Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Teaching? What's that?

I keep telling myself I'm going to write, and then I keep finding reasons not to. (Most of those reasons are sleep, work, TV, reading... which can all basically be summed up as "lack of motivation.")


So there's this boy in my room. Telling you his whole story would require pages, so I'll sum up as best I can. (Be prepared for a long story anyway.) This boy was born very prematurely and spent the first 18 months of his life in the hospital. He never received any early intervention. This is his 3rd year in our school (he started in preK) and he has been a major behavior problem since day one. His issues include, but are not limited to: poor fine motor skills (i.e. writing, cutting, glue, etc), extreme hyperactivity, extreme distractibility, lack of impulse control, inability (or unwillingness) to accept responsibilty for his actions, poor reading (most likely due to his inability to focus), aggressive behavior (pushing, hitting).

I've been teaching for 8 years. I've taught all kinds of kids. When I say that he is the most extreme case of undiagnosed ADHD I have ever seen, I am not exaggerating. The child is literally unable to sit or stand still for more than a few seconds. If you ask him to stop a certain behavior - for example, repeatedly tapping a pencil - he immediately replaces it with another behavior, such as rocking his chair back and forth. He can't walk to the coat closet without tapping, hitting, poking or touching every child in his path. He hums, sings or makes noises while he works. Every single one of his crayons and pencils are broken, and none of his pencils have erasers left on their ends. If he has scissors to cut something for a project, he will make confetti with the scrap paper. If he's sitting on the rug while I'm teaching, he manages to find a piece of trash or lint on the floor to play with. He can't work cooperatively with others. He can't sit for a ten minute read-aloud without pulling someone's hair or throwing a piece of paper at someone or rolling around on the floor. He falls out of his chair at least twice a week.

Of course he has his strengths. He has a good memory. He always offers to help in the classroom. I certainly don't dislike him, but he has made the past two and a half months impossible for me. He is constantly "going," and my choices are either a) ignore him or b) attempt to redirect him (which, as I said before, works for all of 2 seconds before he finds another behavior to replace the first). And as guilty as I feel for doing it, I often choose to ignore him and teach over his noise. I have 14 other students in my room and I have curriculum to cover. I just can't spend my entire day shadowing him.

The kindergarten teacher tried to help his parents get him help, but she was unsuccessful. The parents claim they took him for an outside evaluation and they were told "nothing was wrong with him." They also claim that their pediatrician says the same thing. This year, I got our parent involvement counselor on board. We met with the parents twice and they agreed to fill out the paperwork for an evaluation.

On Thursday morning, there is going to be a big meeting: principal, parent involvement counselor, me, the boy's parents, and the school psychologist. I have no idea what the outcome of this meeting will be... but I DO know that the psychologist and the counselor believe that our school is not equipped to meet his needs. They both believe he needs to be in a smaller, more specialized setting. I think principal will also back that, but I'm not 100% sure. (After all, we are a tuition based school.)

As for me? Well... I hate to say that I want him gone. But every now and then I imagine how peaceful the classroom would be if he wasn't in it. And that makes me feel guilty. I wish there was some way we could help him in our school, but I just don't see how that's possible. The parents haven't really done their part to find help for him, despite all the suggestions and advice the school has offered. In fact, at the beginning of the year they seemed very open and willing to meet. Now it's difficult to even get them on the phone. The father even called today and said they couldn't make Thursday's meeting, because they forgot about a dentist appointment they had scheduled for the same day. I don't think they want to hear what we're going to tell them.

Should be interesting.


Betty said...

What a sad story. I hope the parents get on board and get involved in some very structured help for their son. It is so difficult to teach in your current situation. I hope there is a happy outcome. Try not to feel guilty. If he gets the help he needs, he will have a brighter future.

Stephers said...

I know what you mean when you wonder if the principal will back the team. I, too, teach in a tuition driven school. We don't have any support staff(lucky you), but we accept those who need it anyway.

Anonymous said...

I am still in college and working on my elementary education degree and this situation is one that I fear the most. I am afraid that even if I try my best to reach out and help a child that I am not going to be able to. This child you are writing about is special in so many ways and I know there has to be a way to help him and reach him but I agree with you that he needs to see a specialist. I am a patient person but it is terrifying to know that one child can change a whole year in a classroom full of students and potentially make it a bad year of teaching. I hope everything turns out well.