Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Little Rant

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...

8 comments:

Lena said...

I so get that Diane as we are in the field. I am glad I am not in the classroom any longer, but my heart aches for these children and their teachers.

Kim said...

I cannot give you enough credit. I teach Sunday School only one hour a week, so my level of understanding is approximately 1/30th of what you experience. You have my unending respect.

Cheryl said...

Can you go back to teaching kids without special needs? Would you still be in an urban setting? My daughter went from a very diverse and troubled high school to a very small private one. There are NO discipline issues. Can you believe it? Never in my wildest dreams did I think it could be possible. The school is all about caring and we're absolutely blessed to have her there. The teachers love their jobs. It sounds like it's time for a change for you.

Moohaa said...

I agree. Parents need to be parents so that teachers can be teachers.

You are a blessing!

74WIXYgrad said...

In my 12 years with working with the developmentally disabled(severe and profound), I always noticed that the ones who acted the worst, in most cases, had parents or other advocates, that thought their particular clients were the ones being abused.

Seeing that I didn't have formal schooling for the job I had, I found it easier than you would to walk away. I have the utmost respect for you and others, including my daughter, who work with those with special needs.

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John Ettorre said...

I feel your pain, Diane. It can sound glib to say you're heroic for doing it anyway, but at the risk of sounding glib, that's nevertheless what I think after reading this.

Sue said...

We could all teach kids without special needs (if there are any)or find a change (again, if there was one)... That resolution begs the question; if not I, then who?

We cannot let these needy children remain in this 'needy' state. I have not met any - not one- who was not worth saving.

The real problem is when everyone from the parents, administration and the powers that be in Columbus want to fault the teacher.

If educating these kids takes a little more time? So what?