Ds Scholarship

When kids constantly have substitute teachers.

Care and Nutrition is Slate’s parenting advice column. In addition to our traditional advice, every Thursday we feature a variety of teachers from all over the country answering your educational questions. Do you have a question for our teachers? email askateacher@slate.com or post it in Slate Parenting Facebook Group.

After a full year of remote kindergarten with an excellent teacher, my son is back in the first grade classroom. Since school started in late August, his teacher has yet to work a full week in class. Even weeks with a scheduled no-show for students had at least one day with a substitute teacher, if not more. I don’t like homework for this age, but I’m not sure how many days I can hear “we don’t have homework because we had an alternative” or “we didn’t count the day because Mrs. X was frequently sick.”

Given the circumstances of the last couple of years, I am trying to give the woman some grace but where should I draw the line? She has been in school for over 15 years and from what I’ve heard this is not a new problem. As far as I can tell he does a great job but how do I really know if he has a different teacher every 3 days? If he’s okay, do I let him go? Express concern to the manager? Directly to the teacher?

—Sick of submarines

Dear patient,

You’ve come from where you come from. Anyone with children this age knows how much consistency and stability goes in helping children thrive, and given how much the pandemic has robbed the comfort of normalcy in all of our lives – and children’s lives in particular – we feel really Push to give them a sense of routine whenever we can. However, you asked where you should draw the line, and the thing is: This is not your line that you should really draw. Typically, a teacher’s annual contract includes a uniform and generous number of sick days, which fluctuate from year to year. Since Lady X had been a constant teacher for fifteen years, she probably had now stored a fairly inexhaustible reserve of sick time, entitled to use it. I don’t mean it as an endorsement, necessarily, just a statement of fact; These are protected conditions for its operation. Ms. X may be chronically ill or invisibly disabled (or is someone’s caregiver); She may have been infected with the coronavirus a long time ago; Maybe she’s trying to protect her longevity in the classroom by taking time out when she’s not feeling her best. I don’t know you nor I, and that’s none of our business to me I know. She used the sick time between her and the person responsible.

What are you for sure can Check your son’s performance in Mrs. S.’s classroom. Even if she regularly misses one school day per week, she often gives instructions to her students, and she should be able to confidently describe your child’s social and academic progress. If you ask for an update and she says he’s on the right track and gives you a clear and accurate understanding of his strengths and needs, and if your son seems happy and unfazed, then I think you can rest assured that he’s doing well. As for his school experience in general, the lack of homework is totally fine, but I do raise eyebrows at the mention of skipping core academics like math, so if you hear a lot of reports of a dramatically diminished school day when the sub is there (watching movies, giving up instructions completely, hitting or bullying or general disorder), then I reach out to Mrs. S. and begin by asking for clarification of what he is conveying. But if sub days seem to be disheveled and prone to worksheets but generally work? I will leave him.

Again: I’m where I come from, I really do. I’m also parenting a first grader who spent a year in a remote kindergarten, often sitting alone in an empty room, trying to get her five-year-old to get along better with the teacher on the other end of the iPad. It was bad, and I very much hoped that her return to personal school would be as positive, engaging, and fruitful as it deserves afterwards. In your situation, I’d be a bit upset too – but I’d stay within the range of what I can manage, and if I don’t have evidence of a problem, I’ll try to assume there isn’t.

Multiple sclerosis. Bauer (teacher at Middle and High School, New York)

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How much do we as parents have to be on top of our children in terms of their homework, homework, etc.? I have a 4th grader, and the parent group chat I’m a part of is always full of messages about reviewing kids’ homework, whether someone can send a picture of this or that assignment because the kid forgot it at school, etc. I’m relatively unoccupied, but I’m torn because I feel like it’s an age when they still need parental support, but we also have to back off a bit. I would love some guidance on what teachers feel is appropriate for this age group.

— To hover or not to hover

Dear To Hover,

I always tell parents: give your child a quiet space to work. Make sure you have plenty of books in your house to read. If your child wants to read with you or something to read to you, leave everything out and share. If your child writes something they want to share, leave everything out and be a perfect reader. If your child needs a study buddy, be prepared to help.

But when it comes to actually doing homework, leave that to your child. Fourth grade is an excellent time for your child to experience the consequences that come with failing to complete an assignment, missing an assignment, or putting in less than enough effort on a task. As your child gets older, failure to eventually complete the homework affects grades and long-term plans, so it’s time to let your child stumble.

Work ethic and conscientiousness are not born of parental umbrellas but some hard work and hard falls. It is not easy to watch your child stumble and fall, but it is the right thing to do.

stay strong.

-the master. Dix (5th grade teacher, Connecticut)

I am looking for useful, but challenging, and interesting books for a precocious third-grade reader. My nephew reads at the middle school level, but unfortunately the middle school level reading often has content that is not appropriate for him (too violent, too romantic, too luxurious, too dark, too focused on horrible middle school social Darwinism, etc. To that) What series or books would you recommend to the avid reader? Or do you have any resources for book lists?

—Help raise the reader

Dear Reader Help,

I can give you a mile long list! I will recommend three books that I particularly like. Most importantly, I will recommend that you contact the children’s librarian at your local public library, and direct your nephew to his school librarian (or you can even check with the school librarian at your local school). These people are obsessed with books and would love nothing more than to pass their wisdom to the one who listens to it. They will be able to guide you much better than I can.

However, there are three books that challenge the third grader but are also adequate in terms of content:

Despereaux’s tale by Kate DiCamillo. It’s my very favorite children’s novel, my students love it, and the story timeline changes, making it more difficult to read than most. But it’s a great story with a beautiful theme.

wild robot by Peter Brown. The marketing for this book describes it as Wall-E Meets grudge, which is a very good description. Lots of excitement but nothing to scare off biggies from a kid.

I would also like to include my stories in a list like this, so what do you think about that We will never forget you, Roberto Clemente by Trudy Engel. Clemente was a great baseball player and a great human, which makes this a great story for kids.

Before you look at any of these books, contact your children’s librarian and make their day. They can’t wait to talk to you!

-the master. Dix (5th grade teacher, Connecticut)

My daughter, an eleventh-year elementary school class teacher, has a chronic health condition exacerbated by stress, and I am very concerned about her.

She holds a master’s degree in special education in addition to a master’s degree in primary education. It has 21 students. Three have IEPs. She has 5 boys and 1 girl on the spectrum, only one of whom has an IEP. In addition, there are many other people who must be brought up to receive services. She has two students with seizure disorders. She does not have a full-time assistant in the classroom – the special education teacher and assistant attend on scheduled appointments.

One of the boys on the spectrum is not toilet trained and is seven this year. He’s the first one brought up for favours, and the parents admitted he’s not toilet trained, does nothing for himself, and has absolutely no self-care. He shits in his pants and doesn’t tell anyone and sits in it until my daughter notices. Several days he lowers his pants on the classroom floor. Parents are very denial about their child, they act as if this is normal/acceptable and they are always making excuses to my daughter and the officials…. It gets sick, allergies, things like that.

I won’t go into more detail but my question is this… In a normal classroom environment, who is responsible for helping my daughter with this toilet position? She begs for help, and this problem affects the whole class more than any other behaviors that occur. My daughter has an extensive support network of co-workers and no one seems to have had or knew about this in a typical classroom. But this has to happen before, right? The supervisor now wants him to withdraw and the parents fight back. My daughter already has alarms set to make him go to the bathroom during the day and then check “output” but the shit keeps going. Now he’s peeing in the toilet at school, so go ahead, but it all takes so long from the class he’s already in great need.

I would appreciate hearing anything that can help her. Or me, to be able to listen without worrying or frightening too much.

– Lots of stinky stress

Dear SMSS,

What a difficult situation for your daughter and her student. My heart goes out to her. As teachers, we never know what we might encounter in a given year, which makes the job interesting but also sometimes exceptionally challenging. This student is lucky to have your daughter in his life.

This position should be a priority for her administrator if it isn’t already. An entire classroom of students, including the problem child and the teacher, is negatively affected on a daily basis. The problem may not be solved easily, but your daughter should feel the full support of her officials.

Your daughter is not responsible for teaching this child to use the bathroom properly, nor should she directly interfere. Logistically, it is impossible for a teacher to spend any time in the bathroom with a student during an unattended class, nor should the teacher put themselves in a situation where the student is partially undressed and the teacher is alone with them.

This student requires immediate, multi-layered intervention likely to include a special education team, occupational therapist, physical therapist, school nurse, and school psychologist. She should contact the planning team immediately if it hasn’t already.

good luck.

-the master. Dix (5th grade teacher, Connecticut)

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