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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Never Underestimate a Tongginator

Our first ever parent-teacher conference, as best I can remember, written two hours after the fact. Rather boring, I know, but I wanted to record it for posterity. I can only hope that I properly navigated the not-enough-information versus don't-invade the-Tongginator's-privacy minefield. What do y'all think?

MS. CONFETTI: There are several questions I have to ask you from the county form. After that, we can discuss any questions or concerns you may have.

TONGGU MOMMA: That sounds fine.

MS. CONFETTI: (reading from the form) Does the Tongginator live at home with both parents?


MS. CONFETTI: (reading again) Are there any siblings in the home?

TONGGU MOMMA: No... but we are in the process of adopting again from China.

MS. CONFETTI: Oh, congratulations!

TONGGU MOMMA: Thank you. It's a long wait right now, though, so I don't expect that the adoption will occur while the Tongginator is in kindergarten. It may... sometime towards the end of the year... but most probably it will happen this next summer or when she is in first grade. The Tongginator talks about it A LOT though.

: Yes. Her imaginary/ future sister in China is a HUGE topic of conversation.

MS. CONFETTI: (chuckling) She really wants to be a big sister, huh?


MS. CONFETTI: I'm sure she'll be a great one. (reading again) How does the Tongginator do when playing with other children? Any issues?

TONGGU MOMMA: No, she does really very well... (wryly) although she IS an only child.

TONGGU DADDY: Yeah - you can DEFINITELY tell she's An Only.

MS. CONFETTI: (laughing) She can be a bit strong-willed, I take it?


TONGGU MOMMA: She's actually friends with several sets of twins. My momma says that's probably because they balance each other out nicely - two against... umm... her.

MS. CONFETTI: (laughing even more) I'm the oldest in my family, but my two younger sisters are twins. I know exactly what you mean. (again reading the form) Are there any areas of concern that I should know about for this coming school year?

TONGGU MOMMA: Well... she does have some now-minor sensory issues. It's not something that needs to be on her permanent school record, but I figured you should have a heads up about it. It's gotten better and better with every passing year, but she's never been in an all-day program, so I'm not sure how she'll do. You may see some things stemming from those sensory issues, especially when she's tired.

MS. CONFETTI: Is she sensory-avoidant or sensory-seeking or...?

TONGGU MOMMA: She's mostly a sensory-seeker, though there are some areas where she falls into the sensory-avoidant category.

MS. CONFETTI: Were there any special accommodations her preschool teachers needed to make for her last year?

TONGGU MOMMA: Not really. When she was in her three-year-old preschool class, the teachers did quite a bit to work with her, but it wasn't really needed as much last year... although they did give her a pass on the swings during playground time last year. The other children rotated on the swings, taking turns, but the teachers pretty much looked the other way if the Tongginator spent all of recess on the swings. She does much better when she's had time to swing.

MS. CONFETTI: (with a look of mild panic) We don't have swings on our playground.

TONGGU MOMMA: I know. Some of the other parents let me know earlier in the summer, so last week we installed a new play set in our backyard. It has swings and I'm going to be sending her out to swing every afternoon and hopefully most mornings as well, at least for 10 minutes or so.

TONGGU DADDY: Really, anything that allows her to feel dizzy can help her recalibrate. She just does a lot better if she has some time to be dizzy each day.

the Tongginator, on her brand-spanking-new swings

MS. CONFETTI: (to herself) So she probably won't need an IEP... (and then to us) In line with those sensory issues - does she have any diet restrictions? Because we do allow for birthday celebrations in the classroom. We have 20 children in the class, so there will be at least 20 special treat days, plus the three or four holiday class parties we have.

TONGGU MOMMA: Oh, thank you for asking about that. Yes, she can have those treats, as long as it's just occasional. We restrict her diet a lot at home - lots of organic, very few processed foods, almost everything is homemade - but she typically handles those types of food fairly well as long as she doesn't eat them often. It would be helpful for me to know when they are happening, though, so that I can kind of manage around them.

(blah, blah, blah: boring medical questions)

MS. CONFETTI: (reading from the form again) Has she ever received services for speech or...?

TONGGU MOMMA: Yes. She has received some OT (occupational therapy). We also received help from a registered dietitian when we first came home from China.

MS. CONFETTI: (reading again) At what age did she first walk?

TONGGU MOMMA: (hesitating) She was 18 months old.

MS. CONFETTI: (pausing, then...) Was this an area of concern for you?

TONGGU MOMMA: Yes. (taking a deep breath) Are there many more of these developmental milestone questions on the form?

MS. CONFETTI: Five more.

TONGGU MOMMA: (inwardly sighing) Okay. (bracing myself for The Spiel) We adopted the Tongginator when she was just a few days shy of her first birthday. We're fairly certain that she was a preemie, though there is no way to be sure of that. We received our first Infants and Toddlers* appointment when she was almost 13 months old and we'd been home a little less than a month. At that time, she was developmentally assessed at about a five-month level. She was also only a little over 13 pounds.

(nodding my head when Ms. Confetti winced)

That's why a lot of these answers are going to be what they are. Infants and Toddlers worked with us our first year home and the registered dietitian helped us while we fought off a failure to thrive diagnosis. I was able to do a lot on my own as well. I used to be a teacher; my best friend is an occupational therapist specializing in infants and toddlers; another close friend is a pediatric physical therapist; my college roommate is a dietitian. So... we kinda did a lot on our own.

MS. CONFETTI: It's great that you had those resources.

TONGGU MOMMA: (nodding) We feel very blessed. (a pause, then...) I think you'll find the Tongginator is more than ready for kindergarten, but we have worked VERY hard to get where we are.

(blah, blah, blah: more developmental milestone questions and some current developmental concerns)

We ended the conference discussing the adoption books we planned to donate to the library. The staff seemed pleased with the book titles. All of the childrens' books we purchased ended up in the school media center, but the "Adoption and the Schools" book went to the front office before probably traveling to the faculty resource library.

Hopefully this was the right balance of information versus privacy. I don't know. But I definitely know Ms. Confetti will feel shocked when she spends some time with my little Tongginator. I know she doesn't expect her to be reading or writing or doing the math problems that she can do. An element of surprise is a good thing, though, because it will teach Ms. Confetti a valuable lesson early in the year...

NEVER underestimate a Tongginator.

* Infants and Toddlers is the Maryland State Early Intervention program.


Kim K. said...

Thanks for sharing. I always benefit from your personal experience. Does your daughter's school typical offer a one-on-one appt at the start of the school year? Or, did you request this? Either way, I'm impressed. My husband is a school social worker and is typically involved in coordinating services for counseling, OT, PT,..etc. I know my daughter's elementary school wouldn't offer such an appointment unless we asked for it. We've got a couple more years before kindergarten, but this was helpful to read. Thanks for sharing.

Beach Mama said...

It sounds as though your first parent-teacher conference went well. I'm sure she will be surprised by the Tongginator!

bbmomof2boys said...

Okay - I don't remember ANY of those type of questions for either of my boys when they started school. When did she start walking? Jeez...I can see it now. And then her speech...here she is 3 yrs old and not talking.

Ok - I'm not gonna stress over this for 2 years. I'll just sit back and relax...right!


Anonymous said...

Great Post...thanks for sharing ! LOVE the photo , what an adorable little gal you have !


Rebecca Ramsey said...

What a great conference! And how wonderful that the teacher has (and wanted!) all that information BEFORE school started. I don't like to be negative, especially as a teacher myself, but I've found several teachers who don't take the sensory stuff seriously. She's a very lucky girl!

Aunt LoLo said...

I think it's a great balance. When I put BBJ in school, I'll probably be tempted to spill her Every Single Detail and Secret...because I want the teacher to realize how AMAZING she is. How SPECIAL. How EXTRAORDINARY! LOL

Debbie said...

I have always freaked out at those type of "information gathering" sessions! Of course, we all know the Tongginator will blow them away!

happygeek said...

I think you did a good job. It's hard to balance her need for privacy with what the teacher needs to know. The older she gets (and the need for privacy gets bigger) the less you are going to need to share anyway. I taught high school and knew nothing of where my kids came from. Nor did I need to.

At the other end is Spud's K class. There have been NO forms to fill out, no parent-teacher conference, no orientation for kids, nothing. I'm pretty much sending him in blind. Bit freaky actually.

Jboo said...

Wow -- great job! That was really a thorough meeting -- so nice that the school and teachers do that! Best wishes for a great school year!


Wade's World said...

Sounds like you did a a really good job, and I hope the Tongginator does great!

The Gang's Momma said...

Thanks for sharing this, not just for posterity but for those of us who are coming behind you in the adventure to start school. I always learn so much from these posts of yours. Good stuff.

heh, heh. NEVER underestimate a Tongginator. I love that line.

Sharie said...

Miss T is going to knock their socks off!

autumnesf said...

Ugh!! I just went through this. And I took the papers from the intervention to them also. I was reading through them and got a shock. I expressed concern about MM alarm at loud noises and how they were going to handle it when she looses it (extreme fear response)...we talked and they decided to work with her like an autistic child -- a warning before the event, staying close to techer, etc. Anyways the language on the paper made it sound like I have an uncontrollabe child instead of the fear response we were discussing. It SUCKED! So I was nervous with this teacher and just spilled it to her that way. The kid has some adoption related issues which are NOT behavior issues. Worked well. Plus have a ped here that is sending her to a ped psychcologist! FINALLY!

The Source said...

I think it sounds like you did an excellent job!

Patricia/NYC said...

I think you did a great job. I'm amazed that this meeting took place to begin with...no way does that happen here. Privacy is HUGE here in the NYC school system...I think I'll be navigating this one as I go. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

Janet said...

I think I will do a post today on MY parent-teacher conference....;-)

Kimberly aka Indigo said...

What a great conference, I don't think I've ever had a conference that was so thorough.


Cavatica said...

I can see she'll be teaching Ms. C a thing or two! I think she'll be up for it, though. She sounds okay. Good luck to the Tongginator!!!

Anonymous said...

I've never investigated sensory issues with either of my girls. Is there a specific way to notice them? I know they both love swings, but I had no idea that getting dizzy is theraputic. I can barely manage watching them on the tire swing.

Holly said...

Wow. I NEVER had a consult like that with ANY of my children's teachers and we were in the public school system through fourth grade.
Our conferences were scheduled for 10 minutes and were only AFTER school began to show us the work our child was doing and basically to let us know if our child needed to keep a neater desk or remember to raise hand before talking...nothing at ALL like what you had.
That's amazing.
I'm thrilled to hear that some schools really do care about the individual children and their needs! What a blessing!

Becca said...

Wow - we had ours earlier this year and now I am wondering if maybe I didn't share enough information!

Peace and Hugs,

Gabby said...

just found your blog through ICLW.. i usually just search for IVF blogs, but i am really glad I found yours. I will be a parent someday and I bet i can learn a lot from you.. and your momma! thanks!

Dawn said...

Sounds like it was a GREAT first conference and that Mrs. Confetti has a good handle on things.

Looking forward to hearing about the all of the "firsts" this year is sure to hold!

Debz said...

Well at least you won't get phone calls all the time with a teacher trying to fit each child in her class in the same mold...some set a standard for each child and call them a problem if they don't life up to it...I remember when Jac was in grade 2 and the teacher tried to tell me she was ADHD....that teacher had a standard set in her own head and every child that didn't live up to it was acessed for ADD/ADHD...I think it's awesome that Ms. Confetti had to ask all those questions. Wish they would have done that when Jac was in school.
I love that T recalibrates after a spin....lol Too cute!

Gerbil said...

I love that the teacher GETS it. I still have the heebie jeebies about school, both mine & my older son's (we're whoppingly classically ADD).

I am looking forward to hearing what your daughter thinks of school after her first week.

Mahmee said...

I am impressed by Mrs Confetti....Good questions. Let the 'games' begin!
R. has to swing every day too...it's like the air she needs to breathe. We installed a playset in our backyard too...last year. A girl's just gotta swing when she needs to!

Mamma Christine said...

Whew! I always find it so much easier to talk about my own struggles than those of my children. I just want everyone to know instantly how wonderful I know they are. Think what you want about me, but please adore my children. I'm glad you held something back for a pleasant surprise. I'm going to have to remember that!

sara said...

Wow - The Ts take it :) So wonderful to hear how much one can benefit from RESEARCH!

And oh yeah, I, TOO, do MUCH better after being dizzy. At least once every day :)

Lisa said...

I have a feeling that Mrs. Confetti will avoid prejudgements and assumptions...she seems sharp! You guys handled this well and its wonderful that both your school district and teacher(s) are so proactive!

L is academically forward too and we have battled some mystified looks before and even surprised exclamations of surprise at her strong abilities given "her beginnings and all".....grrrrrrrr....I pray that our babies can be judged at face value and given the same opportunity for failures and successes, free of preconceived notions!
Darn right don't underestimate our girls.....now my danders up! LOL :)
You did a great job...truly!

Annie said...

What a great conference. I have never had such a thorough one before. Did you request it or is this standard? It sounds like the teacher knows a bit about sensory issues which is very helpful. I think the Tongginator is going to ahv a great year and Ms. C. will learn a lot:)

Clare said...

I never heard of a school that is this thorough for Kindergarten entries. How fantastic. I am a teacher and I wish we got some sit down time with parents before school starts! I think the tongginator will love kindergarten, what an exciting milestone! Good luck with your next adoption, I hope you get good news soon.

I just had some questions for you and maybe you want to refer me to some of your earlier posts: why was the tongginator behind developmentally? Was it the way she was cared for before you got to adopt her? It seems like she has made leaps and bounds since she has been with you. I only ask because other couples I know who adopted had to deal with some development issues because of the lack of care when the babies were in the orphanage in China, there were just too many and they were understaffed.

Kristin said...

It sounds like you did a wonderful job providing the school with any information they need. I also think it's wonderful that you donated books about adoption to the library.

thegypsymama said...

Someone asked me a question this week after seeing my son in his spiderman costume that I think I now need to ask you, "So, what does it feel like to be the mother of a superhero?"

Because she sure is - isn't she?

I think it makes you a super mom. That's how I like to answer these kinds of questions. And I find the cape flaps out much better in the wind if you air dry it and avoid the tumbledryer! wink wink.

Jean said...

I love the element of surprise!! Be sure to share it with us when Mrs. Confetti realizes what the Tongginator can do!!

Way to use all the resources and your own knowledge for your little Tongginator!

Thanks for the great ideas on home schooling!

I can hardly wait for your #2!! What will you call her?

Michelle said...

Wow! First of all, a kindergarten conference? A form with all of those questions? That is some kind of kindergarten! A+++ to you and TD for being so prepared and so informative!

Wanda said...

Oh Gosh, I need to talk to you about swinging and rocking. I think my Milana really needs this therapy. I'll e-mail you.

Meanwhile, happy first day!!!

prechrswife said...

Very thorough. Sounds like it went well, too. I wish I could have had time for conferences like that in the schools where I've taught. Would have been very helpful...

Patty O. said...

Wow, I am so impressed with Mrs. Confetti and her knowledge of SPD. I have found so few teachers who have even heard of the disorder, let alone understand any part of it. That is so great! I wish all teachers were as knowledgeable as Mrs. C! Could she maybe have a talk with Danny's teacher? Hmmm...yeah, that probably wouldn't work.

CC said...

I LOVE this "My momma says that's probably because they balance each other out nicely - two against... umm... her." :) :) :)

How cool there are only 20 kids in the class. That is sooooo amazing! Class sizes round these parts are over 30. Even for K. :( :(

And the swing set. TD needs to set one up here. Seriously. We are totally unable to do anything at this point (I'm going to have to hire someone to dig up part of our yard b/c Wink can't do any of that anymore and I'm just not strong enough). Send TD out this way please!

rosemary said...

Thanks for sharing! I have a while until my little guy is starting school but I was wondering what sort of reality we were looking at. This is a good picture of a possibility for teacher interaction. Hopefully!