I've been struggling with my job teaching students with special needs this year. My degree,a few decades ago, was in learning disabilities, and I still have a good handle on that. But the emotional needs and behavioral issues I face everyday are wearing me out this year. You can work with a devoted and supportive staff of teachers and administrators and still must face the fact that there is really no effective consequence for plain old bad behavior in our classrooms today. Kids get away with disruption, talking back, and refusal to follow directions or complete work every day of the week. I have three 4th graders this year whose behavior reminds me of the antics of two year olds; tantrums, crying, rage, ripping up papers, throwing things, and inability to be reasoned with. They are all on medications that vary in their effectiveness from day to day. We, as teachers, have very little support from home. The worst punishment they can get is sitting in the principal's office for awhile after school.
This is a quote from a Cleveland Plain Dealer reader that was published a couple weeks ago. He/She says it better than I:
Urban districts have unique needs. The children come to classrooms 2-3 years behind suburban students of similar age. Asking urban teachers to be responsible for a students' total educational success is like asking a dentist to be responsible for a patients total oral hygiene care. A dentist can clean teeth and fill cavities but the patient/parent is responsible to brush their teeth regularly, floss, and eat the right foods. Should a dentist lose his job if a patient has bad teeth? The community needs to step up and until then, it is unfair to ask urban district teachers to shoulder ills and effects of poverty on their own. If a student comes to school exhausted because the parent wasn't there, or if a student isn't on the proper medication for ADHD or bi-polar disorder, how is a teacher's performance to be judged and rewarded/penalized? A teacher can have the best lesson in the world, but if a child is tired or upset because their home life is difficult, they cannot learn to potential.
I think that says it all. I would really like to go back to being a teacher - not a babysitter or a disciplinarian or a substitute parent - someday...