Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A New Concern

I've been told it's provocative to call anything a rant. As a result I will couch this collection of thoughts in the form of loose prose or free verse. But really.....

I teach. I am the daughter of a teacher and the mother of a teacher. I know my stuff. One of my earliest memories is setting up my stuffed toys in front of my blackboard in my room and teach them letters and numbers. I taught my kids in the ways normal parents do-through a combination of structure, repetition, extortion, threats and love. My kids grew up to be very good kids. I am proud of all of them. I think my husband and I did things right by them. There were soccer teams and ballet recitals, band concerts and plays. We supported them, we watched them, we participated. I am nearly 60 and I am deeply worried about today's youth.

I have taught for quite awhile. I have had other jobs as well. I've been in sales. I've been a graphic designer. I even stayed home and did the volunteer thing for a few years. It isn't working that is causing parents to become meaningless entities to their children-it is the isolation of social media. Fifteen years ago, when I returned to the classroom, cell phones were rarely owned by students. Some of the older kids from wealthier families provided them for kids, but for the most part it was rare. Today kids from the age of nine have phones. And the phones they possess have all the internet access of my first PC. These kids have secret lives, habits, friends and activities that their parents do not know about. Sadly, in many cases it appear that the ego of the parents doesn't allow them to believe their children could ever EVER do anything wrong. I beg to differ.

We have students who are in serious, precarious positions and as teachers we can do little about it. This goes beyond drinking and drugs into some seriously dark areas of our culture. I have to wonder what a kid is thinking when they intentionally don the persona of alternative lifestyles for the purpose of popularity. Don't be fooled by the goofy face of anime and events like A-con-there are some very dark and dangerous places on that road. Too many parents mistake animation for childish. Ask any Japanese businessman if the comics he reads on the train ride home are fit for his five year old to enjoy.

More than this is the benign neglect of parents. Too many of the current generation of 30 somethings are so busy navel gazing they ignore their children until something happens then they attack at will. This is doubly so with special needs students. We have parents who bully ridiculous IEP's from schools under the threat of lawsuits. I've seen everything from allowing a student who was bipolar with Down's Syndrome jump up and down in a general ed classroom of 34 to release tension to allowing an emotionally disturbed six foot four male to threaten to kill a teacher every single day of a term until he was removed for threatening a school board member's daughter. While ADA was meant to provide an adequate education to students with challenges who were capable of on level work, it is now being used to force districts to provide what amounts to free daycare and medical hospice facilities in the schools for special needs students who are living in attendance zones. What is more, while teachers and counselors can currently disagree with outrageous demands made by parents in ARD's and renegotiate the agreement, starting in September anything a parents wants they can get. Anything. It's a blank check.

So while your kid sits in an overcrowded classroom with not enough computer access or enough books next year because your school can't afford those things, remember that the special needs kids down the hall may have teachers and aides on a one to one ratio and be provided with everything from special meals, facilities, equipment and transportation. While nobody wants to deprive any students who can learn, is this really the best use of our money to provide daycare for special needs students? Shouldn't we be more worried about those kids who are able to learn who are falling through the cracks? There used to be schools and training facilities to allow special needs children to learn to make the most of their lives. Those have been closed by the same parents who are bullying schools into compliance.

I look at my class of over 30 and I know at least five will be special needs or ELL. I know I will have to document everything they do every day. I know that at least one, and maybe two, should be in an AVLS or BIC room because their behavior and comprehension is way out of line. But ADA ties our hands, allowed regular classrooms to be disrupted by students who cannot handle the pressure of regular educational settings. The parents insist on this type of setting because they desperately want their kids to be normal. They want to pretend that by being in a general education classroom they are learning the same stuff. For awhile the students do try to be kind and tolerate the behavioral upsets. But by the end of the year, those same students resent that they have no time to have their questions or concerns addressed. They are tired of having their projects destroyed and being lashed out at by students who cannot control themselves. Whatever sympathy the parents that push ADA standards hoped to engender is lost when other students get stuck taking up the slack.

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