Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rational Response Vol. 2

I got a new student two months ago that I'll call RB here.  RB came to us from a nearby district but it was quite some time before his file arrived.  This is worrisome with students who are in a behavior program because the behaviors can vary from "Why is she in a behavior program?" to "How is he not in residential care?"  So it's good to receive a file beforehand so we can have some idea of what is difficult for a student and know what sort of behaviors are typical.

Well, RB started without the file in hand and he did great:  completed classwork, participated in class, wasn't disruptive at all....pretty impressive.  Most students start at a new school like this so I knew it was just a matter of time before we saw what landed him in a behavior program.  Sure enough, after the first two weeks I noticed he had stopped handing in work.  Then I noticed that the reports of his excellent behavior were somewhat exaggerated- he didn't disrupt class but he also didn't really do much work.  He flew under the radar as it were.  And then I got his file.

The file noted that RB had been a runner at one of his schools.  By this I mean that when he got frustrated he would leave school and run away.  This is why it's important to have a file ahead of time -I would never have pegged RB as a runner and I hadn't planned on this possibility.  Thankfully, he hasn't run yet and says he doesn't do that anymore.  Instead - he just refuses to do work at times.  He has a hard time getting along with an educational assistant that is pretty much loved by all and has gotten himself kicked out of several classes for simply sitting there without even looking at the work he's been assigned.  RB also has some severe attentional issues.  When you're talking to him you can see his eyes glaze over after saying literally one word to him.  I'm not exaggerating here.  I've said, "RB," to him to get his attention.  He'll look at me and than before I can get the next word out he'll already have a far away look in his eye that I know now means he's not listening anymore.  

In sum, he has a history of running from and cutting school and being extremely disruptive and disrespectful.  He's currently refusing to do work (even with help from assistants, myself and his teachers and with modified work) and he's not making friends even with several students making friendly overtures.

Here's why this is rational:  his father has disappeared from his life as of a year ago, his  stepfather just left the family, his mother is completely disengaged from parenting, all three of his older brothers hit him at times, one of his brothers was removed for abusing RB and has just come back home, RB has received no counselling for what happened, the brother closest in age to RB (just one grade above him) does the parenting.  Refusing to care about learning pre-algebra or the Greeks seems really rational to me.  

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Rational Response

A therapist conducted a home visit in order to begin serving a student of mine whom I'll call C. C has struggled in school but his general trend this year has been up and up- which has been really gratifying given that his regular ed teachers wanted to give up on him immediately and seek outside placement. C has needs that stretch outside of the school setting so I referred him to a program that is a "wrap around" service- so-called because it covers what the school isn't covering thus providing service in areas that would otherwise be left open. When the therapist left the home after the interview he immediately filed a report with child services because the home is a complete mess and the baby in the family - whom C deeply loves - was gnawing on an oil bottle. (I know, it seems unbelievable but that's what he reported.) Most of my students have issues of neglect at home and though the extent of the neglect in this case is extreme the presence of it is not surprising. What is surprising is how C has been responding to it.
Lately, C has been amazing. He hasn't been suspended in months and months. He's been on time for classes and he's currently passing all of his classes. His behavior has been such that you would never guess that he is in a behavior program or is labelled as emotionally disturbed. This seems irrational to me. If I were going home to what C goes home to I wouldn't take the time to learn how to find the area of circles or how to conduct a scientific inquiry. I would break things. I would hit people. I would curse/cuss/swear at the principal. That seems like a rational response to the situation to me.
Two points here: when C does exhibit odd behavior (growling, foaming, disrespectful/foul language to adults) it's rather easy to have a lot of patience with him because I know what he has to live with. Also, we have to accept that learning capitalization or how to multiply fractions isn't going to be that high on some students' priority lists and it's for good reasons.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

On Not Feeling too Good

For most of my students, I'm the only responsible adult in their lives. By responsible I mean different things for different students - being consistently present, being patient, attending to their needs, etc. Since I know that I do a lot for my students and that they're all doing better in school than they would otherwise it would be easy to get a big head about this and congratulate myself for being such a hero. Fortunately for me my students rarely say thank you. They rarely ask politely for anything. They'll be really upset if their flavor of granola bar is missing rather than being psyched they're getting anything. And this makes sense, I think. You really shouldn't have to be grateful for being fed. You should actually feel entitled to help in school. I don't think my students are unreasonable when they aren't thankful because they're only getting what they deserve. So this keeps my ego in check (somewhat, anyway). There's not much need for congratulations when a kid gets what he or she needs.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

3 for Electives

Three of my students are getting out of one of my two periods with them so they can attend an elective class. It's difficult to get extra services to kids in the school day without removing them from something but it's too bad that they have had to miss elective all year. Fortunately, they're been doing so great that they're going to be able to spend the last third of the year in a tech-ed class that they all really like.

The silly thing is that this technically changes their placements - which is a big special education deal. Right now they all receive regular education with 21-60% special classes. The change would drop them to under 21%- technically a different placement. So I have to notify their IEP teams (a gen. ed teacher, parent, district rep. and me), revise their IEPs, send home meeting notices, hold the meeting, finalize the IEP and send the letter home that says we did what we said we were going to. All for what amounts to a schedule change. And it's OK of course. I've actually done every thing except for the actuall meetings and send the follow up letter but I did all the prepatory stuff instead of going to class with another student.

This is not to say that these things aren't important- having a process can help prevent abuse. But I called all the parents to see what they thought, I spoke with their teachers & administrators and we're all on-board. We stil have to have the meeting and do all the paper work that comes along with it. I don't mean to whine but my eyes are going to fall out of my head if I have to look at a computer any more.