Monday, April 18, 2005

The Least of Their Troubles.....

I’ve used this space to complain about the inadequacies and inequities of NCLB and its application in my home state of Virginia. It’s been a kind of release, really, to pound out my ideas about this important and dramatic piece of legislation; after all, my colleagues and I face the consequences of this culture of change every day.

I’ve said this before… It’s not that I’m against accountability. It’s just that for many of our emotionally disabled students, the path to academic achievement isn’t easily illuminated. And yet they are being held to the same standards as general education students….

It’s like being in a game of flashlight tag without a flashlight. (You know flashlight tag, don’t you? Tag, at night, in the dark….)

But today I was reminded that NCLB is, for many of our kids, the least of their troubles:

Daryl spent much of this morning under a desk, crying the rhythmic, wailing pitch of an infant. It had all become too much for him when he was asked to take turns during a PE activity.

Stephenie walked through her day with robotic, painful self-control. The prospect of letting go a little and risking any misbehavior meant sure, swift punishment at home. Her momma’s kind of punishment left no marks but was torture nonetheless. So she held on; kept it together. No mistakes. No fun. Not much learning.

Bobby ran off from his day care provider this morning; we didn’t find this out until later in the day. But by then he had been aggressive and out-of-control for the better part of the morning, spent some time in the isolation booth, and missed most of his reading and writing lessons.

Last week, Cheyenne’s new medication schedule had her wound up so tight she could hardly get through a 20 minute academic lesson without screaming about the other kid’s looking at her crooked. Today, she was back to her original dosage, noticeably calmer, but, no doubt, left to wonder about her unpredictable “bad” behavior.

Finally, the scratched, tender spot on Mrs. W.’s hand was hardly noticeable today. It had healed some since Kyle went at her last week, clawing and pounding at her in an angry frenzy. Most of us teachers have marks like this, some permanent scars, some invisible now, but all still a bit raw.

These are our kids, and no doubt, you know kids like this too. It’s true, in an informal group of educators, someone is likely to lament the recent increase in children with more complicated, challenging behavior and emotional problems. ( I certainly notice a difference in the kids who have come through our doors these last 16 years.)

So,despite the growing numbers and/or increasingly intense problems, I worry that it is they, our most fragile and dependent kids, who will ultimately be left behind. That, and not any test, is what keeps me up at night.

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