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.