It’s 8 am. The kids are pulling in to school after a long break. Mrs. S. enters the main office to ask, calmly but assertively, to speak to the Principal. He greets her with confusion and concern. Mrs. S. reports that she needs to talk with her son’s Social Studies teacher, NOW!
She has prepared this speech in her mind many times, mostly when she is about to fall asleep or when she has just awoken – when her resistance is low and her thinking is most uncluttered.
“Mr. M.” she begins, “How dare you embarrass my son as you have. Putting a seventh grade boy out in the hall? I recognize that he has been distracting in your class, perhaps annoying and frustrating you as you try to teach your lessons. However, what gives you the right, the belief, that it is acceptable for you to humiliate him in front of his friends and peers?”
At this point Mr. M. begins to squirm in his seat, but Mrs. S. doesn’t even notice – she is releasing years of built up anger and frustration. She continues:
“Mr. M., we have spoken several times in the past. I began the year outlining to you the challenges that my son faces. I expressed concern that his ADHD manifests itself in restlessness and lack of focus. I have offered assistance and support in working with my son. When my son expressed feeling hated and ridiculed by you I tired to show him your point of view – that you have an entire class to teach and it must be difficult to manage his sometimes fidgety, disruptive behavior.
Well, I have come to the painful conclusion that I did him wrong. He may not always do his best, he may call out sometimes without waiting his turn, he may make noise tapping his pencil, he may even be rude or disrespectful in the way he expresses himself to you. But, none of that gives you the right to humiliate him and send him out in the hall as a way of dealing with your own frustration.
ADHD is a disability. His mind shuts down when he becomes bored or pressured. Not easy to believe, in fact many assume that statement is an excuse for laziness and rudeness. I expected that teachers understood this disability that affects roughly 9% of the school age population, but as I have experienced year after year, meeting after meeting, this condition is not given the attention and action that it so desperately needs.
Mr. M., You have succeeded in giving my child memories that he will never forget for the rest of his life, one’s he will no doubt painfully share with his children about the teacher who didn’t know how to cope. The person who didn’t know how to do something as simple as help him learn appropriate ways to deal with his disability in a caring and positive manner.”
How to Educate a Teacher About Your Child
Many parents take a proactive role in learning all they can about their child’s disability and how to best support their growth. Resources exist to offer education, tools and strategies all aimed at providing a range of support. Unfortunately, the reality is that parents often know more than the teachers charged with educating their child regarding the best practices for managing learning and behavior. Finding a way to respectfully convey that information is the key. Here are some strategies that may help:
Begin the year with a brief, personal description of your child’s disability that includes the “softer” points beyond the testing results. How does he best learn, how is he motivated, what are his triggers, what has worked in the past, etc.
Emphasize the importance of discretion and privacy. Discuss specific strategies the teacher utilizes when children don’t listen or are disruptive. Offer your own suggestions if you have additional ideas.
Discuss with your child, perhaps along with the teacher if appropriate, how they can work together when things are difficult and not going well. Emphasize that the goal is not punishment; rather it’s to solve problems and gain skills.
Give the teacher a few choice articles or resources about your child’s disability.
If you do run into a situation where a teacher is not working well with your child, remember that this is a learning process for all concerned. Have a conversation with the teacher where you focus on expressing your concerns and work together to find more appropriate responses and tools to help the teacher help your child. Also talk with your child to help them develop the skills of appropriate self-advocacy so they can protect themselves when you are not there to help them.