Thursday, October 08, 2009

Day #27 II

Fairly regularly I'll get home, have a glass of wine, read for a while on the couch, do the NYT crossword (or a portion), watch some bad cable news show, and then find myself frozen by an event at school which I'd repressed earlier.

I don't know how to describe this, but certain things happen at work which I just have to file away for later processing in order to keep going. I see something so disturbing and wrong and sad that I just say "not now" and drop it into a temporary emotional holding cell for later. Today the AP was in my room lecturing the kids about the Golden Rule when she saw Ear Ache in the corner. "You are supposed to be in 6-12 now. I told you this morning."

A little background: Ear Ache is a devil, one of the energetic special ed kids who can derail an entire class with his machinations. I have him in homeroom and first period, and he's rather calm for me. He still disrupts class with his antics, his Tourette's-like announcements of ass-kickings he will un-leash, his shootings of rubber bands, his continuous spastic movements. But he stays in his chair for me because I called his house once and he's terrified I'll do it again.

Ear Ache wears me out because every question, every text, every thing I do or assign he has to have read to him carefully one-to-one, and I often have to go through texts with him, asking leading questions to get him to the answer. I am pretty busy in the class room and he makes my life exponentially more difficult. But Ear Ache tries really hard with his rudimentary skills, and he gets the answer correct rather often. The other kids call him stupid and retarded and he always defends himself fiercely, and to be frank I've grown rather attached to his annoying needy little self. He's funny, he's scrappy, he made me a drawing of a pimped-out race car which I hung on my wall, and I don't mind taking the time to help him.

So when an assistant principal told him in front of all the other kids that he was supposed to be in what the kids refer to as the "retard class," Ear Ache was devestated. I'd been in on the meetings where this move was discussed, and though my input was that I had little trouble with him, the other teachers--who have him later in the day, at more active times--were pretty insistent that he needed to be taken from the inclusive environment and put into more appropriate services. I thought: he might benefit from this. I'm rather skeptical about the whole inclusive idea anyway. I sympathize with the idealism behind it, but in my experience special ed children don't get the services they need in general ed classes, and then they act out spectacularly and NO ONE gets an education.

But when the AP made her announcement this morning she continued on with her Golden Rule schpiel to the class, never once considering the brand she'd just applied to Ear Ache in front of his peers. I was next to him at the other side of the room. "Mr. Godfrey!" he pleaded, big eyes welling. "I don't want to move over there. I want to stay here." Instead of his usual smiling, intense, and robust carriage, he was slumped down in his seat with his chin on the table. Tears were streaking down his cheeks. "Mr. Godfrey, I really want to stay here." I put my hand on his head and told him he could visit me every morning and come use my computers after school every day, but his crying got worse. "I'm not stupid," he said. "No, you are not stupid, Ear Ache. It will be OK," I said. The kids around him all laughed and said "he is stupid." During a fucking lecture on the Golden Rule! And then Ear Ache said "Can I have some extra credit? Can I stay here if I do extra credit."

Down the memory hole for a while with that one!

The AP took Ear Ache away, resisting and crying, and then he came back with a note from the counselor that he will transfer on the first day of next term. I still have a few weeks with him, and I think I'm going to fight to keep him in my general inclusion class, pain in the ass tho he is.

I just find it weird that I can witness this, completely submerge it and teach all day, and then burst into tears unaccountably nine hours later and have to figure out what the fuck I'm thinking about.


Swanksalot said...

I really don't know how you survive it, man. I would be in tears every day for the 3 weeks I would last as a teacher. I'm tearing up just reading about this one incident, about some kid I don't know, and I'm not even drunk.

Anonymous said...

this doesn't surprise me very much... I feel like it's your brain's only defense in order to finish any given day... to just deal with the problems at hand, and sort out the meaning and rationale (or lack of) once you are out of the situation. I am soooo sorry to hear about these terrible events. I just can't imagine a day where you DON'T get affected by them, or find yourself replaying them and reassessing them. I stay awake most of the night every night, replaying my day, and going over and over the things that went wrong and how to learn from them or prevent them in the future. When so many things are so terribly wrong and it's so much out of your hands, I can't imagine any other reaction other than what you described. I would no doubt do the same. you have to know, though, that these thoughts and feelings are the very thing that make you successful at this, and more than successful, NEEDED as well. Your kids may front and posture, but no doubt they need you too. PLEASE be well. It's far too easy to replay all that went (and is) wrong. You can only do the best YOU can. I feel like YOUR best is something that your class will benefit from greatly (even if THEY don't realize it till long after, too!)
:) jv

Nyarlathotep said...

I much prefer, frankly, those events which pop up the same day. I hate the ones which linger for a while and I remember them months later, usually in the middle of the night.

Heather said...

Ugh, middle school is so hard. Kids are just brutal. Poor Ear Ache. In the face of all the other challenges the kids you teach have, I sometimes forget that they're also going through all that normal adolescent shit. It's amazing that any of them survive it.

Nick said...

As a parent of a kid who has to hear some of that mess and as a former kid who, if currently attending these schools today, would have heard it too--THANKS for your compassion.

Denise Hagvall said...

Here's the saddest part of what you do. You'll feel bad tonight, and I'm sure that kid will too. But you'll never know five years from now when that kid, for some reason unknown maybe even to him, stands up for someone being unjustly hurt. One of my favorite quotes by Alice Walker, there's good everlasting and bad everlasting, and everlasting is a mighty long time.

Steven Hart said...

Did the parents sign off on that transfer?

My wife has three words for you: least restrictive environment. Every kid is entitled to FAPE: Fair And Appropriate Education. It sounds like a special ed class would not meet that standard for Ear Ache. He'd going in with kids who are cognitively impaired, and that's not him. And here are two more words: due process. His folks need to get a copy of the parental rights document, PRISE, and the parents have a legal right to get that. Parents can fight placement if they choose. Of course, maybe Ear Ache doesn't have anybody at home watching his back. So the situation is made even sadder by being unnecessary.

Nyarlathotep said...

The problem I have is that kids like Ear Ache need someone to sit with them continuously. I obviously can't do that with more than 20 students in the room, almost all of whom are two years below reading level, and there are two other Ear Aches in my class first period with IEPs. Are they getting ANY education in my class? Are the other studenst losing out because I have to spend time with him? And my first period class is not the most problematic. I have 6 LRE kids in my last period class, which currently has 24 kids, and I am alone aside from a 15-minute visit from a special educator. Second period I have four kids who are much more academically needy than Ear Ache, and emotionally disturbed to boot, plus two IEPs at about his academic level, and I have no help that period.

These laws are grand in intent, but they are un-funded mandates, and B'more City and my school don't have the funds or the staff necessary to keep these kids in an inclusion setting with the attention and services they require. Of course I don't want to cast him out, but maybe he'd do better in the non-inclusion class? There are excellent teachers in those rooms, but I worry about the other students bullying him over there. At my old school I always had a special educator in the room each period, for the entire period, alongside several designated one-on-one assistants for students like Ear Ache. Those luxuries are gone. Classes with more than 20% special ed inclusion are supposed to have special educators in them at all times. It doesn't happen in my classes. Not only do the LRE kids suffer, but their demands make the entire class suffer.

On Friday we used a practice book to go over text features and there was an article on the debate about Pluto being a planet or big rock in space. We read about how big Pluto is in relation to Earth's moon and Ear Ache said "They blew up the moon!" He'd seen on the news a story about the lunar probe last week--he makes great connections when we read texts together, though he's hard to keep focused.

As for parents, Ear Ache's aunt and uncle were in my school recently to check up on him--I'm not sure where his parents are.