Saturday, April 30, 2011

Repeating a Class

It is an assumption, but I believe most students really don't like to retake a class.  Taking a class and failing can have a very negative impact on a student's self-esteem and attitude toward school.  I will also step out on a limb and say that nearly all students who fail a class do so because of bad habits, such as disorganization, apathy toward school or the class specifically, and simply not turning in work.  Whatever the reason a class was failed and is on your schedule again, you have to make some changes if the same outcome is not to be repeated.  Learn from the mistakes you made the first time.
  1. Commit to a new start.  There is no use blaming yourself or anyone else for failing a class.  Use this experience to learn some better habits and improve yourself.
  2. Be better organized.  Use a specific folder and a planner to keep track of the assignments for this class.  When you complete and hand in an assignment, put a check mark or some symbol next to it so you can see your progress and know you handed in the required work.
  3. Chances are you still have some materials from the class.  Use old tests and quizzes as review material.  Be sure to do the required reading again, but you will no doubt find you can move through the material faster as it will be familiar to you.  While you may not remember all the detail of the important concepts from the first time, you will remember reading about them.  Use your prior knowledge to help you through the material.
  4. Talk to your teacher frequently.  You need to let him/her know you are concerned about your progress.  Whether the teacher is the same or not, you are repeating the class and the teacher will, most likely, know.  A positive attitude and genuine concern for your academic progress will make quite a difference in your experience.
  5.  Try to use other sources to help bring the materials to a level of understanding for you, if you are struggling with concepts.  I recently had to help tutor a biology student in genetics, and I was having trouble understanding the concepts by reading the textbook.  I googled "genetics for dummies" and "simple genetics" and was greeted by a large amount of material.  I was much better prepared to help tutor the student after I spent some time doing a little research.
Failing a class is not the worst thing that will ever happen to you.  Getting stuck in the negativity and allowing the experience to leave a permanent scar is not acceptable.  Learn and grow from your experience.  Know this, however...if you don't change some habits that you know caused problems for you the first time, failing again is probable. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Extended School Year (ESY)

Extended year services are services provided to IEP students beyond the traditional academic year.  In order to remain in legal compliance with FreeAppropriate Public Education (FAPE) school districts may be obligated to provide services to those students who are eligible.  The purpose of ESY services is to continue work toward the progress of IEP goals; it is not simply summer school which is considered remedial coursework opportunities. 
The IEP team determines a student's eligibility for ESY services.  Services may not be limited by the school; the decision for ESY services including frequency, duration, and type is made by the IEP team.  The child's needs dictate the services and may be different for each eligible IEP child.  Each state has guidelines for eligibility for ESY and should be researched thoroughly by parents or advocates.  All ESY services should be documented in the IEP.  In addition, once eligibility is determined, the school district is responsible for ensuring that the child being serviced has transportation to and from the service location.
Some factors to consider when determining eligibility of ESY include (but is not limited to):
     *Child's progress toward IEP goals and objectives
     *Regression (loss of skill) and recoupment (time needed to recover lost skill)
     *Areas of child's curriculum that need continuous attention
     *Emerging skills/breakthrough opportunities
     *Interfering behaviors; behavior problems
Be sure to research a copy of a respective state's guidelines for ESY.  Review your child's IEP, and gather data to support a request for ESY, if it is desired.  Expect resistance to this request.  Do not wait until the IEP date to request services.  Additional testing data may be needed for the IEP team to make a sound decision.  As always, remember as a parent you are a critical member of the IEP team.  You are your child's first and most important advocate.

Wright's Law.  All About IEPs.  Harbor House Law Press, 2010. pp. 105-110.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Child's Brain and Organization

Do you know students who are naturally organized?  They have a locker that is neat; everything has its place?  Unfortunately, my oldest is not one of these naturally organized kids.  His locker is a clutter of materials.  I don't know how he finds what he needs in his transition from class to class.  I've organized it and cleaned it out at least three times this year (no doubt he did not even notice). It is easy to just blame him for his lack of organization but my quest to better understand what causes this disorganization is what has helped and will continue to help me support him.  To be honest....the blame lies with his brain.  I know that sounds rather ridiculous, but it is true.  Brain research has been something I've studied in the last several years in order to try to serve students more effectively.  The truth of the matter is the undeveloped frontal cortex of the adolescent.  Brains develop over time (many years, in fact).  Our society is not as simple as it used to be and our children cannot move at the slower pace our society used to move.  The demands our society places on adolescents/teenagers is grossly unfair to their development.

The frontal cortex of the brain is responsible for getting things accomplished. According to Taking Charge of ADHD, by R.A. Barkley our frontal lobes allow us to filter out distractions, prepare for the future, figure out how long something will take to complete, multi-task, and alter a plan if needed.  These are key things we expect adolescents/teenagers to do without much help from parents or teachers.  It is a shame we expect our middle school students to be capable of executing such complicated functions when their brain is not even fully developed yet.  I encourage you to read up on brain research.

After placing blame on the brain for disorganization and inability to perform certain tasks, the process of supporting one's child begins.  The first thing parents must remember is that Rome was not built in a day and neither will your child's frontal cortex fully develop in a day.  Always remember, in addition, that your child does not want to be unsuccessful either.  Fighting with parents over homework and housework, not being able to find or remember things, or getting poor grades on a report card are not fun for kids either.  The key in helping one's child is to listen to him or her.  It is only through listening that parents will find ways to help support him or her as the frontal lobe develops.

Staying positive is another important part of helping one's child.  Constant criticism is not something I bet you'd like to hear from your boss, and it is not something a child enjoys hearing from a parent.  It can actually have the opposite impact.  Find something to praise.  Punishments do not teach skills (I've learned this one by personal experience).  It doesn't mean that consequences are not to be given; just give them without a blamey or nasty attitude.  This is not a war and neither the parent or the child is the enemy.  Talk about what works and what doesn't.  Keep communication lines open and remember that under this disorganized mess is a real child.

The next articles will focus on helping parents determine the child's organization style and applying that knowledge to a system of organization and study skills.  Always remember that most skills cannot just be taught once and then never reinforced.  Repeated instruction and support will lead to the development of sound habits. 

Barkley, R.A. Taking Charge of ADHD. New York:  Guilford Press, 2000. Print.

Kutscher, Martin & Moran, Marcella. Organizing the Disorganized Child:  Simple Strategies to Succeed in School.  New York: HarperCollins, 2009,  Print.