Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Me, Myself, and Moi

Heaving a great sigh, Suisan started writing her long overdue post in order to bring her faithful readers up to date with her life from late August through today.

1. School Board is better. Much better.
2. My youngest is in Kindergarten. Yay!
3. My eldest is in Middle School and loving it.
4. My Son. Oy. My Son. My son's teacher. My son's entire thrid grade so far.
5. Because number 4 has been so stressful, I've been glomming most of the Risky Regencies backlist. I've read an insane number of very well written Regency novels. At some point I'm simply going to type the titles out with a quick recommendation on each. But not today.

Let's go back to Number 4, because it's the one area of my life which has completely absorbed me. School started August 21, and since that time, my son has visited the Principal's office a record number of times. He tests at being at "advanced" levels for English and Math, but he's getting D's and F's this year. Essentially because he a) hates his teacher, b) refuses to do work for her, c) loses his temper whenever he's frustrated, and d) is much more frustrated this year than ever before.

For every misdemeanor, every infraction of rules, he receives a further restriction in his activities in school. He missed a field trip to the Monet exhibit (and neither my son nor I can actually remember *why* his ability to go was yanked), he's not allowed now to go out on the playground before or after school and is not going outside during recess. He's eight. No recess.

The school is trying to test him into Special Ed. I'm meeting with psychiatrists, having phone consultations with therapists, and everyone agrees that something has to be done for him immediately. Except "immediately" in the public school system takes about three months.

We're working on the diagnosis that perhaps he has Asperger's, or ADD combined with Depression, or some combination of the three. In any event, he's oppositional and rageful. He tears papers if he cannot understand the directions, he flat-out hates his teacher, and he's having a miserable year.

So, of course, everyone else is fairly miserable too. And, really, if I were a different sort of person, I'd ambush his teacher after school and dip her head in diesel fuel. I've come to hate her too. We've met. We've talked. We've met with the teacher and the principal. We've met with the teacher, the principal, and the school psychologist. I've asked the teacher repeatedly to be communicative with me so that I can support her from home.

She smiles. She talks in a high baby voice, and she smiles again. She sings a good morning song to the kids every morning. Third Grade. Third grade songs? I hate her. She also enjoys whispering when she's beginning to get angry. I hate her. She pretends that she's listening, but then she comes back with, "The other children in the class are able to take responsibility for their behavior."

Fuck you too. Because if my son could truly control his behavior he would. Instead, I come to pick him up at the school office to hear him say, "I had a brain stem problem today." Or, "I couldn't stop being angry." Or, "This is a horrid experience." The principal loves him, gives him hugs and tells him how proud she is of him when he's calm. The custodian puts his name in for recognition for helping him, without being asked, to clean up under the tables after lunch. The librarian giggles with him over the newest book he's reading. But his teacher reminds him again and again and again that he's not like the other kids in her class.

I've told her again and agan that my son cannot cope with abrupt changes in his environment. The principal has told her this too. On Monday, the entire class left the classroom (Warning Bell Number One should go off here) went to the library and had a lecture from a parent volunteer (Bell Number Two) and were introduced to the PTA book sale. "OK kids! Here are all the books you can buy if your parents sent you to school with money. If you don't have money, then just fill out this form, and maybe your parents will buy you what you want." (Bell Number Three--tell an angry, disappointed kid to do paperwork?) Instead of telling me, the parent, beforehand that his class was going to visit the library and get a sales pitch from a parent, she waited until he blew up. I would have come to school to help him. To Help You, Ms. Teacher. Instead, she called me and asked me to come pick him up from school because he had already lost his temper. I hate her.

I kept him home yesterday. We took the dog for a walk by the ocean (my son fell in, but enjoyed himself immensely), played Yahtzee, and did his schoolwork. This morning he's at school again in the morning, and then I'm pulling him in the afternoon. I told the teacher this morning. She says, "Oh. Is there a plan I'm not aware of?"

Yes. The plan where I have to step in and protect my kid from your passive-agressive whispering whiny behavior. The plan where I've been at the school for meeting after meeting, crying in the principal's office because my kid got slapped around again by you. The plan where I simply cannot take this anymore and will hold him home for as many days as I can until we FINALLY get some fucking assistance for this child and get him out of your class. That plan.

But, you know, the school board stuff is really getting quite a bit better. It's good to have balance in one's life.


Bev (BB) said...

Oh, Suisan, I feel for you. There's an excellent book called Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School that I loved reading. Yes, it is written by a home school advocate but is more geared to helping parents who can't "afford" to home school find ways to support their child's learning within the system. Or maybe in spite of it at times.

And sometimes that's what it comes down to. Been there, done that so feel free to email me if you want to vent on this one.

jmc said...

I have a cousin with Asbergers who did horribly in public school. It was an okay public school on the sliding scale of achievement scores, etc., but not great, and the discipline was a bit lax. Homeschooling was not an option, so his mom ended up putting him in private school. It wasn't an uber-expensive prep but a small one affiliated with a church (not their church and no religion or prayer as part of class). The discipline and structure worked much better for him than public school, as did the smaller class size. His grades have improved, as has his attitude about school and structured learning. He's going to graduate next spring; college may or may not be in his immediate future, but is much more likely (and possible!) now than it was two or three years ago, when he was on the verge of expulsion.

Although, now that I think about it, it probably wouldn't send the best message to be on the school board and have your child not attending the public school. :)

Megan Frampton said...

Oh, Suisan. I feel your pain, I do. It is so hard when an adult in authority doesn't get it. I hope your son gets the help he needs--and deserves!

I'm glad the school board is better, and that all three are in school now. Take a lot of deep breaths.

Suisan said...

Bev--thanks for the book rec. I'll look into that one--sounds like it mimics my philosophy regardless of any child's behavior. (My daughter could really use a better math curriculum.)

JMC--I'm shrugging my shoulders at the school board vs. private school issue. I have two other kids in public school. If the voters can't count to three then I'll just have to live with that. (The BOard president just got overwhelmingly re-elected. All of his kids have attended our schools; only his youngest is still in public. The older girls both attend private school. Some people go after him for it, but really, can you deny the commitment to public schools he has already? At least he attends every board meeting...which is more than I can say for most grouchy parents.)

Megan--This one really doesn't get it. So pisses me off. And just to add insult to injury: she's a member of the teacher's union executive board. I've worked with her on some political projects, and I've heard her spout the same crap over and over about "the love of the individual child", "supporting individual learning styles", and "loving each student." Yeah, right. Asperger's seems like it's going to be the diagnosis that fits though--it would be a relief to get some handle on this.

Marianne McA said...

I hope you get a diagnosis soon. Sometimes, when you've an actual word to wave at teachers, it gets easier. But she just sounds like a poor teacher. It's as if she's putting the responsibility for his success at school on to his shoulders, rather than seeing it as her job.
I'm a great believer in sucking up to teachers - 'You are a wonderful educationalist, and I know you understand...' - if she sings merry songs every morning, she might even believe you - but yes, I'd be quietly checking out other schools. I remember being told at teacher training college that we had to remember that a year was a quarter of a four year old's life, and no-one has the right to make someone else unhappy for a quarter of their life.

Suisan said...

It's as if she's putting the responsibility for his success at school on to his shoulders, rather than seeing it as her job.

Well, yes. That IS her educational philosophy. I just found some articles her husband and she co=qrote from a few years back where they spell this out very clearly. Which is an interesting point of view, one which I would be happy to debate with her at length over a glass of wine someday. However, she refuses to interpret my son as having a disability--which is an enormous flaw in her teaching ability. Rather like a canyon of misunderstanding.