Yesterday's Practice Ice, the first ice on an early morning on a weekday, went shockingly well. Stitch was engaged, listening, working, and skating better than I'd seen him skate in awhile. In fact, the first time his music gets played, Coach lets him improv for awhile, then builds a program around his antics. His Antics looked so good, I was thinking it was the real deal until he did some bizarre catch-my-blade-under-my-butt manuever. The new program looks pretty solid already; challenging enough to give him something to work for, but not so hard as to send him into a spiral of self-doubt. I was pleased. This matches the Slowdown I'm implementing at home right now. Putting him at Freeskate 2 eases the pressure a bit.
Coach and I noted his good work, I packed him up and took him home. I gave instructions for school and set off for work, happy.
Imagine my shock when I got an email from Teacher D, telling me Stitch had just lost focus completely during a writing assignment. He had thirty minutes to work, but turned in a totally blank sheet of paper.
When he got home, he got out his math homework and gave me a whipped puppy look before telling me "You won't be happy with the math test."
I let that sit until dinner was done, and then I looked at it.
And we had a talk.
"Stitch, tell me what happened with the writing assignment today."
"We didn't have one," he evaded.
"Yes, you did. Mr D tells me you weren't focused, and then you had trouble with the writing portion of it. You didn't write anything at all."
"Well," Stitch is thinking. "Mr D said to write nothing, so that's what I did!"
"You wrote nothing, even when everyone else in the class was writing something?"
"Yes! But Friend S told me to write what I knew about the Native Americans..." he's thinking.
"Stitch, did you zone out while Mr. D was giving instructions? And when it came time to actually do the assignment, you didn't know what to do?"
Stitch is crestfallen. I've seen right through him. "Yes."
"Hm," I say patiently. "This seems to be a recurring problem. It happens in class, it happens on the ice, and it happens at home. So what can we do to help you focus on the task at hand?"
"I don't know," he says unhappily. "But sometimes things are just not interesting! Like math."
"That may be, but you still have to pay attention in school. Like this Math Test. These are really simple concepts; measuring to the nearest half inch, and perimeters. There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to do this, yet you got all of them wrong. Were you paying attention when Teacher D explained how to do this?"
"Stitch, you'll learn at school, or you'll learn at home, but you will learn these things. I advise paying attention and learning in school, so you have time for fun things at home. Okay?"
So, after he had done his regular homework, I printed off some worksheets to reinforce the concepts he'd missed on his Math Test. And, as I suspected, it was simply a matter of focusing on the subject matter and listening to what I was saying. Once he understood, he got it handily.
Last Friday, I stepped in for the last few minutes of the Workshop. Stitch was having something new thrown at him, a Flip. And he was struggling mightily, doing his best, but it was escaping him.
He came off the ice, frustrated. Coach came over to chat with me, and I asked, "So, what can we do to help this happen?"
She stepped Stitch through an off-ice jump, showing me a finished product. Stitch struggled, and I could see that there was a lot going on with this jump. Stitch simply needed to get each piece before he could see the finished product.
A day later, in the courtyard, after Spiral stretches and Shoot the Ducks, I asked Stitch to jump up and turn around. Stitch immediately tried the full Flip and failed.
"No, no," I stopped him. "Just jump up and turn around on two feet. You've done this."
He jumped up and turned around a few times.
"Okay, now hold your arms in and do it. Just like Coach shows you."
He laughed and did this a few times.
"Okay, now push up with your foot, hold your arms in, turn around and land on two feet."
Things got fun as we slowly added each physical element to the mix. We got to "Push up with your foot, hold in your arms, turn around, land on your left foot and put your arms in landing position," and that's as far as we got. We're still working on it, but by breaking the element down into manageable bites on dry land, Stitch was doing better. If he keeps this up, by the time the Workshop starts again in four weeks, he should be in good shape to try it on the ice.
Coach was exasperated again a week or so ago, "He's so gifted, he could do anything if he'd only focus!"
"I know," I said. "You're not alone, it's not just you. It's all his teachers and me. So, stay with him, slow down. We'll get him to see himself."
As I'm working with Stitch on Staying Focused, what runs through my head is a scene from Star Wars...
Those sequins came from behind!