Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Power Struggle

I’ve been working at this school for 5 ½ years, and this is the first year that my principal and I haven’t seen eye to eye on something. Last Thursday, SoM became so disruptive in art class that the art teacher had to send two of my students to get me. He kicked a file cabinet, ripped posters and artwork off the wall, and kicked a trashcan over. Finally, he left the classroom and refused to come back in. The art teacher didn’t know how to handle him, so I had to take him downstairs with me. I took him to the office, but Principal was in a meeting with the school psychologist, and Secretary was out with the flu. I called his mother at home (number disconnected), on her cell (got voicemail, left message) and at work (line busy). I was just about to take him back to class when his grandmother, who had heard the message on the home machine, called the office. I let her speak to him, which didn’t really help, and then took him with me to get my kids from art class.

The next day, SoM was absent. Later that day, I had a meeting with Principal about my recent observation. She used that opportunity to tell me that she doesn’t want me to call SoM’s mom when he gets out of hand. She said it “isn’t effective,” and that it “isn’t the best alternative.” I explained to her that I felt it was my only option at that point, seeing as how Principal wasn’t available to speak to him that day. I also emphasized that I lost the majority of my break because the art teacher couldn’t handle him. “Well, that’s okay,” replied Principal. (Um... no, it's not.) She went on to explain that his mother tends to keep him home from school after she finds out that he had a bad day. "He's a bright student," Principal said, "but his brother is really struggling. He can't afford to miss all these days of school."

At this point, I was ready to cry from frustration (and I’m not a crier). I told Principal that I wouldn’t call his house anymore, but I’d like to know what she wants me to do in those situations. His episodes sometimes happen when I’m in the middle of a step by step activity. Do I leave 17 kids with scissors, glue and paper to go after him? Or do I continue teaching and let him kick desks and leave my classroom? She didn’t have an answer for me.

He had an IEP meeting (outside of school), but I haven’t gotten any information about it yet. He’s approved for 35 hours of Therapeutic Support Staff service, but a wraparound hasn’t been provided for him yet. I asked Principal if she knew why it was taking so long to get him a wraparound. She said, “It’s probably because his situation isn’t that severe.” I was unable to hide my look of sheer disbelief. She continued, “Well, it might seem severe to you, but there are children who are worse than him.” Needless to say, I left the meeting feeling more confused and frustrated than before.

I really feel like I’m out of options. I’ve tried everything that I can think of, and I’ve tried everything that’s been suggested by Principal, SoM's therapist, and our Parent-Teacher liaison (i.e. time-out areas, using a timer, saying things like “Tell me what’s bothering you so I can help you fix it,” and “I know you’re feeling angry, and that’s okay…”). I keep extremely detailed notes and make sure that everyone involved gets a copy so that we’re all on the same page. I praise him when he’s on-task and behaving appropriately. But the bottom line is: I can not handle him when he has these episodes. Not when I have a class full of kids that also need my attention. He needs to be in classroom that is equipped for children with his needs. I wish I knew how to make that happen.


MsAbcMom said...

Do the other parents know about SOM? I am assuming that they do. Casually hint to them that they should speak to the principal. Your princiapl is obviously not going to back you on this one. If the other parents get involved though, the principal will have to act quickly.


Dree said...

It's funny, the other parents haven't mentioned him, at least not to me. I don't know if the kids don't talk about him at home, or if the parents just assume it's under control. But if it comes up, I'll definitely direct them to the principal. Thanks for the advice and the support!