Monday, June 14, 2010

Fuel For The Fire And I Am Only Gonna Get Louder and More in Their Faces

Fueled by my frustration, no, outrage!, at all that happened in EBDland last year as well as working with an exceptional therapist, I am no longer on the fence.

I have been reading Alfie Kohn (my absolute education soulmate) and reflecting on what happened to my program in my absence.  I was hoping to find some tidbit that supported what was done in my absence.  I was really hoping to find some kernel, some nugget of support for what happened.  Just ONE bit that would explain why my replacement used the tactics she did and why on earth my principal supported it.

You may ask why I would be doing this. Well, I am trying to embrace differences in teaching styles, trying to make peace with what happened, even entertaining the idea that I don't know everything.  I know.  BIG step for me.  

Long story short.  Alfie set me straight and confirmed that my replacement teacher was full of shit.

What brought me here?  

I went to the neighborhood pool last week with my own kids.  Since the school I teach in is in one of the neighborhoods this pool services, I usually see many kids I know.  I ignore other people's kids unless they approach me.

So, I get approached.  BY MY ALL TIME VERY FAVORITE STUDENT.  This kid and I have been together since he was a first grader.  He just finished 5th grade.  And we all know how much life goes on between first and 6th grade. Favorite Kid is deeply disturbed, a budding schizophrenic (like his father), very bright (unlike his developmentally disabled and mentally ill mother), paranoid, abused, neglected, and likely to flashback in times of stress.  He cannot read, but is a math wizard.  He is an incredible problem solver and has a heart as big as the state of Texas when he feels safe.  He is also as mean as a snake and oppositional defiant.  But I love this kid.  I am devoted to this kid.  My heart breaks for this kid.  I have called social services on his behalf so many times I lost count.

Favorite Kid sits right down next to me and says, "I thought I recognized the back of your head."  HA!  It did occur to me that on a bad day if he had a projectile, that would not be so good of a thing, to recognize the back of my head.   Anyway, we chat.  No eye contact.  No surprise.  But he is sitting on his right hand as if he is hiding something.  I don't point that out, we just chat about the school year, how it went, what next year might bring.  If I am coming back. If he is coming back.  As he relaxes, his right hand comes out of hiding and it is in a big white bandage.  As I chat without comment regarding the hand, he starts unwinding the bandage and exposes a tear in his palm and it is sporting 5 stitches. So I casually ask what happened and he says, "My mom hit me with the broom when I tried to take a sip of her beer."

WHAT!?!?!?  And social services knows this. And social services reports they are all tapped out with this family.  WHAT!?!?!?!  HUH?!?!?!?  How about we remove the kids from their home?  Why didn't they do this 3 years ago when all hell was breaking loose and mom was bringing strange men home and these men were doing things to Favorite Kid and his little sister?

Anyway, Favorite Kid also tells me he thinks he is going to end up at a different school and will probably have to repeat 5th grade.

WHAT!?!?!?!  Repeat 5th grade and they also left him with a whole summer to wonder what the hell is going to happen to him next fall!  Are you kidding me? Is that remotely humane, fair or sensitive to his mental health needs?

I asked him why he thought all those things might happen. He matter-of-factly said that he didn't do any work at all.  All year.  He said there was no way he was gonna do anything just for points that earn him recess.

Enter Alfie Kohn.  His excellent book about the dangers of rewards, the actual harm programs based on tokens and rewards cause, is my bible.  Favorite Kid could be the poster child for all Alfie Kohn has figured out about reward systems.

So, what happened in EBDland with Favorite Kid is the total responsibility of the adults, not Favorite Kid's.  So, because the adults use the absolute wrong approach, did not assess and then reassess his response to a very wrong and counter productive approach this kid is going to suffer life altering consequences.

Because all the adults in his life made repeated bad calls... let's retain the kid, put him in a different program in a different school, never let him out for recess, keep him isolated from his peer group. Yeah, we'll show him!  That will make him straighten up!  That will fix his wagon!  He'll think twice about messing with us next time he wants to be noncompliant by refusing to do that worksheet in front of him.... Favortie Kid will very likely never recover and become yet another horrible statistic in the world of metal health and the prison system.

So, can I go back to that shit?  Can I possibly find my way back to that dysfunction?

No.  I am way too angry.  I will effect change by bringing these stories to  teachers in training.  I will bring change by securing a position on the district school board.  I will have a much louder and clearer voice on such issues outside of the dysfunction.

No more fence sitting.  Letter of resignation in the works and will be delivered by the end of the month.

And, no, I am not done with public education.  I am not done trying to make things right.  

Oh no, I have just begun.


  1. I have been lurking here for a long time - I'm so glad you sorted it all out! You're amazing - I'm glad you will be influencing the future educators as much as you've influenced these wonderful kids. HUGS!

  2. Deep sigh. Retention seems so simple, and yet is so flawed. CPS? I don't know where their heads are. Up their ***es, no doubt. They're as overworked as we are; but when has that ever been an excuse?!


Although I am dangerously opinionated, I am a flexible thinker and welcome your thoughts.