Making Adjustments and Encouragement

Bryan did bring his signed print out to me and I did meet with him after two weeks to determine how much progress he had made, but it wasn’t a complete turn around and he was still failing his major subjects. To help him become able to make progress in the future I needed to make adjustments in his expectations. Specifically, he needed to know we weren’t looking at the actual grades at this point. We were looking at what he was able to change.

His agenda had some assignments listed, but there wasn’t a drastic improvement. Moving his homeroom to his math teacher’s homeroom did make a difference. He saw her at the beginning of every day and had to show her what he completed so he became more motivated to complete his math homework. His skills were still in need of improvement and he was still not sure how to identify the actual skills he needed to work on, but he started to make some notes on his homework so he and his teacher could work on some of the skills he needed to improve. This is the start of my encouragement. He was starting to pay attention to specific items on his homework to ask his math teacher for more help. He was starting to complete his math homework and his homework grade was improving.

Skills on the other hand are not that easily improved. In most cases, there are a number of skills that should have been developed in previous years that weren’t. I needed to help Bryan see the need to identify not only the new material that he needed to work on, but also the skills that he was expected to know. I needed to encourage him to start paying attention to the sample problems presented in class and identify the specific parts of the problems that he was having difficulties understanding. Then, continue to pay attention to the specifics as he did his homework and ask for help in class and during homeroom. This is not easy for a student that has failed to start doing. I needed him to focus on the process, not the actual grades. If he just focused on the individual grades, he would only see that he was still failing. I tried to explain that we had three more marking periods to bring his grades to a passing level.

Obviously, his stepmother was doing her part and making sure that he did his homework and encouraged him to do the best that he could. She also responded to Bryan’s teachers through e-mail to remind him of things that he needed to complete and dates of quizzes and tests. He was still very sensitive about how much she could push him, but the teachers and I encouraged her by telling her that she was doing a great job and that Bryan was making progress. There are a lot of situations where the support at home is not really there and it limits the amount of progress that can be made.

Progress, as expected was slow, but Bryan was starting to trust that we were more concerned about the progress he was making than his actual grade grades on quizzes and tests. Since this was middle school (Jr. HS), teachers allowed students to make test corrections to improve their grades. Bryan started to meet with his other teachers during homeroom and during actual class time and he started making progress in most of his classes.

Reading was a problem. He didn’t like to read and was not doing well with assignments that required him to read at home. When we talked about his assignments that required independent reading, he was quite clear that he didn’t like to read. I asked him if his mind wanders when he reads and he told me that it was difficult to pay attention to what he was reading and didn’t remember what he was reading. Basically, he was just reading words and often didn’t finish passages.

I convinced him to make reading the first thing that he completed when he was doing his homework because everything else would be easier and more enjoyable. I asked him to start keeping track of the who, what, where, when and how of his passages. I asked him about the type of questions his teachers asked him and the type of questions that were on quizzes and tests and he started to agree that those items were what he needed to keep track of when he read. The problem is that people that do not like to read do not change that fact easily, and you don’t learn to read effectively, unless you read everything that is assigned. This was going to require a lot of work and a lot of encouragement. I suggested to his stepmother that reading with him and to him may have a positive benefit, if he would accept that.

I could detail a lot more, but I wanted to use this as an example of a student that had the ability to make changes and start to become successful, but was not a student in need of special education. He wasn’t able to be successful because his behavior at home, in school and in his previous community didn’t have the structure, support and encouragement to cause him to make changes. Moving to a new community with more financial support at his grandmother’s house and a school that is very good at making parents and students aware of specific expectations can produce amazing results.

Bryan continued to make progress and his grades did go up, but he had no real goals. He was making progress because of a lot of involvement by his parents, teachers, counselor and hard work on his part and he enjoyed the attention and encouragement. If he was really going to become able to move to the next level, he need to start making goals.

Next time I am going to talk about the value of goal setting.









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I have a BA in Psychology and a teaching certificate as a Special Education teacher. I have a MA in Student Personnel Services and I currently work as a Guidance Counselor. I have been active on advisory boards concerning disability issues for over 25 years

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