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Special Needs Accommodations in the Classroom

Education Expert Advice from Barbara Callaghan

Q: I have an 11-year-old son who is in the 6th grade. Bryan is a hyperactive child with an attitude. My problem is this: When I request that his teachers fill out his assignment notebook every day to show what is done and what isn't, I get the answer "He doesn't hand it in to be signed". What can I do to get the teachers to get the notebook from him and cooperate with me on this? I have met with his teachers and written several notes, and still no cooperation. I have even told Bryan to hand in his notebook, and, like today, he handed it in, they looked at it, but didn't sign it. Is there someone I can contact for assistance, or am I going to have to go to the school every night and make sure they sign it?

A: It is so frustrating when you feel you have an agreement with someone and they don't follow through. It probably seems like such a simple thing that you are asking each teacher to do, and it certainly would make life at home much easier.

But there is another side to this story. Teachers have many different bases to cover at the end of a school day: special announcements to make, things to pass out, and last minute changes in after-school activities to handle. In light of this, figuring out on the spot what one student has or hasn't finished for homework can be a tall order to fill. Add to it a student with an attitude, and it can become too much.

I suggest that you begin by making an appointment with each teacher (a phone conversation will do). Explain that you need to know what your son is accountable for each day, and that the homework notebook plan isn't working. Let the teachers know that you understand they are very busy at the end of the school day, and that you would like to try an approach that works better for them.

You might suggest that the guidance counselor or the principal play a role in monitoring your son's work. But let each teacher know that you are open to her ideas. In this way you will be getting the teachers to "buy into" the solution. After you have reached a new agreement, send a note to the teachers (with a copy to the principal) thanking them for their support in helping your son succeed. Set a date, perhaps six weeks out, for touching base again on how things are going.

Hope you have better luck this time!

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After teaching in California for nearly ten years, Barbara Callaghan moved to New Hampshire in 1985 and became a principal. After 10 years as a principal, she returned to teaching, her first love and true vocation.

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