Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The One Where Summer Begins...

...and my sanity nearly ended.

We are done.

With school, that is. For this year.

Whitney Hoffman has a post over at GNMParents called "Child Advocacy or School Adversary?".

I agree with Whitney - I fully agree - and since Twinks began school eight years ago, we have been involved and active at her schools. As a result, we have typically had good, solid relationships with her teachers every year.

Until this year.

This past school year, we have had a teacher who was, quite simply, prejudiced against our daughter. Everyone could see it - the school counselor, the principal, the other teachers.

Why?

Because our daughter is disabled. Because she is NOT a blonde-haired, blue-eyed cheerleader, or an athlete. Because we allow Twinks to dress in her own individual style, rather than encouraging her to be a cookie-cutter kid who dresses like all the other kids. Because this teacher thinks that if she just "tried harder" our daughter could "be normal".

You read it right.

According to this teacher, Twinks just doesn't try hard enough.

Gee. I'm so glad that she has this all figured out. It's not the multiple orthopedic birth defects, or the fibromyalgia, or the asthma, the arrymthia, or anything like that.

No. Twinks just doesn't try hard enough. Why didn't *I* think of that?

Maybe because I've known this child since before she was born.

Maybe because I have reams and reams of medical opinions, diagnosis and lab tests.

When it comes to this teacher, I have tried to be an advocate, and not an adversary, but this year has been terrible. Things came to a head recently when Twinks broke a classroom rule because of one of her disabilities. (and wasn't the first kid this year to do so, either) Twinks couldn't hold a piece of equipment, and asked another student for help. The teacher used this as an excuse to not only punish Twinks, but hold her up in ridicule to others in the class. This in reaction to a child who not only is typically quite well-behaved and well-mannered, but had NEVER broken any of the teacher's rules before, has NEVER been to the principals office in her school career, and has carried all A's for eight years. Is she perfect? No. Is she a good kid? Yes, I believe that she is. Remember - I've been volunteering at her schools on a regular basis since Kindergarten. I see her at school, in the classroom. I see how she interacts with her friends, her teachers, the staff.

So, I talked to the Principal, and the School Counselor. They agreed that the teacher behaved in a fashion that was unprofessional, and that the teacher was out of line. They offered us an alternative, so that Twinks would not have to face that teacher every day for the rest of the school year. They assured us that Twinks grade (a high A) would not be affected by this incident.

I spent the better part of a week dealing with this. At the end, I was still furious, frustrated and amazed that this teacher could believe that Twinks would deliberately disobey her rule. That she believed that if Twinks would only try harder, she would be "normal".

Ever wonder why we consider Homeschooling? It's things like this incident. It's the subtle little digs, the outright discrimination. It's the exhaustion brought on by trying to make one child who is "different" fit into a world that is designed to exclude her.

Thank God that summer is here. And not a moment too soon.

10 comments:

Suldog said...

Some folks just shouldn't be allowed to be in charge of young people. Heading the list is anybody who tries to make young people conform to their idea of "normal", and especially when that hideous person fails to see that there may be extenuating circumstances which make that conformation tremendously harder.

Ugh.

Ericka said...

once again i am in awe of your grace and patience. i'd have had the b*tch fired. but i'm like that.

i can't believe that all those people saw what was going on, agreed that it was wrong and did not really do anything to correct that teacher's attitude. that just sucks.

i'm sorry tink is having a hard time. :-( good thing she's got you, and the wrench, to look out for her.

Mr. Fabulous said...

I would be happy to arrange for this teacher to...take an extended leave of absense.

I have many associates.

Thimbelle said...

Thanks, everyone for the support.

Sully, I completely agree with you. I wish there was a way to prevent people like this teacher from ever being around kids - let alone having some of her own.

Ericka, believe me - I would love to get her fired. However, our teachers locally have a contract that must have been written by old Scratch himself - and our school board has a marked tendency to side with the teacher unless documented physical or sexual abuse has occurred. But I have managed to make things *really* uncomfortable for her at school, and she is on a *much* shorter leash with the Principal than she was...

Mr. Fab - You are too kind. Kindly let your associates know that should we hear another peep out of this old gasbag that they can have her!

I love y'all. Really I do. :)

Kelly said...

You know, it's funny, the whole time you were relaying this story, my mind was screaming, "Homeschool Her!!"

But I would never say you should do that because of one bad teacher ---that's just a part of life. Yet, if you're seeing an ongoing pattern in the overall picture, maybe forgoing the typical American way of schooling, would be a well-deserved break for your whole family.

Have you ever considered homeschooling for these reasons?
-She's your only child, and she's growing up fast. Why not keep her with you more?
-Your Mom lives with you now. Twinks could spend precious time with her that she won't always have.
-Twinks is seemingly a very self-motivated student. She could easily flourish at her own pace and desire to learn.
-No worries with taking time off; for doc visits or fun!

Anyway....good job taking the teacher to task. I hate that you even had to do it.....Thank God school's done! Yay for summer!

Thimbelle said...

Kelly:

Actually, we have seriously considered homeschool before, and this incident has led to more talk of it for next year.

We have also learned that our state now has a "virtual school" where Twinks could attend from home via the computer, and still earn high school credits, still get a diploma, etc.

And I fully agree with every one of your "arguments" - although these days they are looking more like "recommendations" to me!

Thanks for the support! :)

thestraightpoop said...

Oh, this is incredible. Give your Twinks a hug for me. I know a little bit about this as school was painful for me too. Diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at 6, I was forced to stay in PhysEd class even through painful flares of the disease. The worst was having to play volleyball with painful hands that have since had 7 surgeries. I couldn't seem to explain to anyone that I wasn't supposed to be banging them around. Tough times make for tough people, is all I can say.

And thank you for your comment on my blog. What had to go unsaid there is the absolute turmoil I find myself in these days about my current job...so there was more to say and I didn't know how to say it! I think when I have such stress as this I tend to put everything under a microscope and examine all...and that stuff was what I could open up about in case anyone from work came across it...of course they could find this comment too...anyway.

My best to you and yours.

alpharat said...

Yeah, it always amazes me the people they'll let be teachers, almost like many of them want to reshape the world to their own ideal.

At any rate, at least this one is behind you. I hope the Twinkie has an awesome summer, and better teachers in the fall!

Fab Grandma said...

I found your blog through a link on another one I read. Thank you for writing it. I have to say, I have a son who is 35 years old, and was "different" all his life. I struggled through the school system for more than 16 years with him, before he quit school without my permission. I was so angry most of the time with the system, because I could never get the help I needed.

I took him to a child psychologist when he was 14 and had him tested at my own expense, the result was that the "child psychologist" told me my son had all the tools he needed to make it in the world. What?

He has been in the Air Force for more than 13 year now, I think the structured environment of the military has been good for him.

Recently, he was diagnosed as bi-polar and ADD. It took 35 years to get this diagnosis. When he called to tell me what his doctor said, I cried, tears of relief, that finally, finally, there was a name for what was wrong with him, that I was not crazy, that the struggle may finally be over, or at least we know which way to walk on the journey.

I just read the essay about the trip to Holland. Yes, I wanted to go to Italy, but I wound up in Holland with you all. And you know what, even with all the different things I saw, instead of Italy, it hasn't been all that bad a trip after all.

Ericka said...

contract. *snort* now that you have these lovely lawyers on retainer, maybe you should have one of them send a letter to the school board with these magic words "lawsuit, discrimination, disability" listed somewhere.

they may just trample themselves backpedaling. teachers like this one give the entire profession a bad name and they should be glad to see her go.

of course, occasionally, i'm an idealist.

or you could just homeschool her.