Friday afternoon I got the first phone call of the year from Olivia’s teacher.
Her teacher, just like all the ones before, is so kind, so loving. She wanted to let me know that Olivia had had a tough week. She’d been defiant, stubborn, refused to do some of the things requested of her. She refused to participate in gym class. She refused to work with the speech therapist. One a science test, there was an ‘essay’ question. She was required to write two or three sentences to answer this question. She wrote a few words and then ended it with, “…like, I don’t know.”
Mrs. H wanted to know if I had an advice for her and the rest of Olivia’s team on how to work with Olivia when she’s in that kind of mood.
I told her that sometimes, I just don’t know what motivates Olivia. Some days she’s just…Olivia. We have learned to roll with it at home but I realize that at school she often needs to be redirected and she needs motivation to behave appropriately.
So we decided I’d send a baggie of Jolly Ranchers (Olivia’s current favorite candy) to be stashed in Mrs. H’s desk and doled out one at a time, at the end of each day, after she’s done well for that day and met all expectations.
We’re going with “when…then” situations for Olivia. I told her as I packed the Jolly Ranchers, “When you do everything your teachers ask of you without attitude, then you’ll get a Jolly Rancher at the end of the day.”
I want to her to know what’s expected of her. I don’t want her to think there’s a choice in this. I hope she doesn’t decide, “Well, I don’t want a Jolly Rancher anyway, so I’m not going to do this thing for my teacher.”
I also suggested that Olivia be allowed to take her spelling tests at a keyboard. That would not only stop her from being able to doodle/scribble all over the test paper, it will also allow her to concentrate on the actual words she’s spelling rather than the task of writing out those words. Writing is still hard for Olivia. Those fine motor skills are coming along but they’re still weaker than those of her typical peers.
That evening, Alyssa and the rest of the junior high band was performing with the high school marching band at halftime of the high school football game.
Olivia’s second grade teacher was at the gate taking money for tickets into the game. We talked a little bit about my phone call with O’s third grade teacher.
I told Mrs. P what behaviors Mrs. H called about and Mrs. P laughed and said, “That’s just Olivia being Olivia.”
Which…I know. But we really want to curtail it. Third grade academics are harder than second grade. O needs to be directed in ways that benefit her academically and socially.
When I got home from the football game (okay, from halftime, we all know I only went to that stupid game so I could watch my daughter play her flute for ten minutes) I pulled Olivia in for a hug. I told her I saw Mrs. P and she told me how great it is that she gets to read with Olivia each week, maintaining that teacher/student relationship.
She also reminded me that even as we try to motivate Olivia and direct her actions and behavior, sometimes, we just have to figure out how to teach to her. Rather than trying to make Olivia fit a mold we all know she’s never going to fit, maybe we should all try and change a little and meet her half way.
If we happen to have Jolly Ranchers in our pockets, well, all the better as far as Liv is concerned.