12 September 2007

Command and Control

Last week when I picked up the munchkins from school, I was swiftly swooped upon by the Educational Assistant (EA) in Bubaloo's class. Not Bubaloo's EA mind you, the EA of another child, because Bubaloo doesn't need an EA according to his Individual Education Plan (IEP).

She was quick to talk to me in the voice she uses with the grade 4 and 5 students to explain all of Bubaloo's unacceptable behaviours. She went on and on about how inappropriate his was acting in class. The whole matter was related in a voice to convey the seriousness of the situation which could be likened to the world coming to an end.

What was Bubaloo's crime? He chose to read in class while he was supposed to be doing other school work.

It's not that he was being rude, aggressive or impulsive. He wasn't physically or verbally lashing out. He wasn't running away.

He didn't know how to do the math and was too embarrassed or frustrated to ask for help. He had completed his science cover page in black and white, and didn't want to colour it, and threw it out when that was requested of him.

We set up a meeting with his teacher to discuss.

When we arrived, his teacher knew nothing about our kid. He hadn't yet bothered to read his IEP or student record. He hadn't met with any of the special ed team to talk about supports and effective strategies in place for working with Bubaloo. He was walking into this meeting blind and expected us to fill in the blanks.

We filled in the blanks for him. Only, he didn't listen to a thing we had to say.

I can sum up his teaching strategy with these notions he repeated over and over - "I can't have one kid not following the rules or doing exactly what the other kids are doing because they'll all want exceptions, too. When we're doing math, he needs not to be reading. We need to tell him to do something once, and we expect it to be done immediately. We expect him to act in the way grade 4 students are expected to act. Are we on the same page?"

No, we as parents, are not on the same page as you.

While I understand and empathise with teachers working in our province, we chose to send our child to a school in the public education system that had an alternative program. The alternative program is supposed to be learner-centred and employ a variety of strategies to teach children. It's not supposed to deliver education as a cookie cutter one-size fits all.

Bubaloo's primary educational challenges are behavioural. The kid, as we found out in one of our last meetings with our social worker five months after the kids were placed with us for adoption which is an entirely different story, has been diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder (ODD).

You cannot tell a kid what to do and expect him to do it right away. You cannot expect him to take accountability for all of his actions immediately. You can't expect him not to argue with adults.

The teacher knows nothing about our child. The teacher doesn't care to learn anything about our child. The teacher doesn't care to stretch his skill set to uncover effective strategies for working with our child. It's command and control. That's it, that's all.

It's going to be one very, very, very long school year.


DaniGirl said...

Oh, reading this made me very angry on Bubaloo's behalf. Even the teacher not being intimately familiar with his circumstances is off-putting, so say nothing of his attitude to Bubaloo's learning needs. I have no assvice for you, as I'm nowhere near that level with the school nor (yet?) facing these sorts of challenges, except to say that I sympathize, and am frustrated right along with you.

Barbara said...

Of all the things you described being present in Bubaloo, you didn't mention a feisty defender in the picture. I'm new to your blog but the way that post and the others I've read are written, I definitely hear the voice of a someone who will defend their kid. Good luck and if a Facebook group, a petition or something else from other Ottawa folks would help, please let me know.