We face all kinds of obstacles as we seek to move our students through the established curriculum: gaps in knowledge that stop a kid dead in his tracks ("What is this tens and ones stuff?"), severe attention issues, deeply ingrained oppostitional behavior, the distractions provided by the other kids ("Use your ignoring skills, honey; he's eating his boogers on purpose to bug you.") poor nutrition and sleep patterns.... and then the most destructive obstracle--- non-availability for learning due to their pervasive emotional and mental health problems.
And then, the most frustrating obstacle of all---non-responsive or over reactive parent response.
Now, this is where my general education colleagues really share my pain. Parent problems impact all of our teaching lives.
Here's my story of the week:
Sweetie-pie arrives at school, and immediately invited to walk to the counselor's room to settle. He's volatile, throwing his body around impulsively, yelling out both silly and combative things at students and staff, knocking the counselor's stuff off the desk, kicking desks and the wall.... obviously, not ready to be at school. When, 30 minutes later he is still in this frenzied state, he says that he has not had his meds. ("Uncle Johnny forgot to give them to me. Mom was at work and Grandma was gone too.")
The principal called all the contact numbers, but no one answered. She left messages, fully aware that, based on previous experience, a call back was unlikely. We were on our own.
Thank God for our crisis counselor. Because of her (and the staffing formula that allows for the use of one teaching position as a behavior support resource), I was able to teach the children who remained in class. I checked in on Sweetie-Pie and the counselor every 10-20 minutes or so, provided verbal support, and prayed we'd get a call back from the family.
Halfway through the morning, S-Pie's aunt arrived with a baggie of meds. The second S-Pie saw the pills in auntie's hand, he asked pointedly "Where's the blue one?"
"Don't got that one. Here, take these."
My heart sank. I swear, she gave him a generic brown ibruprophin tablet and a white aspirin caplet. I've seen this child's meds before, and these weren't it. And the Grandma once told me the blue one was for his explosiveness.
We were screwed.
I prayed for the placebo effect.
We set up the conference room with books, crayons and paper, a stuffed animal, a bean bag chair and his coat. He snuggled under the long wooden table for 45 minutes, slept on and off, paced around a bit, and tried very very hard to settle himself. He joined our class for lunch, indoor recess and DEAR time, all the while closely watched by me and the IA's. A mid-afternoon meltdown sent him back to the counselor's; he remained there til the last half hour of the day.
It was miserable for him AND for us.
It didn't have to be this way.
But I'd bet a month's salary it'll happen again at least once before the end of this school year.