I have so many ideas to blog about, and while I try to balance blogging with finishing my dissertation, this post must come first. It’s raw and unedited, but my heart is heavy with this.
This past year we had a student with behavior struggles whom I shall call Erik. Erik was different than his older siblings. He struggled with being in control and would choose what moments he needed to control instead of us. There were days he would refuse to go into the lunch room just because he didn’t like what we were having. He would throw tantrums, destroy classrooms, rip things off the wall, spit on the floors, hit and kick staff, and run the building.
I have to say he had one of the most skilled educators I have ever had the chance of working with as a teacher. She is patient, kind, understanding, forgiving, and wants students in her classroom. Because of this, Erik would cry when he wasn’t allowed to be in class because he wasn’t ready to learn.
So, what did we do? We kept parents informed of his behavior. We taught and retaught the expectations. We created spaces for him to run to when he got mad. We created incentive plans that gave Erik complete control over the rewards. We gave him control in any situation that we could. We gave him choices. We used Love and Logic. We celebrated with him as often as we could.
But what’s more important is what I didn’t do. I say ‘I’ because the responsibility for this needs to rest with me.
I didn’t give Erik’s parents the impression that things were going to be okay and we were going to figure it out. I suspended him. More than once. Because of this, Erik’s parents were grasping for straws. They took him to the doctor, who diagnosed him with ADHD and suggested medication.
This is where my stomach turns upside down and my heart sinks. No, this child does not have ADHD. He has a behavior skill deficit and needs intense instruction and support to be successful.
When Erik’s behavior was at it’s worse, and we were short on staff to help, and all our efforts were failing, I called mom to come and pick Erik up for the day. What did that communicate to her? That I had no idea how to help him. That I was giving up. That Erik didn’t deserve to be at school.
Why in the world did I think suspending him would change that behavior? At school, I have access to collaborate with mental health supports, various behavioral specialists, and countless veteran educators. If parents knew how to change the behavior they would! I am a professional, surrounded by other professionals. I don’t get to give up.
My practice has to change. I can’t, ever again, leave a parent feeling like they are grasping for straws to help their child. I don’t fault the parent nor the doctor in this situation. This is on me. What supports did I offer the parents? Did I use the words “yet” in my communication? What hope did I give them?
I plan to have countless posts in the future about #eduheros, but this situation was an #eduherofail. Erik deserved better.