Saturday, March 15, 2008

How much more can I take...

Before I go absolutely crazy with this school district. As some of you know we have been trying to just quietly bide our time for the rest of this school year before homeschooling next year. We have felt that it was best for everybody to give the kids this time to grow accustomed to the idea, let their friends know and what-not.

Well, all year Hailey has been having fairly mild issues with one school staff member. This staff member is an aide in her special education class where she recieves any additional help she may need in various subjects. She is in mainstream classrooms but goes to this class as a "resource" they call it.

Well. Something you should know about my Hailey is that she's a bit of an independant thinker. Sometimes she thinks outside the box, and sometimes she just runs the box over with a mack truck and we are all left curious as to how she figured whatever it was that she was working on out. Another thing that is very important to know about Hailey is that she, like her mother, doesn't just get a fire lit up under her ass sometimes........ it's a flame like pyrotechnics on the 4th of July. For the most part I adore this quality about her, but admittedly sometimes she's a little hot to handle.

So, earlier in the year she became interested in the Moon walk of the 60's. She spent hours researching it and came to the conclusion that she did not beleive it ever happened (and she wouldn't be the only person in the world to think that). Well, being proud of herself and her newfound information, she made a point to tell her teachers about it. All but one disagreed with her, one actually agreed with her.

Then there's the aide in question. She told Hailey that it did happen, point blank. When Hailey attempted to present her side of the debate she received a detention for non compliance. Granted, she probably did get a little heated and probably ranted and raved a bit (sounds familiar, doesn't it? like deja vu or something). But she was downright irate that this teacher did this and I was extremely dissapointed that her eagerness to learn something was quashed, after all, it's not easy to get a pre-teen so fired up about something that they want to learn everything there is to learn about it.

Through the rest of this year there have been various incidents with this aide. She and Hailey just obviousely have a huge clash of personality, at the same time I think they are very similar and that itself can cause tension. There have been issues here and there, back and forth, nothing real over the top but things that more than once made me question this woman's maturity level as she seemed all to willing to just revert to her own childhood and get into a match of "i know you are but what am I" types of behaviors.

Then came the "measuring cup" incident a couple months ago. One night Hailey brought math homework home. We worked with her for quite a while and she just wasn't grasping the work, fractions. (keep in mind she is a bit behind grade level, which is an issue for another day) They were trying to make her understand fractions using some sort of ruler....... honestly it confused even me. Finally I got out my measuring cups and showed her the fractions, 1/4 cup, 1/2 cup and so on. For the first time, it clicked and she finished the entire worksheet with very little help.

She takes the assignment back to class and was thrilled to get a great grade on it. The teacher (her main resource teacher) apparently asked her how she suddenly understood something that she had struggled with so terribly the day before and she told him, excitedly about the measuring cups. He told her that although the answers were correct she didn't complete the assignment in the right way and she would not be allowed to do it that way. This aide actually was teasing Hailey about it.

She was crushed, broken, and quite frankly gave up on math then and there. Now she doesn't complete her assignments and when asked why she says "I always do it wrong anyway". That was the point when homeschooling became more of a front line issue for our family, it had been on the back burner for years but now we had to seriousely consider what our options were.

Fast forward to last week. On Thursday Hailey returns from school and sits with me at the dining table and says "well, what do you want me to do?" I looked at her quizzically and asked her what she meant. She repeated her question. I stopped what I was doing and asked her what was up. "didn't they call you?" she asks? uh oh............

I told her no one called me and she burst into tears. She told me that she had been in gym and she and another girls stuff were in a pile and she picked up her stuff and put it in her gym bag and went to head to her next class. The other girl said that she couldn't find her shoe and Hailey (little fuzzy on this part) helped her look. The girl, who is known to be extremely EXTREMELY immature for her age (no offense or disrespect, but sadly, she speaks worse than most 4 year olds) went off the deep end and ran out saying Hailey stole her shoe.

Wouldn't you know it, this aide that seems to have a problem with Hailey as a person anyway was the person she found. The aide comes in and says to Hailey "give it up". Hailey, as anyone probably would if they were spoken to that way went on the defensive. Some words were exchanged and Hailey emptied her bag and the girls shoe was in there, inadvertantly picked up with the rests of the stuff in the bag. Keep in mind here people that I say SHOE, not plural. ONE SHOE.

So, the aide demands Hailey go to the principal's office because of the "obvious" theft. Hailey asked to call home, which I told her to do if she had a problem because they don't and because I can usually help calm her down when she gets that upset so it doesn't end worse than it needs to. The aide tells her she can't do that and Hailey grabs her stuff and heads to the principal's office. The aide at the time was standing in the doorway and Hailey bumped into her when she was on her way out the door. Hailey spent however long in the principal's office asking to call home, or for them to call me and they refused.

So upon hearing this from her I call the school and leave a message on the principal's voicemail to please call me back asap. About 20 minutes later he calls and asks me what Hailey's version of the story was. I tell him and he concurs that is in fact, what happened to the best of his knowledge as well. We discuss whether or not this was theft and agree that it was not because why would someone steal one shoe? One shoe that woudln't even fit them no less. It didn't add up or make sense to be called a theft. He tells me that the problem was the fact that Hailey got defensive and when she wasn't allowed to call home raised her voice at the aide and became very agitated and refused to handle the situation maturely. He asks me to please talk with her about this and figure out how she might apologize to the aide for bumping her in her haste to exit the classroom and I agree to do so. The entire situation, to my knowlege at that time was resolved.

Fast forward to Wednesday of the following week. Craig and I were shopping in town and my cell phone rings, it's the school number. I answer and Hailey is sobbing so hard into the phone I can barely understand her. I got enough out of her to hear that she had been given a detention for "hitting" the aide and that while she was in detention she overheard teachers talking about how she is a thief.

I arrive at the school 20 minutes later and the principal gets Hailey and we go to a conference room to talk while he waited outside the door. Hailey, her eyes swollen from crying told me that the principal had come to her right before lunch and instructed her to be in his office after she ate to serve detention for Thursdays incident. She did and while she was in detention she overheard one of her teachers in the office talking with another staff member. Whoever the other staff member was (Hailey at that time thought it might be the secretary but couldn't be sure) said "Hailey W stole so and so's shoes"

Hailey then busted out bawling and after her detention was finished asked the secretary to call home, she was told no that she had to tell her (secretary) what was wrong first. Hailey didn't want to discuss it and said that she just really needed to call her mom and was again told no. Hailey then went to the guidance counselor and asked to call home, by this time sobbing. She was at first told she could and when she went to dial the hang up button was pushed and she was told to go back to class. She went to choir class and couldn't participate as she was sobbing so hard. The choir teacher asked her what was wrong and she told him that she just really wished she could call her mom and he showed her to the phone and let her make the call.

The principal comes in and I asked him first why the detention now, I thought this was resolved last Thursday. He informed me that it had never, in fact been resolved. News to me! So then I address what Hailey overheard and he informs me that the secretary was not even in the office at that time. We addressed the phone call issue and I said that it's a very easy way to diffuse the situation, if she were allowed to just call home and calm down these things wouldnt' escalate. He told Hailey to go wait in the hall and I informed him that she would be remaining in the meeting, it was her right to do so since we were talking about her. He again told her to leave the room and I instructed her to sit down and she sat. He informed me that he beleived this all to be a control issue and that by allowing her to call home he was reinforcing the "tantrum". I asked him why then could she not be accomidated before the tantrum began? Generally if children's needs are met they won't HAVE tantrums. If we, as the adults, have the tools to diffuse the situation we should utilize those tools. I must come from a different school of thought than the average person but I don't see meeting a child's needs as giving in and when a child is sobbing uncontrollably in choir class, they are needing something. I also beleive that telling a child they can call and then hanging up the phone mid dial is nothing but bullying. Am I saying that children should just get everything they want just because they might have a melt down if they don't, definitely not but when the solution is simple and isn't hurting anyone and is only helping I don't see what witholding things accomplishes besides to BE a bully and to say "i'm the boss because I said so" I sometimes think I'm the only person on the planet that doesn't see children as these wretched creatures just trying to take something from us, to control us and to dominate us...... actually I see the opposite as true. These are things WE do to them and I'm not entirely sure where we came up with the idea that we were given that right. We should GUIDE children, yes but to demand they adhere to all of our wishes for no real reason than because we are bigger than they are? Doesn't make sense to me. Not for a minute. I think some people take the job of guiding children and turn it into something it isn't. If children are given GUIDANCE they will learn. If they are shown respect for thier needs and feelings they will learn to return it. If we tell them that they should listen to us without listening to them as well we surely can't expect them to understand it or why they ought to. If we were having this situation with another adult what would we do? If one of your co-workers were terribly upset and crying and asked to use your telephone would you let her? Of course you would. So why aren't children treated in this same way?

To be all honest I'm often baffled by this. When we have a baby it's pretty much a given that when that newborn cries you will try to figure out why it's crying and give it what it needs to make it content....... yes? It's a deep parental instict to do so and most of us don't look at our newborns as beasts who are being unrealistic and are throwing tantrums. We understand that crying is the way that their immature little selves know to communicate their needs, after all they aren't all grown up and haven't learned to talk. We don't punish them for crying, we don't make them wait for their food because they aren't being mature adults about the situation. That would be rediculous! But then as children get older we seem to forget all of this and deny our natural instincts. We decide at some point, rather arbitrarily, that they the didn't use to be selfish beasts, but now they are. We forget at some point that they aren't fully matured yet, it isn't a matter of not being guided or taught, it's because their brains simply are not ready for adult processing yet, as they shouldn't be. So when an older child uses the only way they can at that moment to make it known that they need something instead of attempting to meet that need, whatever it may be we get on some power trip and punish them for it. WHAT?!

He suggested to Hailey that she ought to, when she needed something, come to his office. She said that she's tried that and has had to wait for 2+ hours for him, missing class and getting nothing accomplished. He informed her that he had other situations to deal with, understandable. I conceded that obviousely that was not going to be the solution and that Hailey would be bringing her cell phone to school to keep in her pocket, turned OFF. We would all agree that she should go to him first but if that didn't pan out she could then call home and diffuse the situation the way she knew how.

We all left the meeting feeling discouraged but the situation just wasn't going to be resolved where everyone was happy.

So, I came home and emailed the teacher that was in the office and asked her what she could tell me about the situation in the office. I didn't want to put her on the spot and was very pleasant about it. She emailed me back that she wasn't aware of anything being said about Hailey but that she and the secretary were talking. (confirming that the secretary was in fact, in the office at that time after all) but that she would talk with Hailey about it at school the next day and see if we could get it resolved for her. Good enough. I never heard back from her.

So, Thursday Hailey returns home from school and says "mom, (the aide) is saying bad things about me to students). She was talking about me and I walked in and I said "I'm right HERE!" and she stopped. " I am sad to admit that at this point I began to doubt my daughter, for a second. I started to wonder if this may be a "everyone is out to get me" attitude.

Until the phone rang. It was a student in the school who called because she had been feeling bad all day that this aide had been saying in her class (which hailey is not in) that Hailey was a liar and a thief. She went on to tell me that this aide said that Hailey "pushed her across the room" and "stole so and so's shoes" and "lies". This student asked the aide what she meant and was apparently told that if she wanted to she could "dig up info and write hailey up" this student took this to mean that SHE as a student could file a complaint on Hailey for something, but she didn't know why she would want to do that and felt the need to tell me about it.

I pondered the idea and called another student that I knew was in that same class (again, not Hailey's class) and she said that yes, this aide frequently talked about Hailey and another classmate and today had been saying that Hailey stole so and so's shoes and was a liar".

I emailed that aide (since it was after school hours then) telling her the information that I had and that I was a bit alarmed that other children were coming to me with this information and didn't get a response as of yet.

Our school district quite frankly has never been that great. Many a parent has pulled their children out for various severe reasons. One child, a kindergartener at the time who's family I know well was forced to clean up someone else's urine a few years ago and to this day this woman drives her children 60 miles round trip to school in another city. Another child recently was ill and when he vomited in class was made to clean his own vomit, he was 5 years old as well. (the second story is hearsay, the first I know for a fact). A certain student has been expelled from this district THREE TIMES for violent acts, being caught with drugs, etc. He has been caught with drugs more than once, the one time the drugs magically vanished. Just to name a few. Unfortunately there aren't many options around here. There are no private schools, no charter schools. I really beleive we are at the breaking point.

Our school board members are resigning, staff cuts abound........ it's horrible. This district prefers to handle things "internally" and the local police comply with that and will not handle any situation that happens in school, criminal or otherwise unless contacted by the schoo to do so. Quite honestly I didn't beleive that either, until I called the police station about my son being threatened and was told I would have to deal with the principal instead. Dealing with everything "internally" seems to mean sweeping it under that old proverbial rug.

So, i'm angry, i'm hurt, and I feel guilty for subjecting my child to this type of situation. It's really sad when the adults act younger than the children and play games of gossip about teenage girls.

Speaking of the board and staff cuts. A reader asked me to adress my feelings on this issue and I will try to do so in the next couple of days. I have lots to say which isn't suprising!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to extend my greatest sympathies. I went to a school much like your daughter's. My mom refused to pull me out, and I ended up staying until I was 17 when I graduated early and ran away. I have to say, it brings tears to my eyes hearing Hailey's story (such an echo of my own), and seeing YOUR willingness to protect her (nobody every did that for me as a child). THANK YOU for being an amazing mother, and congrats to Hailey for being mature enough to know when she needs help!! I hope she is okay and that ya'll find clarity in this situation.