I need a the views of teachers please

(29 Posts)
joshandjamie Mon 22-Apr-13 07:10:11

My son is 7. He's in year 2, a September baby so one of the oldest in the year group. He's also big physically for his age and an old soul with a very adult view on life. He is bright and is at least a year above where he should be in maths. He is a strong reader and has an inquiring, logical mind. His handwriting is a disaster though as is anything that requires him to sit still or require fine motor skills.

He is at a private school. The school is lovely and from what I can see, the teaching style is great - lots of really fun learning, not just sitting at a desk doing stuff by rote.

But my son hates it. He says school is boring. I am trying to figure out whether he is just being a monkey who doesn't like having to sit at school and work or whether he needs to be challenged more.

His BIG issue is maths. He does get more challenging work than the other children in his class but his teacher still insists that he has to do some of the stuff which he finds very easy and therefore boring. Her argument is that he needs to practice the processes / methodology e.g. using number lines (?) to work out sums so that when they get to more difficult stuff, he has the process down pat. I see her rationale, but my son's response to this was:

'I can do these sums in my head and I will never use this process. It is stupid.'

I am not a teacher. To me it makes sense to get the processes completely sorted so that more complicated stuff can be built on later, but he is becoming so distressed (crying/refusing to go to school) about it that I am now wondering whether he has a point and that he does find the work boring.

I guess my question to teachers is: if you have a bright child, is it necessary to make them do the same processes over and over (the school policy is to cover each thing up to six times so that it is firmly embedded in the child's head but they cover it in different ways) or if a child seems to have got a concept down, can they then move on? Same goes for reading books - he hates that he has to work his way through the 'boring' school books (the different colour reading schemes) when he wants to read more interesting stuff.

I want to talk to the school about what to do for him but am genuinely not sure if he is bored because he's a boy and would rather be playing vs bored as he's not challenged.

Any advice appreciated

exoticfruits Mon 22-Apr-13 07:22:19

I can't think why you are paying for this!
If he does it in his head, has no intention of using the process then why would he need more than a quick look at it? Same with the reading books. Take him to the library - let him pick his own.
He should find school interesting and a challenge and at 7yrs he should be gaining a love of learning to stay with him through life- he isn't getting any of this and is unhappy- and you are paying for it!
The fact it is private is no indication - they range from excellent to poor.
I would either find another private school or explore the state system- but move him.

joshandjamie Mon 22-Apr-13 07:34:35

just to say that I do take him to the library but he doesn't show much interest there for getting out other books. He does read others we have at home but I genuinely can't tell whether it is the school's fault for pushing him to do the processes or whether he is just trying it on because he doesn't want to go to school and is trying make excuses. For example, he wants to do more challenging work so they have sent him home him fun maths books so that he can do it at home, but he doesn't want to do it. Perhaps that's because he feels he's been at school doing work so why should he do extra at home and what he'd prefer is the harder stuff at school?!

cornydash Mon 22-Apr-13 07:38:05

'I guess my question to teachers is: if you have a bright child, is it necessary to make them do the same processes over and over'

No

That's shit teaching - the teacher should be differentiating for your son. I'd guess that she isn't very confident about teaching maths.

joshandjamie Mon 22-Apr-13 07:45:42

She is the maths expert at the school - she absolutely loves maths which is why I don't know whether to believe my son. Right at this moment he is hiding under his bed screaming that he won't go to school. I cannot get him out and no amount of talking to him is working. argh I will speak to the school today as there is obviously an issue but I genuinely don't know if it is a problem with the school or him

TwllBach Mon 22-Apr-13 07:58:56

How is he getting on in school otherwise, OP? What are his friendships like, etc? I would be differentiating for the child, but I'd also want to check that his distress was definitely caused by frustration by the work. Is there a chance he could be being bullied?

I'm sure he's not, but I would be tempted to ask if there are any other worries he has, on top of the work issues. Sorry if I've spoken a bit out of turn!

difficultpickle Mon 22-Apr-13 08:11:13

We had this. Teacher was older (probably my age, I am old) and had been at the school many years. She had one way of teaching and that was it. Ds went from being described as very bright in the previous year to 'not capable of much and near the bottom of the class' with her. We met with the head. She lied to the head about what she'd said at parents' evening. He said I must have misunderstood. I hadn't. Ds moved schools.

I was surprised at how long it took ds to recover his enthusiasm for school and had I realised I would have moved him earlier, as did someone else in his class.

difficultpickle Mon 22-Apr-13 08:12:32

Forgot to add that ds went from loving school to hating it during this time.

exoticfruits Mon 22-Apr-13 08:18:27

It is a bit difficult to judge, your second post puts a different slant on it. Maybe he just doesn't like anything that needs effort.
Either way, it is a problem and I would make an appointment at school to talk about it.
It could be a simple clash with the teacher- maybe he will get on much better with a new one in September.

redskyatnight Mon 22-Apr-13 08:38:44

(not a teacher)
DS found the work boring in Y2. And in Y3. Especially maths. In Y4 he has a "quirky" teacher who likes to look at maths from different angles to challenge the brighter children and he's starting to like maths more. And it wasn't because it was too easy.

Unfortunately imo maths at this age is a lot about learning methods and it does feel like a drudge. I'd agree with the teacher that he does need to get his processes clear - he may be able to do the easy problem in his head- but can he do the harder one. But then I would also say he should be asked to use the process to do the harder problem if he'ssecure at the easy one - does the teacher agree with him that he understands "how" to do it?

adoptmama Mon 22-Apr-13 08:38:48

As a parent of a child very able at maths I share your frustration. As a teacher however I fully understand why the teacher is doing this.

You say your son says 'I can do these sums in my head and I will never use this process. It is stupid.' But the point is sooner or later he will reach a point where he cannot do the sums in his head and needs to understand the process by which he arrives at the answer. There are some very gifted children in Maths who fly through primary and early secondary school level maths with no difficulty but fall down badly later on in GCSE and above because they cannot use processes properly. The teacher is helping your son become a mathematician who can think and solve problems. It may be that he finds what he is doing boring in which case ask the teacher if he can do more challenging tasks using the same processes. It is not at all unusual for a child to be 1 year ahead of the average in a primary class. However it may be your son objects to what he is being asked to do because he actually finds it difficult to use a process or explain his methodology. I would advise you to talk to the teacher about your concerns and your son's frustrations but work with her to ensure your son is demonstrating all he is capable of in school.

adoptmama Mon 22-Apr-13 08:43:43

As for reading books; look on them as a text book your son is reading to ensure that he has good phonic knowledge, is learning to read with expression, make predictions, give alternatives etc. The book is a tool for the teacher to hear your child read, assess their progress against clear guidelines and identify areas of weakness. There is nothing to stop your child reading other books for pleasure. Ask the teacher why he is on the level he is on. Schools generally have guidelines about how many errors can be made before a child can go up a level. If he is careless or hesitant reading aloud then this will hold him back. If he cannot give good, detailed answers to questions, answer in full sentences etc when asked about his reading book this will also be considered a weakness. My child can read for pleasure well above the level she is on for ORT. However I fully support where the teacher has her because I know she does make mistakes, guess words etc. This doesn't stop her reading other - less boring stuff - for pleasure and it means the teacher is able to help her progress at her own pace securing phonics and other reading skills.

Fragglewump Mon 22-Apr-13 08:47:36

I think it's lazy to make a child trudge through reading schemes and can diminish their enthusiasm for reading! I inherited a class who had not had their reading properly assessed and I made a priority of checking each child was reading the right books - I moved some of them up several levels!!! Are the books your child reads at home very different to the school books. Can your child explain what happens in the more complicated books? With very able 7 year old readers I would expect them to come across unknown vocab - I would encourage them to record unknown words and show them how to find out their meaning. Have a chat to the teacher about checking your child is on the right level books.

difficultpickle Mon 22-Apr-13 08:58:24

When ds didn't like his school reading books I just got him books he liked to read. He would read a bit of the school book and then read the books he enjoyed. The teacher seemed to have a policy of them having to read so many books at the same level. I don't think ds moved up a level in the entire year he was with her (he had a reading age several years above his actual age). It made no difference to his reading ability as he was reading widely at home. At his new school he just read whatever book he wanted to from the school library.

sashh Mon 22-Apr-13 09:02:26

if you have a bright child, is it necessary to make them do the same processes over and over

Yes. Number lines might seem boring but they are the basis for graphs/charts. When (if) he starts using imaginary numbers he will find it useful.

joshandjamie Mon 22-Apr-13 09:03:20

Thanks for all the replies. I've just returned from another awful drop off at school. I have asked that the head teacher have a word with him - the head is lovely and very approachable. He is definitely an out of the box type teacher - not someone intimidating who you see as a punishment. I also spoke to his teacher again. She again said pretty much was adoptmama has said: that her son was very bright with maths but as he got older he battled as he didn't have the processes down. I fully understand this, but wonder how to make it so that he enjoys learning the processes rather than seeing them as dull?

RE reading, he does make the odd mistake/guess words while reading but he does understand what he is reading. I don't have an issue with the reading side of things - I think he moans about that because reading aloud is tedious to him regardless of what it is he's reading.

Re bullying/friends - I don't think there is bullying - I have asked. But he doesn't have any close friends either. He finds them all annoying. He far prefers to play with his brother's peer group (in year 4).

His teacher said in a parents evening that it's a shame he's not in year 3 already because he is old for his year and would suit being with older kids - I think that is part of the problem. But I am not willing to move him up even if the school is because I think areas like handwriting and his inability / lack of interest in having to sit and do processes will hinder him if he moved up to the middle school next year.

Argh. I feel like I need a stiff drink after this morning's battle.

difficultpickle Mon 22-Apr-13 09:29:06

Ds used to go to breakfast club (which he loved) so I avoided the drop off battles. The odd time I dropped him off at normal school time was always very difficult so you have my sympathy. What is the next year's teacher like? Whilst we had a horror in year 3 by all accounts the year 4 teacher is a vast improvement. Friends have said it is like being at a different school compared to last year.

Ds's current teacher works hard at engaging her class and ensuring she doesn't assume one method of teaching fits all. Ds is thriving and doing well again.

At least you only have one term before he moves. Is it worth thinking of dropping him at breakfast club to avoid the problems when you drop him at class time?

exoticfruits Mon 22-Apr-13 10:09:26

His age can be a problem. I have a friend with a very mature DD born on 2nd September and she would have been much better in the year above-equally my Aug born DS would have been better in the year below. I think we need more flexibility.

exoticfruits Mon 22-Apr-13 10:09:43

Not that that observation is any help to you!

joshandjamie Mon 22-Apr-13 10:31:04

the head is on the case - I've just got an email back from him saying that he is going to chat to my son and the teacher and see what we can get sorted out.

difficultpickle Mon 22-Apr-13 10:53:21

Fingers crossed he will get it sorted. In my case the head made all sorts of promises about getting it sorted. I posted on MN and lots of people said nothing would change. I was a bit hmm at that but they turned out to be spot on. When we gave notice the head said that ds would always be welcome to come back to the school if the new school didn't work out. Whilst he misses some of his friends it was the right move to make (and he got a scholarship, which helped).

joshandjamie Mon 22-Apr-13 13:50:12

Just had a call from the head and have to say I feel a mixture of foolish and a bit cross (both with my son and the school). He had a long chat to my son and according to him, my son is behaving this way purely to wind me up. I am going to see him later this afternoon but he made no mention of the maths/reading/being challenged issue and feels my son not wanting to go to school is purely down to him wanting attention from mum.

I can see where he is coming from and perhaps he is right, but I also wonder whether a lot of what he said, my son agreed to was purely because he was intimated by talking to the head teacher. So for example, the head asked him if he was playing up like this for mum as he doesn't do it for dad (which he does a bit but not to the same extent), and my son apparently agreed.

The head also asked him about having no real friends at school which is one of my son's complaints. My son started by saying that his friends are his older brothers friends who go to the middle school. But when the head teacher pointed out that he sees him playing with X, Y and Z child from his class he seems happy, to which my son agreed. Yet if I ask my son if he would like to have any of those children over to play, he says no as they're annoying or too rough or similar.

I am going to raise the teaching methods/challenge bit again this afternoon - but i get the feeling that they don't want to acknowledge that this could be a problem, rather it is all down to him winding me up. They may be 100% right but I want the chance to discuss the teaching to get a clear view on it.

sigh.

freetrait Mon 22-Apr-13 14:46:00

Boo, doesn't sound very clear what the issue is. I would invite one or two of those boys round anyway. He will be happier if he makes more solid friendships. Worth a go?

joshandjamie Mon 22-Apr-13 14:49:08

freetrait - we have had some boys round for a play and he has gone to their's too yet over the holidays he was desperate for a playdate but when I ran through his classmates, he wasn't keen on having any of them over.

I still think there is something else going on in the background - I just need to get to the bottom of it.

1charlie1 Mon 22-Apr-13 18:21:06

Hi joshandjamie, I know the thread may have gone in a slightly different direction since your chat with the head. However, just referring to your earlier question regarding your son's reluctance to engage with the material he's being given, my maths teacher DH suggests you give your son much more difficult versions of his current work. If he can handle the mental processes internally, brilliant! Then he has a valid argument!

If not, however, and from what you have said in your OP, I would suggest he is perhaps resisting the act of writing his processes on paper, as he is struggling with his handwriting. In fact, his mental facility may been enhanced as a response to his avoidance of putting pencil to paper.

1charlie1 Mon 22-Apr-13 18:21:51

have been enhanced

cansu Mon 22-Apr-13 19:25:33

I have to say that your description of your ds screaming and refusing to go to school does not sound like the behaviour of a child who is finding his maths lessons boring. He does sound like he is acting up to get attention whether this is because he is unhappy generally I don't know but I think the challenging work sounds like a red herring. That might be hard to hear but it might be worth considering.

joshandjamie Mon 22-Apr-13 20:22:43

Had a long chat to the head. He is convinced that he is simply doing this for attention and that as you say cansu, the work being boring is just a red herring. The head feels that my DS is basically blaming me for moving him (we moved house, cities, schools mid last year) and so he is playing up as a result. He was really understanding and I think gave my son a LOT to think about in his little chat. My son has been very sheepish this afternoon knowing that he has been caught out. I still don't think he's a massive fan of school, but we have a new gameplan to get him into school without a fuss in the morning. So here's hoping!

SE13Mummy Mon 22-Apr-13 20:44:17

I'm a KS2 teacher and am responding to the, "if you have a bright child, is it necessary to make them do the same processes over and over or, if a child seems to have got a concept down, can they then move on?" rather than anything else...

When children in my class are reluctant to use a particular method that we're working on in class I often encourage them to have a go at 'my' method and to use their preferred method to check the answer. That way they have the satisfaction of being able to use the method they are most comfortable with and can use that to unpick the new method. Children who are adept problem-solvers, pattern-spotters, logic-lovers etc.will use it as an opportunity to work out how 'my' method fits in with theirs. Some children will discover that the two methods have resulted in a different answer which then <hopefully> leads them to question why that has happened.

If your son was in my class I would expect him to show that he could accurately use any method that I was teaching but wouldn't expect him to use it ad nauseum if I was confident that he had demonstrated the understanding of the processes involved (including using different numbers to work with e.g. decimals, negative numbers, larger numbers etc.). I would expect him to show evidence of checking his solution regardless of the method he uses.

As they move through KS2 children are meant to be able to select the most appropriate method of calculation for any given task. Having a number of different methods up their sleeves helps with this.

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