Thad struggles with writing. He is a great story teller. He gives a plethora of details that become tedious at times. He has a vocabulary bigger than he can spell. And there-in lies the problem. Thad also has dysgraphia, a tracking issue, and Irlen Syndrome. I haven’t told the Irlen Syndrome story yet–but will. All of this adds up to a vivid imagination that turns to sludge and cement when he is asked to put it on paper. He is a painfully slow perfectionist.
To add insult to injury, this school year as he is expected to complete a state mandated test on the writing process. He, along with all the other fourth graders in the state, will be given a totally unknown prompt, then they will have to write an essay. He is a little stressed despite the fact that no one is putting undo pressure on him. He has a great language arts/reading teacher whom he LOVES–but last week there was some trouble at bedtime. Thad was heavy-laden–and pretty soon the tears began to flow. “I hate writing, and writing hates me!” he wailed into his pillow. We talked about it, and had a cup of milk and some extra hugs, then I e-mailed his teacher to let her know.
In true Excellent Teacher form,she and the teacher who was administering the “practice” both worked to help Thad through it. They set a timer. They gave him lots of encouragement. They gave him extra time to complete it (which is an accommodation he has). On the home end, I reminded him that spelling is not an issue in tests like these. If he wants to use a word he can’t spell, use it. It’s cool. I also reminded him that he did not have to find The Perfect subject on which to write. I encouraged him to take the first one that popped into his brain on that topic, and to tell what he knew about it. We even practiced.
He did well on the test and took extra time, but a lot less than he had before. For his next essay in class, I wrote out reminders on Post-it notes for each paragraph like, “Why do you like it?” “What do we watch?” “What is your favorite game?” I did two or three reminder notes for each paragraph, and it worked mostly. He still had to bring his essay home, but he was moving forward.
I got another e-mail from his teacher last night. He was working on a new essay–could I help him make some more Post-its to aid in his writing. Well–OF COURSE I CAN! The problem was, that once we started discussing what to put on the Post-its, Thad began writing–not with his hand but with his words. We came into the study, and while he talked, I typed. His paper was excellent. He used all manner of figurative language, pointing out each piece to me and telling me what type it was and why it was a better choice than the alternative.
When we were done, he read it to his Daddy who laughed aloud at one of the lines. There is no better compliment–unless, of course, it is your Wonderful Teacher being JUST as excited as your Daddy. And your Wonderful Teacher ALSO laughing aloud at your writing when it was supposed to be funny. And your Wonderful Teacher printing out your essay (along with the photo your mother sent unbeknownst to you) and allowing you to staple it to the board with her industrial, super-duty stapler that she’s had for over twenty years that is NAMED it is so special to her.
I sent him on to school with the Post-its and e-mailed the paper to her rather than sending it with Thad. I wanted her to choose if she wanted him to write it on his own from his Post-its or copy it by hand into his journal to practice his handwriting. Instead, she took what I’d sent, called it done, and then, in Thad’s words, “She gave me a CHALLENGE.”
This is the e-mail I got from her this afternoon. It contains the compliment that was bestowed on me by my son.
“This is great!
He got to hang his paper and picture up in the hallway using my super duper heavy metal stapler that I’ve had for 20 years. I think he was excited!
I gave him a new task: Choose 5 different colored index cards to “plan” his next essay on (by himself). Then he gets to type it (by himself). I will help of course…I just wanted you to know what he said about this, “This isn’t good. Without my mom? It’s like a jelly sandwich.” “What do you mean?” I asked him. He replied, “You know, PB&J without the PB!”
I told him not to stress- it will be a piece of cake and we’ll hit it tomorrow. His new topic: Nerf”
This is the highest of compliments coming from a child who eats a PB&J (grape–not strawberry) EVERY DAY for lunch except Wednesday which is hamburger day in the cafeteria.
In our time together tonight, (Tony and Victoria were at a meeting.) he relayed the same story to me. He said, “You know, Mom, we’re kind of a team.” I said, “Well, Buddy. I’m glad you let me be the peanut butter, because you know I don’t like jelly.” He said, “Yep, ’cause the peanut butter is the best part!” How can my heart contain it?!?!?
Here is Thad’s paper–typed by me with attempted punctuation while keepin’ it real to a fourth grade boy. I changed no words–just spelled them all correctly. My apologies to those of you who have already heard this story. . .
Boogie boarding is my most favorite thing to do when we go to the beach in Galveston. We have a belly board and a boogie board. I prefer the boogie board.
The boogie board is kind of like a surfboard. There is a Velcro strap that you put around your wrist. If you wipe out, it’s still going but it’s connected to your wrist. With the belly board if you get a wipe out, then you have to run after the belly board. The belly board is my uncle’s, and one day while my mom and I were out in the surf, my dad and my sister found the boogie board next to the trash can. It was in tip top shape.
My dad, my sister, and I go where the water is up to my stomach—about three and a half to four feet. Sometimes it’s my turn, and sometimes it’s my sister, Victoria’s, turn. My sister goes by herself. Whenever she comes back, it’s my turn. I get the Velcro strap on my wrist. I get onto the belly board, and my dad holds me. I’m all set with my swim trunks up, my Speedo goggles over my eyes, and grasping onto the nose of the boogie board. I’m ready for a good wave, so my dad can let go.
When my dad sees a great wave coming straight towards us and it’s almost here, my dad lets go. I inch forward a tiny bit, then I go zooming towards the shore. I like the feeling of it, because the wind’s in my hair, and I’m going fast without having to do any work. For all the times I know I’m going to wipe out, I take a lung full of the salty air, and close my eyes shut. Sometimes whenever I wipe out, it’s so powerful that my goggles get knocked off, and they go around my neck.
For boogie boarding there are ups and downs. I hope whenever our boogie board breaks, we buy a new one. I think that the next time you go the Gulf of Mexico or the ocean, you should rent a boogie board and give it a try.