Friday, October 31, 2008

He likes you. He really likes you!

We went to parent-teacher conferences last night: two kids, each with eight courses (including "advisory"); one room of teachers at tables.

Fortunately they boys have the same English and drama teachers and Gary has the same teacher for two courses. So instead of visiting with 16 teachers we only had 13 on the list, and we didn't make it to Brian's band teacher. We did however talk to the school counselor -- so that makes 13 visits in 2 hours. We did split up a couple of times.

Anyway, Gary was really concerned. He said he didn't want to go along because he didn't want to hear about how horrible they thought he was. I assured him that the worst thing anyone might say was, "we are really worried about him." He wasn't sure, and he particularly warned us that "Mr. H" with whom he has two classes "picks fights with him" and doesn't like him at all.

Can you guess what Mr. H had to say? He thinks Gary is one of the most fun students he has. He can always count on him to engage with the material. "Gary has some of the most interesting things to say!" Mr. H was also very worried because he heard that Gary was a foster child and would that mean that he wasn't going to be able to stay at the school? Gary seemed to be doing well here, and he was such an asset to the school he would hate to see Gary leave. When I explained that it was a permanency program, Mr. H was very relieved.

I told Gary that all his teachers said good things about him, but that Mr. H was the only one who showed that level of concern. Gary was really surprised that Mr. H thought he was an "asset to the school." He grinned, while trying to hide it, and said, "I'm so going to tease him about that." (Except I don't think he used the word "tease"...I can't quite remember).

We also got Gary a "study coach." I had been thinking about an adult, but several teachers recommended the same junior girl. Her mother is the special ed teacher and she is always there after school. We spoke with her and her mother and it is all worked out. She knows that what Gary needs is help prioritizing, breaking up big projects into smaller ones, and generally not getting stressed out. The young woman is very bright and said she had the same problem when she first came here because her last school didn't hardly assign any homework either.

And in case this has crossed your mind too -- she is not Gary's "type." Though he might flirt in attempts to get her to do work for him (shameless), I do not think there is a likelihood of romance. Also they will probably work in the mother's classroom so that will help them stay on-task.

It is a difficult transition for Gary. He is really bright and has managed to "coast" and still get A's and B's. He rarely had to study or have projects that had to be done outside of class. Any papers that had to be written outside of class were not worth enough to bring his grade lower than a C, even if they were done poorly. Though I was happy with the college-prep schedule that Andrew got at Our Small Town High, I know that mostly their mission is getting as many students graduated as possible. They are more concerned with the droop-out rate and failing to pass the required standardized tests than they are with excellence. The same applies to a lot of high schools, including the one Gary went to last year. This school though is assuming that all of the students are going to apply to college and need to be prepared for that.

So Gary is adjusting.

The coach is not something that I would likely do for the bioboys. One thing I have learned about foster youth is that they (very reasonably) have trouble accepting us nosing into their lives. They don't trust easily. Even when kids want to do well in school, it can be difficult having a parent "on their case." Even when they want our help, some part of them is resistant to accepting it. Of course, that happens with the bioboys too -- them not wanting us to be "on them" about things, but the do accept it. It doesn't turn into a power struggle or create tensions in our relationship, at least to the same degree. Over the years I have just stopped making school work a priority for me. I hope that it is a priority for them and I offer tutors, coaches, assistance-when-asked, but I don't push.

That has mostly worked for us.

Brian's performance really dropped off after Andrew left and we weren't logging in to the on-line system so we didn't notice. Most of his teachers agreed to accept his missing work with some penalty. There's no school today (cause of p/t conferences) but Brian rode the bus in this morning to turn in most of his missing work.

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