Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Dark Side of the Classroom

From “The Dark Side” File

    A boy is in my class.  We’ll call him Chuck.  He is severely ADHD and is on medication.  When he comes to school before his meds have “kicked in” (his words) he has to stay out of the classroom until he becomes “normal.”  He will pace briskly up and down the sidewalk yelling random multi-syllabic words, like “cappuccino” and “Deuteronomy.”  This causes all classroom doors up and down the courtyard to slam shut.
    For a while I had him wait in the office, but this proved to be too disrupting to all of the office personnel and the things of importance that they were doing in there.  “He was swinging from the upper window ledge!”
    A simple solution to this problem would be for him to have his meds administered a bit earlier, but for reasons to be soon discovered, his parents were unable to perform this task.
When Chuck, first came to be in my class, I had the foolish notion that he should do his (modified) homework.  I paid him a home visit one afternoon to take him the papers he had forgotten.  There was a bedroom dresser in his front yard.  It was raining.  His father and another man were sitting in the garage drinking beer.  I handed the work to him and skedaddled right out of there!  I never saw the completed homework.
As the days went on, I began to see that the regular classroom was too much for him to handle.  I spoke to the Powers about this matter.  The ball was put in motion, but the education ball rolls very slowly.
 I began to discover things about this child’s family situation.  First, a good friend of mine, who was a retired teacher informed me that she had taught both of Chuck’s parents and was devastated when she discovered that they had gotten together and produced offspring.  She had taught Chuck’s older sister the year before she retired, and found her to be a sweet, pathetic creature.  She had spent the year trying to help her with self-esteem problems.
The next thing I discovered was that this girl, (now in the 7th grade), was taken out of the home because her father had molested her.  When I say, “molested” I am talking completely and sexually, and in his mind, they had a relationship.  When I read the report it made me sick.  Reading reports of child abuse is not new to me, but this one was full of disgusting dialogue.  This little girl is now living with her grandmother.
Now, the thing that shocked me the most, here, is that the mother chose this man who had done an unspeakable thing to her little girl, OVER her little girl.  I am not easily shocked after teaching for so many years, but this was beyond my realm.
 (I saw the girl in the market, buying sodas for a church party.  She is absolutely the sanest member of the family.  She said she missed Chuck, but not her parents.)
Just as I thought I had heard it all, I found out that the father had a girlfriend who had three children, and they were all living with Chuck and his family.  They were living in the house that Chuck’s recently deceased grandmother had left to his mother.  Chuck’s mother was the only one who had a job. So, in addition to providing the inherited house, she was supporting her disgusting husband, his girlfriend, her children, and Chuck, plus some “uncle,” who liked to take Chris’ meds.  (Of course this was merely hearsay, but was reported to CPS as such)
Meanwhile, Chuck continues to come to school every morning with his “breakfast” (i.e., something sugary from the 7-11) and having just taken his meds in the car on the way to school.
One day he had an ice-cream bar for breakfast, which he placed on his desk.  By the time I noticed it, it had melted and run down to his seat and then to the floor.  (His medication squelched his appetite.)
Another day he came to school wearing one knitted glove.  By the end of the day there was a pile of yarn on his desk and on the floor around him.  At some point he broke his arm in an accident and proceeded to EAT his cast of.  He did this not once, but twice.
He was always dirty, and I asked my principal to call his mother and ask her to please wash his sweatshirt before he came back to school the next day.  (Mother had already said, she didn’t want to hear from me anymore, as I was harassing her about her ability to be a mother.)
Mother called the superintendent and said that the principal has harassed her and embarrassed her at work and she was going to sue the school district if it happened again.  The superintendent called the principal and told her to do what ever she has to do to keep the district office from having to hear from this woman again.  So much for that.
Let me stop here and say that Chuck is a good kid.  He is kind.  He is gentle.  He is never aggressive toward any of the other children.  I observe him doing little favors for them, and he never misses a chance to do something helpful for me.  He needs far more than I can give him in a class of 29.  He needs to be in a small class, and certainly not in a class with a blind child, whose Braille machine clacks all day.  Chuck reacts to every clack.
    We continue to struggle through the year.  My efforts to get him into an SDC are on the move, but there are many steps to be taken and many hoops to jump through.  Meanwhile, he sits in class, removes his shoes and picks at his feet.  When I tell him to stop, he quietly puts his shoes back on and begins to pick at his arms.  His hands are always busy.  I place a pencil into those busy hands and for a while he does what he should be doing.  When I am drawn to another student, he returns to his own little world again.
Finally he is admitted into the Resource Program.  One of the “hoops” is that he must spend ninety percent of his day there, for a certain length of time.  The year ends. 
He begins his fourth grade year in a regular classroom.  It is mid-year before he gets into a Special Day Class at another district school.
I inquire about him during his sixth grade year.  He has made good progress.  His teacher and principal are quite proud of him. 
I think about the family often. 


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