Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Despair and Frustration
I'm not really angry so much as frustrated. I'm frustrated that people who have never been part of the public education system, or who haven't been part of it since they graduated from high school, are presuming to tell me that they know better than I do how to do my job. I'm frustrated by politicians who can't get along and who are so divided along party lines that they make decisions that go contrary to everything they truly believe in, simply because they vote with their party instead of the people they were elected to represent. I am frustrated that money has become such a driving motivation in our society that the most valued and respected individuals are people like Bill Gates; a man who is probably perfectly nice but is respected and valued for his money, not his beliefs or even his actions. I'm frustrated that no one talks about the elephant in the educational room; the fact that kids whose parents do not care about or support their education have a much more difficult time in school - no matter WHO their teacher is. I'm frustrated that no one recognizes that the charter schools that do work tend to require parent involvement and can both admit and expel students based on rules that no public school could get away with. I'm frustrated that the myth that teachers are overpaid and underworked STILL floats around today....I saw it this morning in the comments on the article linked above.
Yesterday I had an IEP meeting for a student in my 2nd period. IEPs, for those of you reading the blog who aren't teachers and are still reading (Hi dad!), is short for Individual Education Plans and are put in place for Special Education students. They are supposed to set individual learning goals for students dealing with issues like ADHD, dyslexia and other learning disabilities, or physical issues that prevent them from being able to do what is expected from other students. It's one of the beauties of the American public education system....our firm belief that all students can learn, that all students can be successful, and that all kids should be allowed to come to school for free. We do what it takes to make that happen.
The meeting yesterday was for a student I'll call Levi, who is unmedicated ADHD, and has ADHD so severely that he is almost unable to function. Having ADHD is like being on that old game show where you tried to catch money flying around a plastic box you were standing in. It was almost impossible to catch any of the money, and what you did catch was almost as impossible to hang on to. That is what an ADHD kid's brain is like. The money is the thoughts. They try desperately to catch those thoughts flying around their brain and it's really hard. If they do catch a thought, they can't hang on to it. The higher the fan is turned up, the harder it is to catch those thoughts. Medication turns the fan down, makes the thoughts slower and easier to catch, and easier to hang on to. Levi's dad doesn't believe he has ADHD and refuses to medicate him. In his words, "well, I was a little hyper when I was a freshman, and I grew out of it."
Levi's condition is so severe that he literally cannot do work unless a teacher is standing next to him pointing at the question. If someone does that, he can read and answer the question, but then has no capability to move on to the next step. He does not have the capability to work independently. Levi is in one of my smaller classes, but there are 24 kids in that class.The only way I can give him the one on one attention that he needs is to devote all my time and attention to just him and completely ignore the other 23 kids, including another high needs special ed kid. One solution is to put Levi in a different special education history class. But so much money has been cut from education, specifically from programs for struggling learners like special education and English Language Learners, that there is no money to do that.
I do not believe that money is the solution to the problems in education. However, I do believe that this is one case where more money would directly benefit my students. I want Levi to succeed. But it is not going to happen in my classroom. I hate myself for accepting that, but have no idea what to do, since the fact of the matter is that Levi does not have supportive parents, does not have access to a doctor that would deal with his medical issues, and does not live in an area where money is spent on special education services. And those points bring us back to the cuts that were made in the budget. Every cut will directly affect Levi.
All of this is the reason for my frustration, despair, and general malaise. I know things will get better, but it would be nice if something good happened soon.