Shaddup Already!


a bleeding heart?

I tried to post this the other day and the computer came up with an error page right as I clicked to post it. When I got the page back up, it was the blank "add an entry" page. Can you say pissed?

It probably worked out anyway because more has happened since the first time I told this story and no one read it.

I was contacted this weekend (via email) about a student who is having a very difficult time adjusting. In our school system, we have middle school, which starts with 6th grade. So it's a big transition grade for them and that happens to be the grade I teach. Anyway, this mom was wanting to know if I had any feedback or any ideas on how to help L get through this.

Up to this point I hadn't seen any evidence of problems, but it was just the first week of school. I emailed mom back and said I would like to start a dialogue journal with L. It would be a place where she could feel free to express her feelings to an adult who wouldn't judge. I was also hoping we could talk about books because L loves to read and so do I. Right now L is too worried/anxious to do anything but cry.

So once I started this journal with her, I started to see how she was doing--which wasn't well. She has basically been in tears every day at school. Her mom says that she isn't eating or sleeping and is crying all the time at home. My thought is that we need to do something about this because this child's education and welfare are being compromised by her adjustment issues. I feel like, as a teacher, I need to help her through in whatever way the parents and guidance counselors say is best.

L started telling me that she is afraid of one of the teachers. I told her I would talk to this teacher, T. So after school I went to talk to another teacher, T (different T, I'll call her TL). She was sympathetic and we were wondering out loud how we should help her. We both acknowledged that giving her extra attention would be feeding into her behavior, but if that is what it took for her to learn, maybe that was best. So I felt empowered by this conversation and went to talk to T.

The minute I started talking about L, T got this look on her face that she gets whenever you mention accomodations for students. It isn't a pleasant look. She feels like she needs to treat every child equally, which is a nice thought. But for her, that means treating them the same-which isn't fair treatment. I once read a quotation that said something like, "There is nothing so unfair as the equal treatment of unequal students." I'm sorry, but it's true.

Let's look at it this way, you wouldn't put a child who is in a wheelchair in front of stairs and tell them to start climbing. You would show them to the elevator and probably send someone along to keep them company and out of trouble.

Well T can't seem to understand that there are other disabilities that just aren't clearly evident. Last year she told an SLD child he needed to "copy his notes faster." This occured the day after I filled her in on his specific disability (that he can't copy and listen at the same time), the fact that he tries very hard to get by without accomodations (but he still needs them) and that, by law, we had to provide this child with certain accomodations. One of the accomodations for this particular child was a copy of the notes.

I could understand her hesitating if it were a child who took advantage of their situation, but it wasn't. This was one of the hardest working students I had last year. Even if it were a student who was taking advantage, we cannot refuse them the accomodations that are legally granted to them through the screening processes in the school system.

So T doesn't seem to understand that there are disabilities that don't show up in a wheelchair or a cane. I suspect she is one of those people who would tell a clinically depressed person to "just get over it." I say this because I made a comment this morning about me seeeming to connect with the clinically depressed kids. She looked at me with disbelief and said, "You're not clinically depressed, are you?" So I turned around and said, "Yes, I have panic disorder too."

I should have told her that I was a walking, talking testament to the fact that these disorders are real and can usually be treated with a pretty good success rate. I didn't feel that she would be able to hear that, though.

Anyone, on with my story about L. I told T that I had talked to L's mom and I was going to mentor her. T says to me, "Just for the first quarter?" I said, "For as long as she needs it." T comes back with, "we can't baby her." So I start wondering if that is what I'm doing.

I went to several veteran teachers and asked their opinions and they said they didn't feel it was babying her. They also said that this was 6th grade and they needed a little extra help sometimes. One of them said that a child in trouble always needs a safety net, someone they can turn to. This all came on the heels of a conference between L, her parents, the guidance counselor and T. The guidance counselor sent out an email that we were not to coddle L. He said that we were not allowed to send her to him anymore because she was using him as a crutch. Then he explained that she was used to bonding with her teachers, so this situation made her feel insecure.

All that got me to thinking that maybe the mentoring thing wasn't good. Although every time I thought it through, it seemed like a good idea. By mentoring her, I'm not going to give in to what she wants. I'm going to be a safe place she can go, someone she can talk to, someone who will give her solid advice and help her with this new transition. In addition, I have the unique perspective of being a worrier myself. So I feel like I might be able to help her with some coping skills.

T's attitude had me wondering if I was all wrong on this. I finally got a chance to talk to L's guidance counselor and he said what I was doing was exactly what she needed. He said his hope was that she would get closer to her teachers and separate from him a bit. He also reiterated that she would need a safety net during the time where her parents are refusing to pick her up early from school and her guidance counselor won't see her. All her coping mechanisms have been taken away from her, and he thinks it's a good idea for her to have this help from me.

Now that I've gotten some distance from this whole day, I feel a little angry with T. I know I'm the bleeding heart on the team, but I also make students responsible for their actions. I encourage them to grow as caring, feeling young adults. That is my role on the team. I don't expect everyone else to jump in and do this with me, but support would be nice. I've gotten that from the other teachers, I know I'll never get it from T. I'm really okay with that, even though I spent a whole page talking about it.

The only thing I'm not looking forward to is my meeting with the inclusion specialist. Since T and I have the same plan period, we are meeting with the inclusion specialist together. This person will let us know of special needs students and their accomodations with us. Considering the fact that we have no children in wheelchairs, do you sense the problem? Yeah, it should be a fun way to spend my plan period on a Monday morning.

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