Wednesday, February 01, 2006

phew!

Just got back from the parent/teacher conference and there is still hope! Whee!

Frau N, who is a real doll compared to some of the other teachers at the school, was well prepared and had made a lot of notes on Boy9's performance. As I suspected, she also feels that he has a LOT more potential than his marks are showing and said that with a little push, there's no reason why he can't do better.

The four subjects they look at for the school recommendation are Math, Social Studies, German (as a native language), and English (as a foreign language, except to him). He got an A in English and she said if he could go up a mark in the other subjects, he'd be just fine and could easily attend the Gymnasium. His main problems are his poor handwriting, making silly spelling mistakes like forgetting to dot his "i's" during dictations (which are done in Germany instead of spelling tests), and his lack of oral participation in class. The oral part makes up 60% of the final mark in some cases so he really needs to work on putting up his hand when he knows the answer even though he is an extremely shy child.

I asked how we could improve his handwriting and she said she was surprised it was so poor in the first place because he has an advanced artistic ability that she rarely sees at his age and is able to draw minute, finely detailed pictures and sculpt amazing things with clay and paper. His ability actually gets him lower marks in art class than one would expect because he always wants to go beyond the boundaries the teacher sets as a performance measure. This is also true of his essay writing where he tends to go off on a tangent and let his fantasy take over instead of sticking to the topic. Ho hum. Boring old school.

So we are going to work with him at home on his handwriting and written expression and try to give him a bit more self confidence so he's not so shy about talking in class. At home he's a big motor mouth so we know it's just a matter of making him feel comfortable in his surroundings. Frau N thinks he has a good chance at improving his marks between now and summer holidays and we agree.

As you've probably noticed, I'm feeling a whole lot better about things now!

25 Comments:

At February 01, 2006 5:59 p.m., Blogger PapaScott said...

When I was in 5th grade, my handwriting was so bad that the teacher recommended I get a typewriter! Of course my academic future wasn't on the line, so my handwriting never improved. Thank goodness Al Gore invented computers!

Christopher always dots the 'i' in his name, even though he only knows capital letters, so I guess he won't have that problem.

 
At February 01, 2006 6:41 p.m., Blogger Haddock said...

Fingers crossed for Boy9. I am sure he will do it. As you say it sounds like he just needs a bit more confidence in class for the oral aspect, and I am sure his handwrting will get better (mine is still terrible!)

 
At February 01, 2006 6:50 p.m., Blogger Hamish said...

Sounds like a very imaginative kid, maybe he doesn't participate cause he's off somewhere in his own head? And maybe he is dotting his i's, it's just that with his handwriting, you can't tell? I guess it is mildy important to have legible handwriting, but I would think (hope) it's much less important today then back when I was in school.

 
At February 01, 2006 6:58 p.m., Blogger jen said...

I'm so glad for you.

I don't understand why he'd get lower marks for doing more creative stuff. Yes, yes, I can draw a house, but let me draw a house in a forest. And the homeowner is in the wondow. Ah and the little horse on the side with his winter coat...

Sorry Billy, we just wanted a house.

blöd.

 
At February 01, 2006 7:07 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, I too am an ex pat, english, in germany, hannover to be precise. came here from Haddock. will be checking up periodically.

p.s. did you see what happened to chillmost? hasn't posted for ages!

sorry, just saw him on your blogroll.

 
At February 01, 2006 7:55 p.m., Anonymous Karl said...

My 5th grade teacher referred to my handwriting as "chicken scratches" to the whole class. It's still so bad that I just print. Thank goodness computer guys don't have to take handwriting-based personality tests as part of the interviewing process!

 
At February 01, 2006 8:01 p.m., Blogger Nyana said...

Poor Boy9. i find that this is too much pressure on kids. you cannot mould everyone into a robotic being and expect them to be one way.
the other thing is, why haven't his teachers help him a bit before if they noticed he was lacking in certain skills? they could have easily given him some supplementary work instead of bombing you with the news.
so glad everything is sorted out tho,
cheers! give boy9 a hug!!!

 
At February 01, 2006 9:27 p.m., Blogger christina said...

PapaScott - Tell Christopher to keep dotting his i's and he'll be fine! In the dictations they write, if you forget the dot on three different words, that's three mistakes, giving you a 3(C) as your mark. Nice, huh? I wonder who thought that one up?

Haddock - Thanks! Yes, he's just very reserved, even though he's been with this same class since the first grade and knows them all well.

Hamish - His teacher says he is off in his own little world a lot of the time and finds some of the classed boring because he'd rather be drawing. She does let him draw whenever he feels like it though. And yeah, those i dots are probably in there somewhere, we just can't find them!

Thanks, Jen! They have some kind of weird marking system in art where they're given a certain exercise to do, as in "the sunflower had to be orange in the middle with the leaves arranged just so on a blue background" - if they do that, they get full marks, if they don't, they lose marks. His teacher says she thinks it's a stupid method, but her hands are sort of tied. Blöd is a very good way to describe it.

anonymous - Hi! Nice to meet you. I think Chillmost mentioned he'd be off for three weeks at the Kur because of his heart problems.

Karl - My husband also has crapola handwriting, as do many people I know. I mean, I suppose it should be legible, but I don't know if they should really be giving marks for it.

nyana - Yes, they are under a lot of pressure especially now that they've lost those two extra orientation years. His teacher is as flexible as she can be under the curriculum guidelines, but there's not always that much room for self-expression and creativitiy, unfortunately, and she's dealing with 24 rowdy little kids every day. I'll definitely be keeping more on the ball this term and contacting her to see how things are going.

 
At February 01, 2006 9:34 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

What an encouraging report,Christina. This feels like light at the end of the tunnel. My fingers are crossed for you and Boy9. Thanks for the speedy post.

 
At February 01, 2006 9:54 p.m., Anonymous Wendy said...

I feel for Boy9...I hate the way schools try to mould a child to fit in a standard box and stifle every bit of creativity that rears it's head. It's so wrong. As for handwriting, I have the same problem with Nathan. The thing is, he went straight from pre-school in South Africa (where he was just learning to form block letters) into the French school system and he missed the part where they taught the kids how to form French script...so he's learnt to copy it but he doesn't know how to form his letters properly - he does everything back to front (starts an 'h' at the bottom, etc etc) and it's just a mess. He NEEDS to learn how to write but nobody will help and I have no idea how to do this 'script'. It's extremely frustrating and it bothers me a lot because that's the only bad remarks he gets on his report card. And his writing IS a mess - hard to read. If I could teach him I would but I don't know where to start.It's hard for him too because he gets so much strop about it and it's not his fault.

 
At February 01, 2006 9:57 p.m., Blogger Elemmaciltur said...

That's great to hear! Thumbs up for your boy! He'll get around it!

 
At February 01, 2006 10:17 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Ginnie - Couldn't keep you in suspense any longer. :-) We do feel much more encouraged now and his teacher was so nice about it. She says she understands how it is because she was like that as a child too.

Wendy - The cursive writing can be so hard for them and I've heard the French way is especially difficult. German schools seem to have two different forms of cursive and the teachers can choose the one they like best, but they're totally different than the way I learned to write so I'm not much help. Boy9 also forms some of his letters very strangely, starting at the wrong end and such and I don't know if we can change that at this point. I think to be neater he really needs to just slow down and concentrate a bit.

Thanks, Elemm! Maybe someday he'll be an international jetsetter like you. :-)

 
At February 01, 2006 10:18 p.m., Blogger Tim Rice said...

It's good to hear that things aren't as bad as you first thought. And from your reporting, it does sound like his teacher thinks he has potential. That's a plus. And it's true that sometimes there are so many other things a boy is interested in beyond staying within the boundaries.

 
At February 01, 2006 11:11 p.m., Blogger The SeaWitch said...

Teachers always complained to my father that my younger sister could do better in all her subjects but she wasn't 'applying herself'. They told him that all she wanted to do was draw and that if she didn't work harder to maintain her B grades then university was out of the question for her. Try as she might, she never did get above a B in anything but art. She is 37 years old now and holds a Masters of Fine Arts. She makes her living as an artist and she loves doing the only thing she's ever wanted to do...art.

Teachers also told my parents that my twin sister needed to stop focusing so much on her writing and start working harder in math and biology if she was going to make it in the 'real world". Although she did study a lot harder for those classes...almost at the expense of her writing classes, it didn't make one iota of difference in adult life. She is 39 years old and makes her living from writing. She's a communications director in advertising.

The moral of my story: No matter what they say, kids will always excel in the subjects they love...both in school and in the "real world". Help him with his writing but don't let them crush his creativity. Not everyone is meant to toil away as an accountant in a cubicle.

All the best to you and your son Christina!

 
At February 02, 2006 1:16 a.m., Blogger Dixie said...

I'm glad y'all got some encouraging news. I think Boy9 sounds just like the sort of kid I adore!

 
At February 02, 2006 1:54 a.m., Blogger Cathy said...

Your son sounds amazing and very bright and talented as well.
You will look back on these days years fomr now when he is a succesful screenwriter, playwright or artist and laugh...
I am so happy to hear the good news. Phew.

 
At February 02, 2006 3:50 a.m., Blogger J said...

Glad to hear it all worked out for you.

I'm swamped this week and haven't had time to comment on your German school system post, but I completely agree with you. However, Germans tend to think that it's quite good and it's easy for good students to move between the three different levels of schools.

 
At February 02, 2006 4:16 a.m., Blogger Andrea said...

Well I am glad that things look better for your son. I am pretty shocked at the emphasis put on handwriting and even more shocked at the participation %. 60%!!!! That is high!!! For a shy kid that is unfair!! How the heck do you even judge that mark?

 
At February 02, 2006 6:16 a.m., Blogger Sandra said...

I'm glad things are looking up for Boy 9. My Boy9 has terrible handwriting, too. Fortunately, in the U.S. system it only counts as an ungraded skill on the report card and doesn't affect his subject grades or his fitness for higher education. That sounds ridiculous. Doctors often have hideous handwriting, so maybe your Boy9 should aim for med school. Depending on his specialty, he might be able to afford that Lamborghini.

 
At February 02, 2006 7:34 a.m., Blogger Just another American Expat said...

Screw the handwriting, this is the 21st Century. Who the fuck actually writes with a…pencil? Encourage him to start a blog.

 
At February 02, 2006 7:55 a.m., Blogger Karen said...

Glad to hear the good news!

 
At February 02, 2006 10:58 a.m., Blogger Mr. Fabulous said...

This is an excellent turn of events. Very heartening news!

 
At February 03, 2006 3:03 a.m., Blogger GC PHILO said...

Didn't Einstein have bad handwriting when he was a kid too? And didn't Einstein's teachers say he better improve or else he would amount to nothing? AND, did Einstein also go to school in Germany?!?! Coincidence? I think not! You've got a little "One Stone" on your hands, Christina!

 
At February 03, 2006 4:22 a.m., Blogger Schatzi said...

can't leave well enough alone in art and creative writing... la la la..goes off on a tangent?? oh darlink, markings of a creative Artiste ! perhaps you could introduce calligraphy .. could improve his penmenship...

glad all is well in Mausiworld

 
At February 03, 2006 8:52 a.m., Blogger Sparky said...

I SO sympathize with your problems, which might not be so bad, after all.

Fortunately, I used to have a good German teacher who encouraged me to write creatively and always gave me the highest marks. Got me REALLY into writing.

It's a wonder I stuck to the arts, though. I used to be exactly like your boy at that age and NEVER did what the art teacher wanted me to. When we had to build a "highwayman", i did one all in black, with muscles an a mask. NOT the colorful "Hotzenplotz" the art teacher wanted. I got a "4".

I still made it to University - so Boy9 will, too :).

- m.

 

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