On the heels of Anna's 'diagnosis' for lack of a better term - and referral to a psychologist - we met with the principal of her school. We'd intended to meet with her all summer anyways - mostly to discuss the fact that she's already completed the skills and basic curriculum of first and second grade. Naturally, we've been concerned that she wouldn't be challenged, start the trend of bad behavior, and - well - you know the rest.
So we met with her yesterday morning. For two hours. TWO hours. And Oh My Gosh. I triple-heart this woman. I want to bottle her up and put her on a shelf to talk to about my kid at will. Deonne and I felt SO much better after talking to her. I think part of the reason she is such an awesome principal is that 1) she is very down to earth 2) she was once a guidance counselor and 3) was once a teacher in the classroom. So she knows what she's talking about - and has seen it all in her years of teaching/administering.
In a nutshell, she affirmed what we'd thought was the case with our child - starting the conversation with 'we're dealing with an incredibly bright little girl who is not only gifted but greatly so.'
She listened with an open mind to our laundry list of concerns/issues/struggles with our child. And let us know that the problems we're seeing are not atypical for extremely bright children. Her unwillingness to share her day at school with us or engage in conversation at the end of the day is normal. For her. Her brain is on super-speed all day long - and she needs that time to decompress. She's always thinking, always analyzing - so her blank stare into our eyes when we're talking to her is normal. For her. Her brain is three-blocks ahead - in another direction - and has totally moved on from the conversations at hand.
But what made us feel even better is that she really listened to our concerns - not just the global ones but the tiny minute ones - like the repeating herself in whispers after she makes a statement and the shaking in rage she's experiencing lately when she's really angry. Or the complete conversations she has with herself when she's riding in the car or playing in her room. By herself. Or how a nuclear bomb could go off when she's watching TV or looking at a computer screen as she's so absorbed in it. Or how she's become so emotionally fragile these last few months that every reprimand or conversation gone a direction she doesn't agree with or a wrong look ends in complete emotional collapse.
We talked about how bright she is - that her reading level is off the charts - but more than that - she's not just reading at a high level but comprehending. About how she 'gets' the instructions the first time - and quickly understands math and projects and completes assignments then looks for more. We talked about how she (the principal) already had a plan in place that she'd concocted over the summer of what teacher she wanted Anna to have (who I am THRILLED about) who has experience and a background in children with special needs. And about if after the fall semester it looks like Anna is just surpassing the curriculum and needing something extra - she was not opposed to pulling her out to the ALERT program in the spring term (ALERT starts in 2nd grade - but because the units change each year - if she goes into ALERT as a spring 1st grader she won't repeat the following year.) She said - and I believe with every fiber of my being - that she'll do everything in her power to help Anna succeed.
And then. The best part. She opened up her school and all resources there to help our child. I'm teary eyed just typing this. We told her that we'd been so concerned that we'd visited the pediatrician and had the referral to the psychologist. And she didn't laugh at us - or think we overreacted. Rather she said that as a first step - why not let her work with the excellent one available at the school - let her observe our child - work with her - and if need be - bring in outside help and let the two experts collaborate as the school psychologist will have the history available of what she saw in the classroom. She said if at any time we feel like things are not getting better or her behavior takes a turn for the worse that she'd call an emergency meeting between the new teacher, the psychologist, and perhaps another teacher from another grade who is experienced in extremely bright children.
Basically, she's dedicated to making sure our baby succeeds. That she will receive not only the academic challenges she craves but the social growth she needs. And I couldn't be happier.
So the plan is to 1) get Anna back on a routine. She's been off-kilter all summer - some of that may be due to a lot of unstructured time at her summer camp. She's a kid who needs a set routine to function well. 2) Let her new teacher get to know her - observe her - come to her own conclusions about Anna with no prompting or stigma from the principal. I liked that. A lot. I don't want my kid starting the year with preconceived assumptions about her. 3) If the behavior doesn't improve, or (Lord help me get worse) we'll have the school psychologist start observations + work with her. 4) If that doesn't help - we'll go from there.
But I'm much more secure than I was last Friday - knowing we have a plan in place - knowing the teachers and staff at her school are aware of her special skills - knowing we have a direction to go.
August 15 can't get here fast enough!