May 6, 2014

Help Me Understand This

Princess J had a melt down this morning because her group chose an orange piece of butcher paper for their brainstorming assignment... because when given the option, her choice is ALWAYS pink. Never mind the fact that I excitedly reminded her that the orange paper would be PERFECT for using a pink marker. We had tears, folks. Two periods of tears and zero participation.

We're trying so hard to teach her that she can't always have her way. She can't always go first. She can't just take whatever she wants. The world won't revolve around her forever. Her peers are so good about accommodating her to the point that they will put themselves in positions of disadvantage in order to appease her... all the time. But what is this teaching her?

With the exception of this paragraph, my post was written during 4th period. I ran out of time at the end of class and decided to edit when I got home. And... since it was so timely with today's post, I have to inform you that J had ANOTHER meltdown during period 5 that lasted until lunch (7th period) was half over. This time it was because she didn't feel like doing her work. She was supposed to answer ONE question about a text that was read aloud and discussed in class. ONE QUESTION! And we even told her where to find the answer.

I learned recently that her parents are the ones who push for her to be in mainstream classes rather than the functional classes where she would be among students at her same level. I have to admit that I don't understand the rationale for this.

There is not a single activity that we do in the mainstream classes, including note-taking, that she can do without modification. Although I'm not technically a 1:1 aide (and specifically requested so at my interview), that's what I've become. I have to modify every assignment and intervene in her interactions with peers and staff just to get through each period.

I wish her parents were privy to her daily schedule. I wish they knew how often she shuts down in class because the work is just too overwhelming or because it's incredibly boring for her when they might as well be speaking a different language completely. I wish they could see how much she comes to life when she's in her functional math class. Her peer interactions are much greater, and her confidence is apparent.

The reality is that she is not a student who will earn a high school diploma. She will end up in an alternative school where they can help her gain job skills and better prepare her for her future. Knowing this, I wonder why there's such a push to keep her in these classes that cause her to struggle so much.

Does it really matter if she learns the structure of a plant and animal cell? Is it really important that she read a book and do research about brain damage?

I'm fully willing to accept that this may be something I simply can't understand because I'm not a parent of a child with special needs. I know I'll never get the whole picture. But from where I'm standing, it seems like there's a lot of frustration and grief when there could be thriving and happiness. What am I missing here?



  1. I have often thought the same things you have expressed here. I have even gone as far as to ask why we push kids into the mainstream. I say they are kids lost at sea. What I have been told is that at the middle school level they want to say "not yet" to functional classes as if somehow the students still have a chance to get the standard diploma with the magic of more time. I am more of a realist and I don't think I would knock myself out modifying for J. As long as you keep doing that, you give J's parents the same false sense that J can get a standard diploma. I recently had to tell some of my kiddos that if they want me to give them the answers, then that is not standard diploma work and if they want that standard diploma, then they have to do the standard diploma work. I will now step down from the soapbox. :)

  2. Erin, I'm so sorry for you, this student, and all of the other students impacted by this situation. I can understand wanting the best for your child, however some parents don't necessarily understand that differentiation does provide that for our students. :( I hope the rest of the week goes more smoothly!!!

  3. I have often wondered this myself. I have a student who would be better served in classes more on his level. His parents are not the problem as much as we have no other place for him. Fortunately when he shuts down he mostly sits quietly. My kids recently evaluated me and said I was unfair because he got so much of my time. I reminded them that fair was not the "same" but what each student "needs" to be successful but I got the message loud and clear and passed it on. While mainstream is a good thing there needs to be a balance. It is not fair to the other students who need me too. They feel robbed of my time because of one student's extreme struggles. It is also not fair to the student because he is SO overwhelmed.

  4. So...when they meet for Princess J's yearly IEP review, do you get to have any input on the situation? I would think that the other teachers would need to speak up on her progress and mainstreaming in the regular classrooms. Even though parents want her to be mainstreamed, doesn't it have to be a team decision? I'm proud of the other students for being so awesome with her, but they deserve to have things their way sometimes too. I know you have your hands full and love that child with all your heart. I think her parents should have to shadow her for a day!

  5. I am with Alison, mostly because I sit through at least two IEP's each week, but there should be a group decision regarding whats best for everyone. But what do I know. I am also super impressed with her peers, we have a few lifeskills students who go to general pop for electives and their peers are very unkind. Your patience amazes me, I couldn't imagine doing that all day every day!