Sunday, December 6, 2009

Parent-Teacher Dialogue

Yesterday was the first formal parent-teacher dialogue I had with the teachers from his childcare centre. Before I went, I was feeling kind of anxious and apprehensive. As a teacher, I am usually the one giving the feedback, informing parents of the academic results and behaviour of their children but today I am the one at the receiving end. What will the teachers say? Will they say that my boy is beyond hope? That they couldn't handle him? Or is he the 'bad one' in the class? The one who never fails to irritate the teachers and make teachers feel angry and frustrated? I know I was so full of pessimism but I just couldn't help it.

Before I went, I prepared a list of questions in my head... These were some of them..

How often does he throw a tantrum?
What makes him throw a tantrum?
Is he violent or has he hurt anybody?
Does he mix with the other kids?
Does he have a friend?
Does he jump and flap his hands in school?

As you can see, I am not concerned about his learning but rather, his behaviour.

So first I had a session with the teacher Rayyan is closest to, Mdm Teo. She takes care of the kids for the first half of the day and since Rayyan is there for half a day, he is usually taken care of by Mdm Teo. I must say that I am touched that she is so concerned about Rayyan. I can feel the pride when she spoke of Rayyan's improvements. She said that at first, she didn't know how to handle Rayyan because he would throw a tantrum every now and then and she didn't know what he wanted back then. But slowly as he grew closer to her, she began to understand him.

These are the improvements she sees in him (I have also included pics given by the centre)..

1) He doesn't cry anymore when he comes to the centre in the morning. Before, he would cry at the top of his lungs when he reach the centre and would lie down on the floor and kick his legs.

2) This I have mentioned before. He has learnt to eat by himself and can sit through his lunch. Before he refused to join the other kids at the table and would throw a huge tantrum when he was made to sit with them. Now, he can even go and wash his hands by himself before lunch!

3) He can now follow simple instructions given by Mdm Teo, like taking his shoes for outdoor activities or following and holding Mdm Teo's hands when Mdm Teo called out for him. Before, he would ignore her totally.

4) He can sit down and do some art and craft, like pasting small coloured pieces of paper under the instructions and guidance of Mdm Teo. Before, he would avoid all activities and go to the 'library corner' to read on his own.

Rayyan's art piece! Isn't it gorgeous??!

5) He doesn't throw a tantrum anymore when made to sit in small groups to do activities like playing with blocks or read books. He doesn't communicate with the other kids but at least, he doesn't throw a tantrum and walk away from them. Before, he didn't want to join anybody and just wanted to be alone.

These were Mdm Teo's concerns..

1) Until now, he doesn't want to mix with the other kids. So far, he has NEVER joined them at the playground. He will just go to the side or a corner and play on his own. I have mentioned this before but I didn't know that he has never even once, joined his friends. When the teachers actually tried to force him to join the others, he will throw a tantrum.

2) During lessons, he also doesn't want to join the others and doesn't want to sit quietly. He will wander off or go to his favourite library corner. Mdm Teo tried putting him by her side but he will only last less than five minutes there, then he will start wandering and do his own thing. Again, he will throw a tantrum if forced to join the others.

3) He is clingy.. He only wants those who are close to him to attend to him, like Mdm Teo and the other teacher, Ms Cynthia. When these teachers have to shower the other children and pass him over to the other teachers, he will cry. He doesn't want to follow any other teachers.

4) Mdm Teo is also concerned because he likes to play with water/liquids in a very unusual manner. Whenever he sees a pool of water/liquids, he will spread the water around using his fingers. He will do this with his mucus and saliva too.

I know that he will do this to water and his own mucus (we freak out everytime he does this) but I have never witnessed him doing this to his own saliva. Anyway, we have found out that his actions are due to his sensory impairment/needs and we are trying to address this behaviour.

Through Mdm Teo, I also found out that he doesn't really throw a tantrum in the centre... only when he is forced to join his friends or when the teachers shower the other kids. Rayyan is also not violent and has never hurt anybody (Thank God!). And he does jump and flap his arms when he is excited.

Anyway, I really thanked Mdm Teo for her patience and her love and concern for Rayyan truly touched me. She said that she is really fond of him now and Rayyan will even give her a hug and kiss her once in a while.

Next, I met Ms Cynthia. She takes care of Rayyan only once in a while so she is not that close to him. My meeting with her was less than 5 minutes and sadly, she did not mention anything positive. Apart from what Mdm Teo had already informed me, she added that Rayyan doesn't like to paint or do printing. He would walk away whenever there's a painting activity.

I have mixed feelings after the session. Part of me was glad that Rayyan has shown improvement but part of me was sad... and I guess the saddest part was when the teachers informed me that he doesn't want to mix with the other kids at all. I know that he doesn't talk but at least, I thought he would play with them. The image of him all alone, not wanting to be in the company of friends, not smiling or laughing along with them, really, really saddens me... I really hope that Rayyan will overcome this one day...

I must say that the session really opened my eyes and I've learnt two important things...

1) The importance of being more involved in Rayyan's school life. I felt really guilty for not being more involved in his school life. Because of work, I don't send or pick him up from the centre but I should have gotten regular feedback from the teachers and also, tell the teachers more about Rayyan's behaviour or his likes and dislikes. This way, the teachers would understand him and would be able to handle him better. Now that I think back, I realise that the reason that I wasn't really involved in his school life was not only because I was busy with work... It was also because I was afraid to hear the negativities from the teachers, I was afraid to hear all the bad things about my boy.... This will definitely have to change..

2) As a teacher, I realise even more now the importance of understanding and loving your students. The school counsellor has always informed the teachers that whenever they deal with difficult students, teachers should find out more about the students and try and find out what's bothering them. More often than not, students become defiant or rude because they have problems or something is bothering them. We teachers should find out the underlying reason and not lash out at them non-stop. Indeed, I can see the importance of understanding and loving the students. Like Mdm Teo, once she had understood Rayyan, she began to care for him and love him. And Rayyan, on the other hand, began to warm up to Mdm Teo because he knows that Mdm Teo cares for him.

Through this experience, I really hope I will be a better mum for my Rayyan and a better teacher for my students. I hope that the challenges that I face make me a stronger person....