Thursday, July 31, 2008

Why He Quit

Here's an essay from a psychologist in my district - or should I say my FORMER district?? - outlining why he quit. It is an interesting perspective and sadly, I can't say that he's wrong. His last example actually reminds me of an experience I had. I may have shared about this, but here it is again, briefly.

I had a student, we'll call her "Denise." Denise has some traumatic experiences around abuse when she was an infant. The abuser - her biological father - is in prison and no longer in her life. She, along with her twin sister, who was not abused, is being raised by her mother and loving stepfather. Denise is a sweet child who has some learning disabilities and extreme anger issues when she gets frustrated. For example, if she can't understand something, she might pull every one of the 400 plus books in the classroom off the bookshelf and throw them across the room, grab scissors and stab the white board, rip papers up, and overturn desks. Her behavior was such that we had a meeting very quickly and, since her parents were in complete agreement about Denise needing a different environment, called in the district special education specialist.

Before meeting with the specialist, I was called into the principal's office - a principal who was not generally a bad one - and told that we would be asked some questions. It was all very strange and I would love for someone to shed light on this if it makes sense (Debbie?), but I was told that the principal and I would both be asked if we thought that Denise's emotional problems led to her acting out and her problems with learning. The principal told me that our only option was to say no, that we thought they were totally unrelated. I disagreed and told her so and got something about "district services" and was told again to say no.

I don't really know what that meant, but my guess is that if the child was not responsible for her behavior because of emotional problems, that the district would have to provide services, while if she was responsible, we could just blame the parents and move one. Again, I'd love it if anyone could clear that up.

We had the meeting, with the awful, awful special education woman who was rude, overbearing, and elitist, blaming Denise's mother, who sobbed through the whole meeting. Did I mention that this mother was one of the few mothers I've met with who took responsibility for her child and didn't just deny that there was a problem? She said that she's been wanting help for her daughter for years and she just didn't know how to go about it. Instead of giving her help, the special ed woman just made her feel bad with her condescending ways and flat-out blame.

When it came time for the questions, the principal said that no, she did not think that Denise's emotional problems related to her problems at school. The woman wrote that down and turned to me. I said that I disagreed and that I thought her problem at school had everything to do with her emotional problems. I was asked to restate that. I did. Everyone looked at me and the principal argued. I restated again. The special ed woman dealt with this treachery by being even meaner to the mother who had to leave because she was so upset. I was reprimanded, but - since I already had tenure - couldn't be fired.

The child was placed in a counseling-enriched small special day class where she needed to be and has a full-time aide.

The special ed woman is no longer in the district, the principal has changed schools and I have left.

This is one of the situations that I really, really wish I had videotaped.

1 comment:

justducky said...

You are a brave, brave person to stand up for your educational and personal convictions.

If only more people could be so strong.