A bit long for some but worth a read – here. The premise is that we learn to talk *with* “problem kids” rather than *at* them.
Many of us fall into bad habits when we are looking at behaviour we consider poor or bad but perhaps it is time we tried to see things from the child’s perspective and took the time to ask them what we could do to make the situation better for them.
Our classrooms seem so full today with Miss Prim’s class sometimes having 32 kids but the other class sometimes accommodating 35 kids at any one time! (I was one of 28 and then one of 18)
It must be extremely difficult to effectively cater for the many needs of so many different personalities and learning types, it is no wonder that we are failing so many of those children who have specific needs not best handled by overstuffed and understaffed classrooms.
Our dreamer most likely has some type of learning style best met by people who have the time and passion to engage with her. One of her former teachers was so rigid in his style that she failed to make any progress in his class (good job she started ahead of her peers) and when I discussed the issue with him, on more than one occasion, he nodded and agreed to try a few different techniques. By the end of the year I had been accused of bullying him and had resigned my position on the school governors board as the school stood by the style of teaching which had hampered more than just my child. Had I needed further proof, when Miss Prim entered his class the following year, she too made no progress but was blessed by having that cushion of accelerated learning that years of fantastic teachers had encouraged. Miss Prim, definitely not “one of those” children, failed to make progress in his class and yet I couldn’t get any of the senior staff at the school to take my concerns on board.
Perhaps schools get stuck in the patterns of behaviour that see our children being put on the path that ultimately leads them to falling short of their true potential. Who do we blame for this cycle of failure? Is it the parents who don’t press the school to seek out new and improved models to help deal with the frustrations of our children? Is it the teaching staff who fail to recognise their own limitations and also fail to see that a different approach could make the world of difference not just to the “problem” child but to their classmates and even to other individual children who are finding things tougher than they can verbalise and who would also be helped by a method which removes some of the pressure from a younger age and actually engages with them in a way that ensures each and every child has the skills and environment necessary to reach their full potential?
Are we too late? Have we failed a whole generation who we should have taken the time and care to understand and to better support? When I look at my dreamer, I wish I had done more. She lost more than that one year. It took a great deal of excellent compassion and conviction from her next teacher to not only raise her attainment to the expected level but also to surpass her expected standard. This fabulous teacher – newly qualified – took the time to get to know her and encourage her. When our daydreamer drifted off to the land of make believer to stare at unicorns and wizards, Ms S was able to bring her back to the real world and take a moment to reassure our dreamer that she was capable, she could and would succeed, and they would find the solution together if necessary.
I’m not sure if she will continue to get top scores as her secondary life continues, I guess it depends on if any of her 12 teachers (or more if they continue to drop like flies) has the ability to see their students as individuals or if they feel like the only option in our oversubscribed schools is to teach in hopes that 80% of the class manage to get something out of the lesson.
For some it may well already be too late. My lanky nephew has already had his education restricted by being put in a class with those students they consider to be a distraction, too violent, or just too “lazy” to teach.
When my stepdad died when Lanky was 10, it hit him hard. He had lost his own father to a “new family” a few years previous and Pops was the only male role model he had (because my Mr is basically a big kid ;-] ). He really didn’t cope with the destruction he saw within his home life and with a diagnosis of Aspergus, education seemed to be unimportant and fairly useless. An outburst after he was mocked put him into special measures and he was left there to rot. This isn’t for dramatic effect. He was put into a class with all the other disruptive elements, many of which also had an ASD diagnosis with learning and/or behavioural concerns. They only had to be at school for 3 hours each weekday and they were assisted in their learning by an unqualified teaching assistant. They weren’t encouraged, they weren’t listened to, their parents were left with no answers and no way to make school life worthwhile for their sons. No one knew to try a different direction, no one knew to take each student as an individual with his own needs, his own learning methods, and his own future to help shape. It is unlikely that Lanky will ever be able to reach his full potential now. He has reached the age where he is now an adult and has been labelled as vulnerable. He is going to need additional support and assistance for the foreseeable. He had the ability to go far and do very well for himself. Now he feels like he isn’t capable of doing more than existing. He felt so low that he turned to the streets, began stealing from family and using “legal highs” to escape his existence.
We’ve made progress with him, we might yet be able to find a way to move forward so that he can find a job, support himself in time. We had to go through months of hell first, we had to witness *him* hit his rock bottom and there was very little we could do but wait to help him get up. My darling nephew, once this happy, lively, sensitive, passionate, and creative young boy is now barely a shell. He has abused alcohol to the point of damage which might not be repairable, his heart is being closely monitored because his valves are no longer functioning as normal, he is finally getting help for his depression and, oh, he just turned 18.
Is he the lucky one? We’re all here to support him in any way we can and it looks like we can keep him out of prison. Some of his classmates have already found their way in front of a judge.
I don’t yet know what the best way forward is but we have to do something soon. It isn’t just the lives of the children who are being labelled that is at risk. The entire lifetime of those yet
to be educated is at risk and with it, our society as we know it. We have ignored the needs of our education system for too long.
Our teachers need better pay and smaller workloads, our TAs need continued training and support to best aid the teacher and the student body, our schools need fresh equipment and more adequate learning spaces and our class sizes need to be reduced.
Do we not want the best for those yet to come? Why are so many happy to sell out our children and grandchildren and what are they gaining in return? This isn’t a party political issue, this is a national travesty! There is so much to be gained if we only invest our time and our funds in the next generation.
It looks more likely that we will leave not only “those children” who present as an issue in the classroom to flail in the system but the majority of the population which some are banking on to pay for their retirement.