Year: 1996-1997
Month: October
Leader: Group K

Situation/Case Study:


The group selected the scenario of the gifted and talented student as two teachers in the group were concerned and it also spoke to the issues of student accountability and responsibility. The case study was elaborated upon as follows. According to the teachers, the child comes with a past. Last spring the mother visited all the 3rd grade classes to decide which class would be the best for him. The parents then met with the teacher, (who was new, replacing their choice). At the start of the New Year, the parents stressed their concern to the teachers on the team and the principal that their child, who is highly gifted, had not been challenged enough in previous years, and therefore was bored. They laid out their expectations for the teachers in the current year. The child soon has incomplete assignments, etc. He hands in a spelling assignment one day that is incomplete. The teacher calls his attention to it, returns it to be completed. The next day the child again claims to have finished his work and turned it in but it is no where in evidence. A call to the parent regarding this problem and the fact that they sign the homework sheet confirming that the work is done results in the parents saying that they ask the child if he has done the work and take his word for it. They feel it is a matter of trust and that it is important that their son knows they believe him. He consistently does the minimum on an open-ended reading assignment where he has control over the book choice. The parent asked that he be given the "moderate" spelling assignment, not the advanced one. He does very well in the advanced math group, completing his work on time, but the math teacher is very clear that anyone who does not keep up with the class will be out. He very much wants to be in that class. The homeroom teacher (teacher 1 above) has been developing a relationship with the boy. He comes to school early and she has been spending time before school talking to him, getting to know him, trying to find out why he's not doing his work, trying to help him be more accountable for his work. Example, the other day a big science project was due in another class. She asked him if he did it and he looked amazed and asked if baking cookies would count. She then talked him through the scientific observations so that he could write it up as his kitchen experiment. She found out from the science teacher that he still did not write up or turn in the assignment. Both teachers feel intimidated by and resent the attitude of the parents and their blaming the school for not challenging the child. Both teachers involved have begun documenting the incidents where the child has lied about his work. The teaching team is planning to staple all undone work for all students in the students' "planner" and informing parents that any students with incompletes will not be able to go on a field trip coming up in the next few weeks.

Kids want to succeed. If a teacher establishes a meaningful relationship with a child, he will do what the teacher expects him to. If a teacher works hard enough, he/she can bring a student around. Parents need to trust the school. Parents support schools and teachers, especially if the teachers are trying hard. Gifted kids can achieve if they just want to. Parents have unrealistic goals for gifted children. Children will use lying to avoid work of the consequences of not having done work. Working with many teachers makes accountability difficult. Kids don't think teachers talk to each other. When a child has inconsistency in support for following rules or expectations it becomes impossible to hold him/her accountable. The child may be afraid of the parent; unable to give up to the expectations the parent has for him. Parental involvement may not always be the best way of teaching the child accountability and responsibility. If the child does not "own the problem", the problem becomes the parents and the schools and the child is no longer responsible for the outcome. Bonding builds trust, trust exists. The teacher's ultimate job is to go to the ends of the earth for a child. When consequences are not meaningful to the child he will not see that he has a problem. Parents may be avoiding taking responsibility as well because they really do not know what to do. A child can manipulate parents and teachers so that they are fighting between themselves and the focus is off the child. Field trips are a reward that kids will find meaningful.

Theories behind practice:

Impact on others:

Begin to give up ownership of the problem, realizing that it ultimately is the child's problem. (The homeroom teacher admitted that she found this very hard to do because she felt she could "get through" to every kid sooner or later.) Place this child in a self-contained classroom where he has only one teacher to be accountable to. (He has done better for his homeroom teacher than for any other teacher except the math teacher.) This can be done either by changing schools, or by creating an interdisciplinary independent study where the child does all the work in the same classroom under the supervision of the homeroom teacher. (Hypothesis: Having different teachers is a privilege.) Set up a "webbing" conference with the child, the parents, and all the teachers and have the principal attend. Meet the teaching team members ahead of time to determine the goals of the conference. At this conference the parents and child need to hear what is going well and teachers' ideas as to why these seem to be working.

The group began by reviewing the last meeting. I brought up the difficulty of focusing on teacher behaviors instead of child behaviors as not what teachers usually do. The group agreed that we would make a strong attempt to stick to the procedures as defined by the handout we all have. I agreed to be the focused one to keep our emphasis on teacher behaviors.