Little Man is quite the complex puzzle of a kid. But then again, I suppose most kids are at least a little bit of a puzzle. Well, this one is what some people call an alphabet kid: he wears a handful of diagnoses with all sorts of letters, like SPD, ADHD, dyslexia, and anxiety.
He’s been growing up and is definitely in those tween years (he’s firmly into his eleventh year now) where his interests are less with his parents and more with his friends (as it should be). And school is still his least favorite place to be.
But, so far this year, Little Man has been having his best year in terms of being able to get off to school and deal with his time there, that he’s had since kindergarten… until last week. He came down with a nasty cold just before last weekend and missed that Friday’s school. When Monday came around, he had slept so poorly the night before that I let him crawl back in bed, missing Monday’s school. There is something about when he’s severely congested that makes paying attention in school and having to process everything around him, very difficult.
Tuesday was only a half day, so Little Man went off to school with no issues. But, when Wednesday came around, the shit hit the fan. Crying and whining and “I’m so tired” and everything came out of that boy. He was far enough in his cold and had already gone back to school so I couldn’t figure out what the big flack was about. Then, something he said about the class’s upcoming Valentine’s party hit home. It dawned on me what was probably going on.
Little Man’s teacher has a limited set of tools that she uses to try to keep her classroom quiet. She either yells or uses threats such as reducing or taking away recess or privileges such as class parties. The problem with all of these tools is that they really bother Little Man a lot. I mean a huge, big-time lot. (And they are a short-term fix that doesn’t really work).
This kid is so exquisitely sensitive that he can’t stand to be yelled at. And when his class is being reprimanded for something he might not have done himself, he takes it very personally. When this sort of blanket punishment tool is used, the kids who do not talk are not singled out; they get punished too, like it or not. And he has no control over losing recess when the kids who can’t keep their mouths shut are having a gabby day. Recess for him is a physical and emotional necessity. He can get into a helpless and hopeless cycle that really brings him down.
What clicked in my brain was when Little Man was telling me that the teacher had written the words Valentine’s Day on the board in the classroom. Each time the class got too noisy, she’d erase a letter. When all letters were gone, the kids would lose their Valentine’s Day party. By two days before the party, all letters had been erased. However, the kids could do things to earn back letters. Sound like a good system, right?
Well, the problem is, Little Man knew this was just a way of trying to manipulate the class’s behavior, and no matter how they behaved, they’d earn back the party. He knew that the party would happen, despite all sorts of threats. And for the days leading up to the party the class would be a rollercoaster of emotions as they earned back and lost letters. He sees right through his teacher’s tactics and all it does is piss him off and make him depressed in his powerlessness.
And this is why he didn’t want to go to school on Wednesday. I made him go anyway. He was so pissed; but he survived.
He’s growing up to be such a fine young man. I don’t like the way this teacher punishes the whole class because of a few.
Unfortunately it’s how it’s been done for years. There are other ways, but I don’t know any forward thinking teachers in our district who have been teaching for, say, 20 years, who are open to new ideas of how to manage their class. It’s too bad because Positive Discipline has a great way of doing things (Positive Discipline in the Classroom).
He’s going to make one hell of a grown-up someday:). You just watch.
Thanks Kay. Some days I can’t wait to see what he’s doing and what he’s like when he’s in his late 20’s and 30’s. I know he’s going to be amazing.
He’s so smart & intuitive. Sounds a lot like his mom 🙂 My sons are like that too. My oldest knew right away when a teacher was…lets just say, “off”. Every time I met the teacher, my son was dead on! My youngest boy is the same. With you on his side, he’ll be sure to continue to strive 🙂
Thanks for reading! And yes, my boy is VERY intuitive and smart. I just wish the school system was designed for his strengths. But then again, our educational system doesn’t strive to teach us about our intuition, how to use it, that we all have it, and how valuable and important it is for each one of us.
It’s so hard to see our kids struggle, but so wonderful to see that they are able to figure things on their own… eventually they are able to get beyond immaturity, and deal with these systems at school, in social groups, in life. But as a parent, it never gets easier to watch.
Dawn, thanks for chiming in. Yes, as a parent, when our kids struggle it’s tough.
It’s so hard to watch a little boy become an 11 year old, and the struggles are bigger on the one hand, but they become more able to take it on, we hope.
Hmmm I don’t know much about elementary ed but that teacher sounds like she was trained in the dark ages. Hope things are going well for your son and that there are more good (and non-sick) days in the near future.
Thanks Aussa. The way my son’s teacher handles keeping her class quiet is to use the rewards/ punishment system. This system has been used to discipline kids in the home and at school forever. But it only works for about 5 minutes. And over time, it really doesn’t work because it doesn’t address why the problem keeps happening. Once I discovered something called Positive Discipline, I was sold. It’s a big bag of tools that doesn’t use punishment; it uses teaching.
And thanks, the kiddo is definitely better, and he’s (not happily) off to school this morning.
Oh I remember when I was teaching a class with more than its fair share of challenges, having some expert woman breeze in and try to impose a system rather like that. It was another of those methods that punishes everyone, in the hope that peer pressure will convince the noisy or disruptive kids to behave well.
Short-sighted, stupid, patronising and going nowhere near the actual problem. I’m afraid I told her where she could stick it.
Either the teacher needs to do her own dirty work and deal individually with children who make it hard for others to teach and learn, or better yet, she needs to figure out what is going on in those kids’ lives to cause the challenging behaviour, and get them some help.
If it’s no more than a bit of noisiness, maybe she just needs to get a new job!
Jan, thanks for chiming in! I wish you were my son’s teacher.
Me too! I’d love to meet him x