Friday, March 5, 2010

In The Middle

Next year my youngest daughter heads to middle school. I'm already nervous. It's not that I'm worried about her getting lost, or forgetting her locker combination, or not making friends. I'm worried that the choices I have to make for her now, this month, will be the wrong choices for her when September rolls around.

Miss 11, as I have written about previously, has a few learning disabilities, along with ADD/anxiety. Since third grade she has been on an IEP. She sees a teacher who helps her with specific subjects for 30 minutes, 3 times a week. This does not mean that she is not incredibly intelligent. She has a great IQ score and reads at a 10th grade 6th month reading level, that's 4 grades above her current grade. She regularly gets straight A's in Science and Social Studies. Her English and Reading grades are awesome, and rarely do I have to help with either of those subjects anymore. We study together for tests, but daily work is typically completed in school, and done perfectly.

If you move on to Math and Spelling, you encounter a completely different child. Shockingly these two subjects are very related. I have heard several of Miss 11's LD teachers discuss how it is very common for a student who doesn't excel in Math, to struggle with spelling as well. This is not the case for my oldest daughter who can spell most anything, but struggles like crazy with math, so I know that generalization is not always the case. Miss 11 has a written expression Learning Disability. This doesn't mean that she can't write a brilliantly thought out essay or story. Her plots are deep and well planned; her paragraphs are thorough and well researched. It does mean that if she has actually physically written the paragraph by hand, you might not be able to figure out the words she wrote. The spelling of words and the physical production of the words may be a complete mystery. She knows what it says but at times I can't even figure it out.
She can not remember how to spell words that she had last week (and aced!) on a spelling test. She doesn't retain that information in her head. She can read the word, but not spell it back to you.

This carries over to math. She can tell you exactly how to do a math problem, but she can't remember her math facts. Memorizing multiplication tables is nearly impossible; but she knows exactly how to figure out 9X7. While her classmates know it off the top of their head, she has to figure each one out, typically add 9 seven times in her head or using her fingers. Imagine how long a 6th grade math problem takes if you have to do that every time you multiply. Currently they are doing Algebraic fractional equations. Her mistakes don't come in any of the hard part, it comes when she multiplies 6X8 and gets 42 instead of the correct answer.
Last week she had a math test. She got a 70% which is a D- at her school. Was I angry with her? No, I was angry that getting 9 wrong was a 70%, but proud that she only got 9 wrong and that it wasn't for lack of knowing how to do the problem, she did each one correctly, it was because of multiplication facts early in the problem that continued and gave her the wrong answer in the end. Next year, they get to use calculators. I hope and pray this will be just break she needs to gain her confidence back in math.

After all that background, here is my dilemma. We are currently signing up for classes at the middle school. There are not a lot of options for electives if you are in band. Miss 11 is in band, it's important to try band now because you can't pick it up later and expect to have much success. There are even fewer options if you are in band AND on an IEP. in fact, there is only 1 option: band and resource are the only electives you can choose.

Does she need the extra help? Yes, right now she does. But, once they are using calculators, and typing more papers on the computer, spelling and math become much less of an issue. We are just waiting for that wire to fuse in her brain, the one that we know will some day, the one that finally joins the rest of the wiring, and the switch clicks on, and BOOM- suddenly it's just not a big struggle anymore. Will it be soon? Will it fuse in college? Since we can't predict the timing, we can't predict what she needs from year to year.

Yes, I can sign her up for resource now and just see what happens. But the problem then is that all the other classes fill up, and she's stuck there, even if she doesn't need it in the future, because all the other electives are full.

Add to that problem the fact that one of the current resource room teachers at the middle school is someone that Miss 11 had years ago. They did not get along well, due to no fault of Miss 11. (Our principal actually requested that this teacher not come back to our elementary school the following year. The people who assign LD teachers
agreed with him, and she was not allowed back.)

Will the students who are not in resource now be labeling Miss 11 in some way? Will it become a social stigma? It certainly is not a problem where she is now. The other students in her class don't think twice about it. But middle school is a whole new ballgame. She will be in a class of nearly 200 instead of a class of 16. Will she miss out on the socializing part because she will miss out on all the "fun" electives she could be choosing from?

What we decide now, may be a decision that affects her drastically in the coming school year. How do we know what is right? And what is best.


jo said...

Go for a fun elective.

DanielAjoy said...
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Lo said...

Interesting about spelling and math being related. Maybe because they both rely heavily on memorization?
What's her opinion about elective vs resource? Given that you are a teacher, you remain involved and committed to her education, and you two work well together, I'd worry less about this than if you were a typical parent. I think you'll make sure her academic success comes first whether that means starting her out in the resource class or waiting to see how things go and moving her to resource if needed.