It often starts with a teacher contacting the guidance counselor about a student in her class. “I know it is only the very beginning of the year, but I have a student from out-of-district that already seems to be struggling to keep up in my regular ed class. I was wondering if you could check into his background since we don’t seem to have any test scores, grades or other information from his past school listed in our student information system. I have him sitting front and center, but he needs to be reminded to do what I am doing with the rest of the class. I am guessing that he may have some attention issues because he tends to look off into space. Could you see what the other school’s records say about him?”
In this case, the parent enrolled him in our school just before the beginning of our school year with the minimum of documentation. We requested records from the previous school, but we haven’t received anything so we try to obtain this information as quickly as possible, but we are at their mercy and sometimes it doesn’t come to us very quickly. We contact the parent, but the cell number we have has a voice mail that is full. I call the student to my office to meet with him to review his current grades and and try to get some background information.
He isn’t sure why I called him to my office and I try to make him feel comfortable by explaining that I meet with all my students so that I can get to know them, review their grades, talk about their previous year in school, discuss their activities, current goals for this year and ask them about their career plans. He is very guarded about what he tells me and seems somewhat disinterested in his grades which are all in need of improvement. I do manage to get him to tell me where he lived in Florida and that he, his stepmother, dad and his little brother are living with his dad’s mother. He finally tells me that he failed 7th grade last year and I print his assignments, quiz and test grades and ask him to take the information home and share this information with his parents. I put my name, telephone number and e-mail information on the print out.
Before he leaves, I explain that I will be working with him and his teachers to help him become successful. I also ask him again to share the print out with his parents and ask him to have them contact me. I reassure him that we are going to find a way to help him with his grades and come up with a plan that he will be a part of. Now I need to try and get his records and hope a parent contacts me ASAP. If the parents don’t contact me, I do have other ways to make contact.
It didn’t take long for his step mother to reach out to me. She called within two days and I received the signed print out that same day from the student, who I will call Bryan. I also received am e-mail from his math teacher who asked that Bryan be moved to her home room. This would make it easy for Bryan to get help from his math teacher and work on his most difficult subject. Things don’t usually happen this quickly or with this ease. Usually, I follow up with the student and they don;t have the print out and I don’t get a call from the parent. It is usually the teachers and possibly an Intervention and Referral Services (I&RS) team that has to develop all of the strategies and work very hard to get the student and family on board. That is the major reason it is so hard to able students that have a history of not doing well in school.
Bryan’s step mother provided a lot of back ground information about Bryan, his acting out behaviors and struggles in school. It didn’t seem like Bryan and his parents were uninterested in making changes and improving his performance, but they were having a difficult time figuring out how to start and how to maintain progress. I get it. Developing good study habits, changing attitudes about Bryan’s abilities and creating a specific plan for success is not easy.
When I met with Bryan, I made it clear that he needed to commit to some changes, but I also reassured him that I would meet with him on a regular basis to provide suggestions and encouragement. When we discussed goals, we discussed specific goals that would allow him to start becoming successful right away. He missed a lot of assignments so his first goal was to reduce the number of missing assignments. We discussed using his agenda to write down his assignments or to use his phone to take a screen shot. The second goal was to specifically set a time that he would do his homework and work on projects. Third, Bryan needed start paying attention to anything that he didn’t understand and develop a method to write it down or keep track of it. Fourth, he needed to have a plan to meet with each of his teachers to get clarification and assistance. Fifth, he and I were going to meet within two weeks to discuss his progress.
Next: Making Adjustments and Encouragement.