I can’t believe we are six weeks into the school year already! With all that has happened already, I can’t imagine what the rest of the year will be like. I’m sure we will come to a time where we will be ready for the end to come, but right now it is just absolutely flying by!
As I’ve mentioned before, Caleb is attending Heritage International School, a Christian school less than half a mile from our house. It was started in 1994 as a school for missionary children, and while it was originally based on an American curriculum, it draws students from a wide variety of nationalities including many Ugandans. While the school calendar follows a western system, i.e. starting in the fall as opposed to starting in January as the native schools do here, holidays follow the Ugandan calendar, which is a mixture of Christian, Muslim and national holidays.
The campus is home to both primary and secondary students, as well as nursery and preschool kids, so Caleb goes to school with kids from the cradle all the way to those preparing for University next year. The campus is wonderfully picturesque with a central area with trees, paths and streams running through it. I think it is one of Caleb’s favorite parts of the school, next to the playground. The primary and secondary schools are housed on either side of this central area, with the nursery and preschool kids close to the entrance on the primary side. The administration building is at the back of this central area with the library off to the side and the cafeteria and kitchen behind. And the campus is expanding due to growth in the student body. They are currently building an additional classroom block to house the music and art classrooms which were displaced when additional primary classes were added. I must say that it is probably the prettiest school campus outside of college and university campuses that I have ever seen.
Unfortunately, Caleb’s kindergarten career did not get off to a very picturesque start. Within the first week, he was having trouble keeping his hands to himself and was being generally disruptive during class. The school utilizes the “Stoplight” behavior system. Each day the kids are given a color according to how the day went. If they stayed on “green,” they had a great day. If they got on “yellow,” they received a warning for something they did behavior-wise. If they got on “orange,” they had a time-out sometime during the day. And if they got on “red,” they were being continually disobedient or disruptive and were possibly sent to the principal’s office.
We continued to struggle with Caleb’s disciplinary issues, as his Stoplight sheet become ever more colorful with an alarming number of yellows and oranges. Things finally came to a head when Caleb came home with a red, prompting an emergency conference with his teacher, Mrs. Trina, and her assistant, Mrs. Gladys. And I must admit, a meeting like that is not the easiest way to start out the day.
It was a good meeting, though. We all really love Caleb, and we were all struggling with how to best help him adjust to the classroom setting. It was helpful for us as parents as well as the teachers to voice concerns and observations about what was going on with Caleb. We were able to really work together to come up with a plan to move forward with his disciplinary issues.
After talking at length the night before the meeting with Caleb about what had happened, Robert and I discovered that Caleb had in his head that if he got on a red, he would get kicked out of school. Apparently, this was his goal. We have never completely understood why, especially after he was so excited to start school in the first place. The best we understand is that he really likes recess and PE, but not a whole lot else about school. Actually, I don’t think it is that he doesn’t like to learn, because Mrs. Trina says he always does his work, and usually does it well and gets it done before anyone else. I think it is more that he doesn’t like to sit and be confined to his desk all the time. Who does? But Caleb is an especially active child, and has trouble sitting still for extended periods of time. And he seems to have particular trouble keeping his hands to himself, so the teacher has set his desk by himself to avoid temptation.
So after talking with Caleb’s teachers, we have decided to try a new behavior system in addition to the one currently in use. This one tracks Caleb throughout the different periods of the school day according to how well he has done concerning one particular behavior. It rates him with a “smiley face,” “no-smile face” or “frowny face” concerning that particular behavior. It allows us to focus on one behavior at a time, and we have chosen to start with “Positive Touching,” i.e. no hitting, especially with the granddaughter of the President of Uganda attending Heritage.
The new system seems to be helping. I wish I could say that has been all “greens” and “smiley faces” since we started, but not quite. While Caleb seems to struggle to control himself at times (he gets that from his mommy), there has been marked improvement. We are even starting to talk about things he can do when he feels like hitting someone, like sitting on his hands. And I think he is starting to get it. The other night I overheard him praying to God to “help [him] make good choices.” There is hope for the kid yet.
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance,” – Proverbs 1:5