When to go and see the teacher about work being 'too easy' without looking like an awful Tiger Mother?!

(109 Posts)
harrietlichman Sun 13-Jan-13 09:26:21

My ds2 is in year one and though by no means a 'G&T' candidate, he is pretty advanced at spelling and reading - he can easily spell the words that dd1 brings home (Year 4) for her spelling work, for example.
This week he bought home the class newsletter which asks parents to help children with their spellings for a weekly test, along with a list of new words. They were all two letter words (on, at, etc) and absolutely no challenge to him whatsover.
I am reluctant to go in to school in a way, because I don't want to come across as a pushy parent who thinks her son is some sort of genius (!) but at the same time I am slightly concerned about what appears to be a lack of differentiation in the class.
So my question is WWYD? My dh thinks I should leave it as that is obviously what everyone in the class is doing at the moment, but my gut feeling is that he is just wasting time on this and should be being challenged a bit more.

CecilyP Sun 13-Jan-13 09:29:32

If he already knows the words that might be in the test, then he won't have any homework, so he won't need to waste any time in doing it.

MoreBeta Sun 13-Jan-13 09:34:55

We had thiS with DS1 and it went on all the way up to Year 6. We went in to talk to the Head, wrote letters and so on. It didnt work. the school just taught to the average and refuse dto acknowledge there was a problem. In fact they tried to prove DS was not as advanced as we thought. We were not the only parent with a bright child who just wanted them to be stretched a bit more.

DS1 came home one day and told us he sat most lessons in maths just looking out of the window having completed the work in 10 minutes. In the end several parents took their children out of the school.

I actually think you will not get a good response form teh schol if you complain. They will be defensive and give you alls orts of excuses but teh reality is that some children even in Yr 1 are just so much more capable than others there is a hige gap and many schools just don't respond to that.

I would start looking for another school and start doing some work with your DS at home. Your gut feeling is right - yoiur DS needs to be challenged.

Highlander Sun 13-Jan-13 09:34:57

You can ask for him to be assessed for reading. He may then do literacy/writing with year 2, but stay with his own class for the remainder of the curriculum.

Year 1 is a funny year, though and the teachers may feel consolidation in other areas is required before stretching. It may be be more appropriate in Year 2 when generally the ability gap closes in the class.

However, if he is so bored that behavioural problems emerge (finishing work, chatting and distraction other children), then definitely step in. We had this problem with DS1. He was booooooored, and the teacher complained frequently to me about his chatting, yet failed to tell me that he was left sitting with nothing to do for 20 mins. There was PLENTY that he could do; work on his handwriting for example!

harrietlichman Sun 13-Jan-13 09:35:43

Obviously he won't have to do any work learning these particular words, my concern is that he is being given these words to 'learn' in the first place. It suggests the teacher doesn't know his level.

Highlander Sun 13-Jan-13 09:36:01

We did move DS1 to a selective private school at the end of Year 2.

MoreBeta Sun 13-Jan-13 09:36:06

Apologies for my appaling spelling.

harrietlichman Sun 13-Jan-13 09:40:08

Thanks MoreBeta and Highlander - this is another worry - that he will get bored and 'give up' without a challenge. Good point about consolidating in other areas, he doesn't particularly excel at anything else, just has always been able to pick up spelling and reading from very early on and has always had a good reading level. I just don't feel particularly comfortable challenging the teacher, but don't want to let him down by not saying anything.

mrz Sun 13-Jan-13 09:42:42

It suggests the teacher doesn't know his level.
It suggests to me that the teacher is following a script ..*.it's January so I send home these words* perhaps because the school uses a programme in a prescriptive manner?

mercibucket Sun 13-Jan-13 09:45:48

If it's just spellings, I'd be feeling happy it was one less piece of homework. Year 1 is a funny year anyway, and so long as he's not disengaging I wouldn't worry about it. Ours always had easy spellings but later on they were moved into higher groups for maths + literacy. You could stand for governor. That way you get to influence the approach the school takes.

mercibucket Sun 13-Jan-13 09:45:49

If it's just spellings, I'd be feeling happy it was one less piece of homework. Year 1 is a funny year anyway, and so long as he's not disengaging I wouldn't worry about it. Ours always had easy spellings but later on they were moved into higher groups for maths + literacy. You could stand for governor. That way you get to influence the approach the school takes.

Do you have a parents evening coming up?

DS is in year 2 and year 1 was a disaster for him in lots of ways. He had teachers job sharing which didn't work out at all. They also have the phonics test now in June so they may be concentrating on that depending on how bothered the school are ( ours aren't thank goodness)

However when I realised that the reading books he was being sent home with where the same ones he had this time last year I sent a note in to the teacher. This is an accepted communication method by the way as I work full time. She wrote back that she had assessed him and moved him up two levels!

Are you happy with the school in other areas?

learnandsay Sun 13-Jan-13 09:48:43

By all means talk to the teacher about it but don't expect her to actually do anything. I've heard twenty or thirty stories of this kind often involving talking to the headmistress and the most common response is all sorts of procrastination and warm words but nobody actually does anything. In a way though it's a pseudo problem. Because if your son can actually spell the words then he hasn't got a problem. He's only got a problem if he can't spell them and nobody is teaching him how to. The wasted opportunity aspect of the issue is one which haunts a lot of parents but my own view is it's the parents responsibility to get down to the educational department of WH Smiths, buy workbooks and spread them out on the kitchen table if they want to maximise their child's potential. The local school might, but it probably won't. It's far too busy teaching everybody else's children who don't already know everything. Last term my daughter's teacher wondered if she could read the tricky words they will bring home at the end of the year. Yesterday my daughter ran off the list of their tricky words from memory and then she told me about the sounds that they haven't learned yet and where the teacher keeps them. Apparently the children aren't allowed to play with those cards. It's clear that some children can do more than the syllabus allots for them. But that doesn't mean they're allowed to.

loverofwine Sun 13-Jan-13 10:04:34

I would say don't worry about what the teachers think. The only person who is going to push for your child is you.

I used to adopt a 'school knows best' policy but recently woke up to the fact that they didn't want the hassle of reassessing my DS who kept on telling me how bored he was in literacy. I spoke to the teacher on a couple of occasions, wouldn't accept the pat answer and she agreed to reassess. He is now in a different group, much happier and any negative view she may have of me is outweighed by this in my eyes.

harrietlichman Sun 13-Jan-13 10:18:50

Many thanks for your replies - I am happy with the school in other areas, and my son loves it. We read at home together and he also does workbooks (he is a bit of a swot wink and loves showing off what he can read/write!)
Interestingly, JustaSmallGlass, he is also in a Jobshare class - it seems to work pretty well but I can't help think that one teacher full time seems a better option.
We don't have a parents evening until later in the year, which is a nuisance as I would bring it up there without a problem - it's the 'going in' that I am slightly reluctant to do, but taking on board your collective advice, I am going to go in and just get their views on his ability and find out what they are doing to encourage and stretch him.

Malaleuca Sun 13-Jan-13 10:30:46

Why be apologetic if you are a tiger mo. Go tiger moms.

We have had this as well. DD is year 2 now and her teacher has finally accepted that she is well above the average in the class and does individual work with her. I'm the same about appearing 'pushy' so just brought it up at parents evening when the teacher agreed. her levels are already at 3+. As an example, over the christmas holidays, dd was writing her own notes on space and the formation of planets and their 'project' was to make a collage of chrismas using cards and glitter...The trouble is they do have to work to the average, which is fiine, as long as they are aware that there are some who will be above and some below. Best thing to do is just make an appointment and be direct - if he needs harder work, he needs it! <I hate coming across as 'my child is a 'genius too>

musicalfamily Sun 13-Jan-13 11:28:52

My experience is not a great one - DD1 has had this problem all the way through, now in Y3. We have done everything we could wrt speaking with teachers, it just hasn't really worked, even though they always made the right noises.

highlander I hope you don't mind me asking - how did the move to a selective school go? We are going down this route with DD1 and I just hope that she will fair better. She is hugely bored and demotivated right now and she told her whole extended family on New Year's Day that her biggest wish for New Year was that we changed her school to one where she learned something....so we had to do something radical.

we're also doing the move to selective blush

pointythings Sun 13-Jan-13 17:24:47

I really don't think jobshare is the issue here. I think there may be a culture of doing things by the script in KS1, as mrz suggests, and it's not acceptable. My DDs are both bright and were given suitable work right from YrR - by half term, the teachers had the measure of the group and knew exactly who needed what. That is what a good school should do.

Throughout primary (DD2 is in Yr5) there were all kinds of flexible arrangements - able children being taught in the top groups of the year above, work being brought in from the local middle school (at a time when we were still 3-tier), writing work being structured so that it could accommodate the entire ability range. DD2's teachers are on a jobshare - it means she currently has a maths/science specialist and an English/arts specialist and is getting the best of everything. This is in the state sector, by the way.

I'd be looking at moving schools too in that situation.

A job share done right is great and it sounds like you have that pointythings

However a job share where teachers aren't talking to each other and seemingly little handover, isn't.

Start off by talking to them and see how you get on

This has made interesting reading, thanks everyone - DH and I have been having a similar conversation about DD, also in year 1, which began last week when she brought home a reading book that she was given in her first term of reception.

I think we were somewhat spoilt last year, her reception teacher was excellent and quickly pegged her abilities and worked out how to stretch her within the class, DD loved it and learned loads.

This year, DD seems to have regressed (during the school term, not over the holidays) and I've been spoken to about her "low level disruptive behaviour" a couple of times. DD herself tells me that she spends "lots of time" in each of her groups "helping A/B/C do their work" and when questioned, this appears to be because she's finished her own and has to wait to be given something else to do. Our first parents evening is in a couple of weeks, so I'm busy outlining a list of questions I want to ask. Fingers crossed it gets us somewhere...

harrietlichman Sun 13-Jan-13 18:42:55

I am definitely going to go in and have a chat with them after reading this thread - I know it will continue to bother me if I don't. I think mrz was on the money with prescriptive teaching, and it just doesn't sit well with me, so I am tigering up and going in!

Many thanks to you all for your advice and experiences - I thought this must be a fairly common occurence, but it just isn't easy to talk about it with the other 'playground mums' without sounding like a total stealth boaster!

wearymum200 Sun 13-Jan-13 18:57:50

Yup, tiger up (a bit). Ds1 had a poor y1 from exactly these sort of issues. When I tried suggesting he was bored, teacher always said "no", but she never managed to send home a reading book anywhere near his level (or listen to him read; I only knew the phonics test had happened because ds1 came home announcing that "i had to read to a teacher for the first time today"; in June of y1). maths was similarly frustrating.
I went to the head in the end and she helped quite a bit in ensuring that things were a bit more challenging.
Y2 has been somewhat better, teacher is good, but I'm sorry to report we are going down the selective private route for y3 too.

GW297 Sun 13-Jan-13 19:37:32

I would talk to the teacher or write a letter outlining your concerns. As long as you are polite and show that you wish to discuss spellings as you both have your child's best interests at heart, it should be fine and the teachers/school won't label you a 'tiger mother.' Why not give him some of your elder child's spellings to learn and let the teacher know you have done this and why?! Explain that you are planning to continue to do this unless the school can provide suitably challenging spellings for your child.

Sad so many parents have had to withdraw their bright children from state schools and pay for their education in order for them to be sufficiently challenged. Sad also for the bright children who are not being stretched who have parents who do not have this option for financial reasons.

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