Our first parent-teacher interview

Yesterday I posted about the impact that a strike could have on our family - particularly with Brandon’s need for consistency - if current talks with the union representatives don’t lead to resolution and acceptable compromise for both sides. Again, I don’t have a concept of what’s being asked and I refuse to put any teacher or school staff person into a box with a label - good or bad. My employment details aren’t out there for public consumption and I refuse to use any label on a situation that I’m not experiencing first-hand.

What I know is that we have a teacher who genuinely cares about our son. She is the quintessential kindergarten teacher - incredibly smart, creative, energetic, attuned to the needs and readiness of all of the children to receive what she has to offer. 

We had our very first parent-teacher interview tonight and Brandon’s teacher proved she’s worth her weight in gold first by scheduling us last in the day, knowing there would be a need for extra time. Interviews were booked in 20 minute increments. She spent twice that amount of time with us. 

She focused on the positive, showing us example after example of progress Brandon has made and how he’s growing in his interactions with his peers. It’s wonderful to hear that the other children are understanding - and even supportive - of his special needs. 

I remember years ago that my mom told me that my kindergarten teacher was not one of her favorite teachers of mine. This is significant as they were not only in a parent-student relationship, but they were colleagues since I attended the school where my mother taught. I feel quite certain that my mom would not only like, but genuinely respect Brandon’s teacher. 

I know I do.

It’s fairly surreal to have a child who is attending school. I’m just so very glad that it’s going so well. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I couldn’t have asked for a better group to entrust my son’s education and well-being to. 

Strike or no strike, I still have lots of reasons to be grateful for Brandon's school experience

A week ago Friday, I rifled through Brandon’s school bag to see what was left by his teacher and found a labour disruption notice. As of Monday, Nov. 12, the OSSTF is in a position to go on strike. This union covers a wide range of services, which I’m going to way oversimplify by saying they are support staff (that’s not even close to being entirely true, by the way). I’m only categorizing them this way because those are the staff that have a direct impact on my son if I understand correctly. According to the letter sent home with Brandon, members of this union will be implementing a partial withdrawal of services.

Brandon’s school’s teachers will be in a position to strike in December. I realized tonight that I haven’t asked about the potential impact this may have on his daycare arrangements. I’m going to choose not to think about that part for now. 

I will say this, though: As a parent, I’m concerned. As a parent of a child who has special needs, I’m extremely concerned. Disruption of Brandon’s routine can be upsetting for him to the point that he can’t function. He loved being at his daycare all summer, but he’s become used to the routine and stimulation that being in school provides. The first professional development (PD) day of the year, I had to leave work early to pick Brandon up. The change in routine was so drastic and even with preparation, he didn’t understand why he wasn’t going to school. Even though he was doing fun activities with his friends at daycare and the daycare staff that he absolutely adores, the change in his routine was too much to process.

Parents have known this entire school year that a strike is possible. I don’t know all the issues that the unions are discussing and I am not qualified to make a judgment as to the union’s motivation. I have no comment on any of that. All I know is that if a strike happens, the losers will be our children. They will miss days or weeks of established routines. Days or weeks of learning. Days or weeks with the social environment. Days or weeks of progress. There’s probably a million things I could name that they’ll miss out on. 

I have no doubt that the Province of Ontario could do a better job with education. 

I remember being horrified the first time I heard about teachers going on strike after I moved to Canada. In Florida, the state constitution doesn’t allow teachers to strike. I’m sure there’s a comprehensive list of pros and cons that can be debated, but I can’t help but think that it’s a good thing that school goes on. In my entire life, I never had to miss a day of school because teachers went on strike.

For me, I don’t think a strike would have been a great hardship. For my son, it could be devastating until he gets used to a new routine. Once school resumes, he’d have to return to his school routine and that would inevitably be a difficult transition.

I have nothing but respect for the job that teachers do. I was a music education major and had to drop out when I realized that it wasn’t the right field for me. It’s unbelievably hard to teach. Good teachers should be valued far more than they are.It may sound as if I am anti-teachers, but I’m not. The gratitude I feel toward Brandon’s teacher - who is a lovely, sweet, wonderful woman - cannot be easily expressed in words. I can’t find the words to tell you how much I appreciate what she’s done for him. It seriously brings tears of gratitude nearly every time I think about it. Here’s just a few examples of why she’s worth at least twice her weight in gold:

  • A one-hour call before the start of school to get to know Brandon’s special needs.
  • Regular emails advising us on how he’s doing.
  • Permission for him to bring a special toy to school while he acclimates to the new routine.
  • Booking us at the end of the day of parent-teacher interviews to allow extra time for discussion about how to help Brandon.
  • Telling us how much she loves having him in her class.
  • Willingness to implement suggestions from Brandon’s therapists.

That last one is huge for us and I have a story about it: I am not a dollar store shopper. I rarely go into them and, in fact, generally dislike their existence. However, at Brandon’s age and since we need to buy supplies for some of the suggestions we get from the therapists, the dollar store is the best option. One evening, I took Brandon with me and let him wander looking for something he wanted to get while I browsed craft supplies. It was after 6pm, just down the road from Brandon’s school - well after school was out for the day.

Who was there? Brandon’s teacher. And she was loading up her basket with all sorts of supplies. Every last thing she had, she pulled out to show me and and told me how she would be using it to implement one suggestion or another from his daycare or therapists. 

I’m pretty sure she didn’t use her school board credit card to pay for it either. 

Brandon’s teacher and principal worked with the school’s educational assistant (EA) staff to find one that could help assist him during his transitions from daycare to school and back. They did this to accommodate his needs, even though they hadn’t anticipated the necessity when budgeting for staff and alloting time for the year.

The school - and especially Brandon’s teacher and principal - have bent over backwards for him.

This is how school should be for every child, in my opinion. Their individual needs met by staff who are caring and concerned. 

So, while some are upset with teachers and perceive them as greedy and uncaring of the children, I know that this couldn’t be further from the truth - at least not all the time. I sincerely hope that a strike doesn’t happen. In truth, I wish that the government would find a way to ensure that a strike never happens again. However, I would not want them to do so in such a way that would suffocate the teachers’ and other education staff’s right to better working conditions and/or pay. 

As the daughter of a special education teacher, I can’t help but support teachers like Brandon’s who exemplify what I’ve always hoped my son would experience with his teachers. I’ve experienced first-hand, from watching my mom, just how hard teachers who care work for their students. I’ve felt the impact of having teachers who are passionate about helping kids learn. I value that contribution to the world at large and I’ll always be grateful when we are blessed with teachers like Brandon’s. 

So...apparently I lied to Brandon's teacher this week

Brandon’s junior kindergarten teacher is wonderful. She’s a lovely young woman with so much energy and compassion for children. I couldn’t be happier with the lottery that landed us in her class. She’s made so much extra effort with Brandon since before school even started. From visiting him at daycare to calling and spending nearly an hour on the phone with me to discuss his situation. She’s called almost every week since school started to talk about how things are going or give us updates on one thing or another. 

She’s exactly the kind of teacher I hoped for Brandon to get. If he has teachers like this woman every year, we will have a stellar school experience. Brandon’s principle is wonderful too. I feel like we’re all on Team Brandon - doing everything we can to help him succeed. 

So, of course, I lied to a key team member this week.

Brandon’s teacher called to tell me how well his day went after we made a change that we all anticipated would lead to some difficulty. When she called, she mentioned a book that Brandon’s been reading for a couple of weeks, introduced to him by his daycare teachers. The book? Mortimer by Robert Munsch.

I never read Robert Munsch growing up, so if you’re like me, here’s the man himself reading Mortimer:

It’s a cute book - even cuter if you’re looking at the pictures.

Why did this come up? Because B’s teacher wondered if the yelling Brandon has been doing (sometimes) is mimicking the book. I assured her that he isn’t really known for doing that. He’ll often quote books (at odd, completely out of context times), but I said it’s unusual for him to start acting them out or even copying behaviours in the books that are negative.

I found A Bunch of Munsch on Netflix last weekend and Brandon has started requesting to watch them regularly. (People, the show has trumped Thomas - this is big news.) It’s so weird, though. I can see why it appeals to kids, but as an adult seeing it for the first time I’m finding it hard to enjoy. It bugs me that the stories diverge so far from the books, too. Sure, the basic nuts and bolts are there, but there’s so much filler that makes me wonder what the writers were on when they dreamed it up.

One of the books that Brandon has been drawn to is The Boy in the Drawer. I think this one has an actual lesson in it for kids, but it’s so vague I would be truly impressed at the child who can verbalize it without help. Mind you, I could be reading something into something that isn’t there. Here’s the cartoon version - embellishments at all:

If I have to have that song in my head, you do too. :-p

Now, I know you’re wondering about this lie I’ve mentioned. I didn’t know I lied until yesterday afternoon when Brandon came running into my room and said there was a tiger in his sock drawer. Shockingly, I did not make the connection at first. I told Brandon we better go investigate. We crept into his room ever so quietly to keep from rousing the tiger. I slowly opened the drawer and screamed!!!

How did a tiger get in his sock drawer?! And he’s reading a book!

Hmmm…just like The Boy in the Drawer (click that link to listen to Munsch reading the book).

Today, Brandon ran over to tell me that the tiger threw his socks all over his room. I thought this was a brilliant opportunity to get him to pick up his mess since he was clearly play-acting out the book. However, unlike Shelly who did what her mother told her to do, Brandon doesn’t like to clean up messes regardless of who makes them.

I think next week, I’ll have to let his daycare know that they need to find some books that encourage tidiness and stop reading the ones that are so messy. ;)

Ultimately, I couldn’t be happier with this development. More and more I see Brandon using his imagination and books are such a huge part of it. I always wanted him to love reading and he does. I couldn’t be happier about it.

I should probably let Brandon’s teacher know that I lied to her now.