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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fostering in Change

Aside from having lost a lunchbox, a warm winter hat and forgetting homework assignments from school, all typical characteristics of some eight year old boys, life has been relatively calm and uneventful here in the big city of Berlin.  One thing is for sure, winter is here!  And o how I miss the mild, sunny days in Kuwait.  You know it is @25C there at the moment, compared to Berlin’s just breaking over zero temperature.  And we had a sprinkling of snow yesterday afternoon.  I’ve long forgotten what it’s like to wear a winter jacket, gloves and a scarf.

Any who.....

Several weeks ago, I had a one-on-one with the boy’s homeroom teacher, a meeting he initiated.  During that get-together, it was agreed the time had come for Christopher to take the next step, and learn what it truly means to be responsible and prepared for school.  My constant reminders of what of what to do, should stop.  Otherwise, he’ll never learn to think for himself.  In other words, it’s time for Christopher to either keep up with what’s expected of him or, fall flat on his face.

I couldn’t agree more.

Since the beginning of the school year, teachers have overlooked many things, allowing the kids to get used to their new surroundings and routine.  None of the teachers has been overly critical of the kids when it came to remembering where one’s classroom is, or forgetting homework assignments (books, worksheets etcetera), or even remembering to bring something as simple as paper and pencil.  Given time, the teachers say, the kids do get the jest of things and are able to cope; most are slowly making the transition, including Christopher.

A lot of what’s been going on at school is in preparation for the big leap after Christmas break and my wife I are doing the same at home.  We’ve taped Christopher’s daily class schedule to the refrigerator door so that when he’s packing his book bag for the following day, he can see exactly what materials he should bring.  Occasionally books, papers and pencils don’t make it into the bag but he has improved five-fold from the beginning of the year.

Writing down homework assignments is another area we’ve been working hard at mastering.  There’s lots of room for improvement here, including not misplacing one’s homework book—we’ve lost one already this year!  And other simple tasks like packing his lunch, picking out clothes for the following day and strategically placing all these things by the front door the night before.  Swimming gear has gone astray when, it should’ve gone to school.        

As a parent, you never want to see your child suffer, even a little.  But there comes a time when a bit of “tough love” is needed and that time has come.  When school starts up in January next year, I’m no longer going to be that constant reminder he’s used to hearing, day in and day out.  The sole responsibility will be his and his alone.   Time is up, young man.  You either sink or swim.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Adventures In Time Line Construction

How many elementary school children under the age of say ten, can remember their homework assignments from school each day?  Sometimes they can but, more often than not they can’t.  Mine can’t.  They’re just too young.

At the beginning of the school year, our homeroom teacher told parents to contact other parents from the class if their child loses an assignment or can’t remember what to do with a particular homework assignment.  If that doesn’t solve the problem, mom and dad are most welcome to contact the teacher directly, via email or by telephone.  Each of us has our teacher’s home telephone number and mobile number, too.  Although I’ve personally never had to phone our son’s teacher, I have had to reach out twice this year, for help on specific homework assignments.  For both times, I received an overwhelming response.  You could say we’re a closely tied group of people. 

The first time I asked for help was over a math quiz my son supposedly forgot to return after correcting it. There were five or six students actually, who’d forgotten to return the quiz.  After digging through a small pile of papers, I came up empty and emailed the others asking for help.  Of the five or six kids, only one parent managed to locate the missing quiz.  For the rest of us, it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  In the end, all of us emailed the teacher saying that we couldn’t find it.  I haven’t heard about it since.

My second time emailing parents happened just recently—as in two days ago.  The question I put to everyone was, “Do any of you have an idea about today’s Social Studies homework project--something to do with a time line and the oldest person in the family.  According to Christopher, each child has to contact (by telephone!?) the eldest person in their family and ask them a series of questions.    For us, the oldest living person in our family resides in America—that person is 85+ and still going strong!  But do you think we’re going to go and phone them up from Europe?  I think not! 

Similar to my last SOS email, I received a hearty response to this one as well.  The answers I received back were as diverse as the population of Berlin.   Here are a few excerpts:

They can ask any question.  How old is s/he? 

The questions should help the kids make a time line about their lives.

_______told me that they have to do a Time line about themselves with at least 5 entries beginning at their birth, but _______ did not mention asking someone.  But I can't promise that this is the whole truth and nothing else but the truth;-).

________told me they were supposed to contact at least 5 older people and “interview” them about things that happened in their lives then write those points into time lines for each. _________actually went around the neighborhood and interviewed some old ladies and called grandma and grandpa and some older people from our church and interviewed them all….No clue whether _______ went overboard but I thought it was quite amusing to listen in on ________ little questions and the old ladies in our neighborhood probably really enjoyed the unexpected attention ;).

_______said they needed to build a timeline and that by the end of the week the timeline was to have 20 points but that today they needed only 5 points. I heard nothing of interviewing or eldest?? ______ just made the timeline based upon their life.

 ________said that they needed to learn 5 points about the timeline of their life by interviewing "the oldest person they know."

Are you dazed and confused?  Us too! 

For the life of me, I can’t understand why the teacher did make the kids write down what they’re supposed to do.  You can clearly see what happens when they don’t; several different ways pop up, any of them could possibly be correct.  In the end, my wife volunteered herself—she is a wee bit older than I am.   I’m not sure if it’s correct, but hey, it’s done.