We start school tomorrow. Mister Man is in a new school - one he attended for a just a few weeks last year. The teachers there don't know him, and with his special needs, there are strategies that will help the teacher - and him - if both know them from the start.
So what's a mom to do? I put together a little book about Mister Man. It's four half sheets of paper, stapled together, that includes both pictures and text. It tells a little about him - his strengths and weaknesses, along with things that we know help him. The point of it all is to make a quick and easy introduction for the teacher - not reports that she has to wade through, but instead a portrait of an actual child.
I am bringing a copy for his teacher, as well as one for the social worker and the specials teachers - especially gym - so that they can better understand and work with him. It's short and doesn't include everything, but it's a decent primer. And next year? I'll just update it with new skills and learnings, and his new teacher will have one, too.
Dear Mrs. B,
My name is Mister Man, and I am so excited to be in your class this year. I attended New School for just a couple weeks at the end of last year, as I attended Old Catholic School before that. I know many of the rules of New School, but not all of them, so please help me remember!
My mom says that I’m a really sweet kid, which has its pluses and minuses. I always want to help someone or stick up for them, but I don’t always do it in the best way. My heart is in the right place, though.
I love to learn, and I can’t wait for school to start. I am a “fact kid” and it’s so much fun to share what I know – or what I think I know. That’s the problem. I don’t always know everything I think I do, which can sometimes be hard in group situations where not everyone has my opinion.
Reading is one of my favorite things to do. In fact, if I have free time, that’s what I usually do. In the past, teachers have rewarded me with reading time when I finish my work, but unfortunately a lot of times that means that I rush through my work and don’t give it my best effort. If we’re reading in class, I get really wrapped up in it and sometimes get curious about what’s coming next, so I forget to stop when I’m supposed to, or I’ll page ahead when you’re talking to see what I can learn. Feel free to take away my book to keep me on task. It helps me remember to do what I’m supposed to.
Organization isn’t my strong suit. Sometimes, I forget to write down my assignments in my assignment notebook, or I don’t write down enough information to figure out what I am supposed to do when I get home. If you can check briefly to ensure I got down the important things, I’d really appreciate it – although I’m working hard on getting better at this!
I sometimes struggle with impatience, too. Remind me that you’re the teacher, and I’ll remember that you’re in charge and that this isn’t something where I always know what’s coming next or what the right answer is. It’s more because I’m so excited than any actual disrespect, so please understand that. I like to do things my way, which I know I can’t always do.
Because I think I know what’s coming next, sometimes I don’t actually read the directions on my assignments or read all the parts of a problem. Sometimes having me highlight the directions or labeling them 1, 2, 3 for steps helps. Or have me keep my paper upside down while you give instructions, so I’m not tempted to start working before I know what I’m really supposed to do.
Math is a lot of fun, and I like to do computations in my head. I don’t tend to show my work as often as I should, and sometimes that means I get problems wrong when I know the answer. I’m working on slowing down and showing my work, but sometimes I don’t think I need to. And as much as I love the concepts of math and enjoy them, doing quick computations and then writing them down (a la Rocket Math) is hard for me because I struggle with my fine motor coordination and the connection from my brain to my hand.
And yes, I do have issues with fine motor. I know how to hold a pencil, although I need a reminder to “hold my pencil the right way” – which really improves my writing. I haven’t quite decided that neat handwriting or even capital letters make much of a difference, so I have to be reminded to write “small and tight” but I absolutely can do much better handwriting than I will usually show you. Keep pushing me.
I love to be challenged and engaged. When I’m learning something new, I’m happy and focused on that. Sometimes I get down on myself and frustrated when I don’t know things, but I’ve learned a lot about how to keep working hard and have positive results in the end. Sometimes, I need a reminder about that.
Socially, I struggle sometimes. I’m not quite on par with the rest of the third graders, but I’ve made huge strides. I want to be their friends, but sometimes in play, I don’t know where that line is and so don’t know when to stop. I don’t have that instinct. I do know that when someone is bothering me, I’m supposed to walk away and then tell an adult if they still don’t stop.
I tend to talk louder than I should, although a pinching motion with your fingers reminds me to turn the volume down. I also forget to look at people when I’m talking, and I rock back and forth when standing. Reminding me of “eyes” and “rocking” helps me realize what I’m doing. I also jump up and down when I’m excited, but I’m trying to remember to stop that. Every once in awhile, I’ll chew on my shirt, too. Usually that’s because I’m anxious about something. Remind me that I’m doing it, and I’ll stop. My mom thanks you!
I’m also not super coordinated, part of my issues with motor planning and fine motor skills. Gym is hard for me. I run awkwardly and slowly, and my hand eye coordination leaves a bit to be desired. For that reason, I don’t love sports, which sets me apart from my peers. I do Tae Kwon Do, though, and I love it. I know that it’s not ok to demonstrate it in school, however.
I’m learning still to deal with frustration and failure, as I know a lot of my friends are, too. I’m getting better at it. Before, I wouldn’t want to even try something if I thought I would fail, but now I usually will try at least three times before I get frustrated – and sometimes even longer than that!
If I don’t answer you right away or am in my own world, touching me on the shoulder and saying my name reminds me to stay in the classroom instead of thinking deep thoughts. It’s the best way to get my attention.
I’m excited to be at New School and in your class this year, and I can’t wait for it to start. Please be patient with me, and when I’ve done something wrong, if you can explain what I did that was wrong, that will help me, as I don’t always know why I got in trouble, just that I did something I wasn’t supposed to do.
Sincerely, Mister Man, 3rd Grade