immediately, we were all able to brainstorm solutions.  One that I suggested straight off the bat is that ZZ needs clear boundaries.  At home.  At school.  On the ski slopes.  He is a hard wired risk taker and is unafraid of ruffling feathers to explore his environment.  He never likes to disappoint anyone, but his impulses are very powerful.  The teacher said that advice really helped her guide him more effectively.

So, note to future teachers or adults in ZZ's life, if you are not clear about the rules, he'll make them up as he sees fit.

Once When I Was Little by James Morrison

As I watch my wild and wonderful boy learning to compose himself in more socially acceptable ways, I wonder...will his dreams and energies persist or will more than misbehavior fade away.  Has he gained maturity and control or lost the inexpressible spark that none of us could quite comprehend.  Was something lost in translation between the free spirited boy and rule bound culture?  If he was a writer, I would encourage him to journal.  Maybe he will someday.  Remember this moment where he pushed back and the adults listened...if that is even what happened.

This morning as I snuggled with my now very talkative boy child, he was telling me all about the parts of the body, the bones, the organs, the veins (which he calls vines).  He said that when we die, the brain stays in the skull.  "That way, when I die, I can still think about how much I love you."  He smiled and curled into my chest, "And when you die, you can still think about how much you love me."

Indeed, little man.  Indeed.

Abiding with utter calm...

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