Starting a New School
As we are approaching the end of this year and into a new year there will be girls changing schools from the security of primary school or familiarity of Intermediate into Secondary school. I have had a couple of people ask me how our transition from primary went – I have to say it was not an experience I would choose to repeat and nor would Victoria, but could with the experience we have gained along the way. We are very proud of Victoria who has battled to keep up but still goes back for more!
We went from the comfort of primary school where expectations were, “She is doing OK” to a totally different standard and environment. Here are a few pointers that we found helpful to us as a family and child with learning diffi culties, compounded with hearing loss.
- Visit the school and speak to the Dean and Principal and inform them of your daughter’s needs e.g. she has Turner Syndrome, needs a friend in the class, need for simple instruction and a patient/understanding teacher etc…
- Meet the class teacher / year Dean with in a week or so of starting the school year to build a report with her – most teachers are happy to have parents on board – (keep in touch with teachers as the year goes on, particularly the fi rst year when so many new expectations need to be met). Often the girls can be so keen to learn that the teacher may not realise that added pressures and work load compound and create stress and overwhelming.
- There is a lot to cope with in a new situation and from my experience disappointment can creep in & situations can be magnifi ed:
- Put in place simple tasks to be completed before school – just the basics of remembering teeth, lunch, etc… as this is where the day can get off to a good or bad start.
- Colour code subjects so all the text and exercise books for say maths are green and science is purple (the $2 shop have clear fi les that have different coloured zips – perfect for the job!).
- Encourage your child to use a diary to record her homework or tasks that have to be completed or reminders.
- If she is shy encourage her to get a class members phone no. so she can confi rm the homework.
- Don’t assume she knows things like how to use a locker – what it is for.
- Encourage peer support (or buddy system so they are familiar with the new schools rules and layout).
- Report any bullying immediately to the school.
- If you suspect your child has learning diffi culties (they are often subtle) get an assessment of her learning style and needs. This may cost if you are not able to get it through the public system but well worth i t as then her needs are documented. The school also requested an RTLB (Resource Teacher Learning Behaviour) who was amazing and called all teachers involved, Michael & I and the Hearing Special Ed person and explained to us all, Victoria’s requirements. We quickly found out that Victoria had processing problems and when in classroom situations she was not able to grasp a lot of instructions at once. She was not a fast writer so when she was asked to write something from the board it was often incomplete, this coupled with the teacher talking became an impossibility to write and absorb the teachers instructions. Strategies put in place by RTLB for the teacher were:
- Simple clear tasks were given.
- Hand outs from the teacher as apposed to copying from the board.
- Minimizing tasks to be completed – complete 6 out of 10 questions.
- Organisational sheets were given to Victoria to assist with composing stories, organizing projects etc…
- To sit at the front of the class where it was easier to see & hear the teacher and minimise distractions.
- A special hearing device (edulink) with the teacher wearing a microphone and Victoria wore a special ear piece – this aided concentration as the teachers voice was clear.
- Private tutor for maths who went right back to basics but in doing this her confi dence grew and she was able to complete her school maths.
- These processes together with teachers understanding that Victoria could complete work required made a huge difference to Victoria’s self esteem and she tried so hard to get the best out of her classes. She was so diligent, and would often spend all night on her homework, I would often have to tell her not to do any more homework as she battled often to complete it all.
- As these processes have been in place, and yes at the beginning of each year we make sure that the teachers (and there are many!) know to look on Victoria’s fi le. She would often come and say she had been told off for not completing something and we would have to assess if the teacher had just cause or just needed reminding of her ability.
Victoria is with the support of the school, her teachers, classmates and family doing achievement standards NCEA this year (internal exams are sat at the end of each strand – this takes the huge pressures off big external exams) and has had a very good year and has surprised a couple of teachers. The school has also recognized Victoria not once but twice in her 5 years at this school with special awards for her perseverance and consistency across the curriculum.
This is our story – you don’t get a second chance to do the right things and being a parent at the best of times is challenging, but hopefully by telling our story, it may just get you thinking or be able to pick up on something you can use to help your daughter. Remember – You are your childs best advocate!
Karen, Michael & Victoria Pratt