Posted by: Hannah | 11/10/2011

i’m just wild about Harry

Day 10! I’m a third of the way there! Is everyone bored yet?

Actually I’m still giggling over the whole “grow your blog” angle of NaBloPoMo. I haven’t noticed that my readership has picked up all that much. (And I wouldn’t want too many new people coming over here this month, anyway. Some of these posts are already falling under the “just post something to git ‘er done” header. Sorry about that.)

***

Last night was Harry’s parent/teacher meeting. As we did last year, we went in mostly to get to know his teacher and to discuss the Problem of the Ever-Fucking Reading Folder (EFRF).

Last year, every Monday, Harry came home with his EFRF. In it were between two and four leveled-reader books, a sheet of hints for how to encourage reading, and a parent response form. The idea was that parent & child work through the books together over the course of the week, and then send them back with the completed parent response form.

By October Harry was reading them completely unaided. By November he was complaining about being bored with all the books available in the classroom. So at last year’s first parent-teacher meeting, we had a great chat with his teacher and she started rounding up books from the other grades.

By June, the EFRF had totally outlived its usefulness. He dreaded it. Reading the books in it became a chore to rush through on his way to longer, more interesting and challenging books. Every Sunday night I’d check the “too easy” box on his reading form and then list in the comments all the books we gave him during the week instead. I loved his grade primary teacher – still do – but the EFRF were her initiative and she was bound and determined to stick with them.

It was such a relief to take that worn-out, torn, ratty folder and chuck it in the trash on the last day of school. For both of us.

***

Third week of September, this year… and home came another EFRF. In a supreme act of twisting the knife, it was even the same goddamn folder type AND THE SAME COLOUR, EVEN as the one from last year. And the parent response form looked the same. And thus began weeks of me writing “these books are not enough of a challenge for Harry; this week he discovered Gordon Korman” and the teacher writing responses like “he is an awesome reader!” with a smiley-face.

Which is fine, except I found myself in the position of telling him to put down that chapter book so he could read “The Dog That Wandered” for his homework.

We also had some issues with the Book Buddy program this year. Book Buddies is a good deal; we had it when I went through elementary school, too. Two classrooms are paired up once a week for a visit to the school library and some partnered reading aloud. Last year’s Book Buddy, Aiden, was an awesome mentor for Harry; despite their four-year age difference they became friends, and still hang out sometimes even though Aiden is in grade five this year and really doesn’t need to be nice to a first-grader.

This year for some reason Harry’s class was partnered with third-graders. The first week, Harry came home with Dr. Seuss’ Hop on Pop. The second week, it was some Disney-branded thing about Winnie-the-Pooh mixing paint colours. Ron was bringing more challenging books home from preschool. Harry told us that both his book buddy and the library volunteer were not allowing him to browse through the shelves of more difficult books, where he could see STAR WARS CHAPTER BOOKS MOM OMG!!!

To sum up, because this post is getting long – Harry can read far above his grade level (how far above no one is really sure). And his school at every turn was pushing him toward the books he should be reading, causing him to look on school reading activities as a boring necessity to get through on the way to reading for fun. In other words, really not how we want him to feel about school.

So last night we went in ready to discuss the problem. And lo and behold, his teacher also thinks that for him, anyway, the EFRF is not only not helping, it may be actively hurting his progress. She’d like to stop even bothering to send one home with him, except she doesn’t want him to feel too different from the other kids. Just like I was, she found herself struggling every week to come up with something to write on his reading response form – hence the smiley faces. And she had already intervened at the school library to tell the parent volunteer that yes, he is perfectly capable of reading those Star Wars chapter books and should not again be pushed toward the picture-book section.

After we were done chatting, she called Harry into the room and gave him special permission to browse through her shelf of books that she normally reads to the class. Also a shelf called “the Friday books” – a collection of science magazines, volumes of poetry, and other kinds of reading material that aren’t normally offered as take-homes.

Piled on top of all this, she praised his attitude, his personality, his willingness to engage in class discussions, and wrapped it all up by saying he’s a delightful boy who is a joy to teach.

I don’t use this space often enough to recount the good stories about Harry. He can be a challenge. He’s too much like me sometimes, and it’s tough. I really must remember to blog about him when he does something awesome, too – which is frequently. He’s smart, he’s kind, he loves his little brother, and he really is a joy to parent, too.

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Responses

  1. I recently found your blog and I love it! I just had to share that I’m with you on the reading folders. The day after my daughter threw her book across the living room while muttering, “I’m not reading that stupid book again!) was the day we started homeschooling.

    • Welcome, and thanks! I have much respect for people who choose homeschooling; not for me, but I applaud those who do decide to go that route. If Harry had less understanding teachers who were willing to listen to our input, it would be one of the options we’d have to look at. He still really loves school at this point… I’m hoping that carries him through to the older grades when the work will be more challenging for him.

  2. This is just…awesome. He sounds like such an incredible kid 🙂
    I can see how it would be frustrating, though! (And I admit to thinking “Well, that’s certainly an argument for homeschooling,” although it sounds like the teacher is doing her absolute best to adjust things for him)

    • Thanks. He is pretty fantastic. I have no idea how much of that is because of my parenting but on parent-teacher day I will totally take all the credit. My biggest fear of homeschooling would be that my boy, he loves the social parts of school. He needs to have lots of other kids around and I wouldn’t take that away from him. We spend a fair bit of effort informally teaching him things that are more interesting & challenging for him outside of school time… it’s just struggling to find that balance where school is maybe boring sometimes but never a dreaded chore. We’ve been lucky so far that his teachers agree with us that he is something special and needs more attention. Long may it continue.

  3. i’m thrilled to hear that Harry’s teacher was so willing to step outside the prescribed process! 🙂

    • I was surprised and pleased, myself. Especially since she’s been teaching for a good long while (her kids are both in university now).

  4. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy that his teacher was able to see beyond the EFRF system and work on finding ways to encourage and challenge Harry. What a relief!

    And what a wonderful kid you have!

    • Thank you! We are very lucky, both in our great kids and in the school district we moved to – quite by accident – four years ago. Although the school is quite small (285 kids for grades P- 5) it’s got a fantastic reputation and has won awards. Every year I learn a little more about why! They have certainly been very responsive to Harry’s needs.

  5. I told PH about this post and he nearly died of sympathy, because he remembers those $#^&*$#^ folders too, and he had the same problem.

    He had a grade 5 reading buddy, and HE ended up helping read to the BUDDY.

    His IQ is over 160.

    Just sayin’.

    • I was often singled out in elementary school as “the smart one”, which was so hard – I wasn’t legitimately challenged so much as I was put on display. In grade two, for example, my teacher made me read the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder series aloud to the class. *sigh* Hubby is freaky-smart, but he was in french immersion which kept him challenged more than the standard english stream would have. I’m just glad the teachers (so far) see Harry’s ‘large expansive mind’ (teacher’s words) as an asset and not a liability that will make more work for them.

  6. I meant to add – when I read things like this, I feel really fortunate to have been through private school.

    I too was way above reading level (not like Crazy PH Man, but way above my peers) but it was never a problem for me. If anything, I remember my teachers challenging me if they caught me “slacking” by reading something below my ability – the kind of thing my classmates would read, in other words.

  7. Yay for teachers who get it and are willing to make modifications! 🙂

  8. […] permission slips, waiting at the bus stop with the neighbours, or keeping track of Ron’s Ever-Fucking Reading Folder and Harry’s word study […]


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