I’m done talking. I’m done trying to reason and work it out, even though it is always my first instinct. I always think if I just find a better way to explain it, a different way to say it, the other person will get it.
Despite my hopes, 4th grade has been a rough year for Ace. It’s been a really rough year. His grades have been erratic. He is being defiant to his teachers. He has been to the office numerous times. He gets into fights – both verbal and physical – with his classmates. His focus is worse than usual and he refuses to complete work even on projects that are of high interest to him. He is frustrated, unhappy and angry about almost everything at school.
He used to love school.
IT Guy and I have been running ourselves in circles trying to figure out what is going on with him . . . trying to find a solution . . . .
We’ve had meetings with teachers, meetings with guidance counselors, several 504 meetings. We pushed for further psycho-educational testing and finally got it. We’ll get the results of that testing in 2 weeks and I’m hoping it gives us, if not answers, then some clues about what’s happening with Ace. We’ve put Ace in a social skills group to help with his interaction with peers. We’ve done individual counseling to work on frustration and anger management issues. We keep revisiting his medication. In the past five days alone, we’ve been in a therapist’s office three times.
Last week, Ace and I met with his math teacher. His behavior has been degrading in her class. She took considerable time and effort to put together a behavior chart for Ace where he can receive points in 15 minutes increments for focusing, listening and completing his work. If he has enough points at the end of the week, I reward him with a tech deck or a World of Warcraft miniature. This week he did well in math. His behavior improved. He earned his tech deck. I’m proud of him and I deeply grateful to his math teacher for her help.
But then I opened his other folder from his homeroom teacher. Stapled to the inside of the folder was a stack of slips – Homework Excuse Notes – each one for a homework assignment Ace didn’t complete this week in Reading and Science. Each note for a homework assignment I knew nothing about because they weren’t written in his homework folder.
I was furious.
Not at Ace. Ace has ADHD. He has huge problems with organization. He has a 504 plan that stipulates he needs extra help with organization – extra help like having his teacher check and make sure he has the homework written down. You can ask him to do it and he might do it sometimes, but more often than not, he gets distracted, especially in a busy classroom at the end of the day. . . especially at the end of 6 hours of school when he has had to focus and attend which are herculean tasks for him . . . especially when his 8 hour dose of Ritalin is starting to wear off. You can tell him to write down his homework and he’ll say “O.K” and then forget between the time it takes him to turn away from you and pick up a pencil. He has ADHD. It’s a disability.
Ace’s teacher doesn’t get it. No matter how many different ways I explain it, the teacher just doesn’t seem to get it. The teacher says “He needs to do it himself because in middle school, he’ll need to take more responsibility.” Middle school is a year and half a way. A lifetime. He’s not in middle school and even when he is, he still might not be able to stay organized. Because he has ADHD.
Every teacher Ace has had prior to this has checked his assignment book at the end of the day to make sure he remembered to write down the assignments. His math teacher does it now. At our second meeting, I asked Ace’s teacher to check his assignment book. That meeting was a disaster. Instead of talking about Ace, the bulk of it involved Ace’s teacher yelling at me and stabbing his finger into the table because I copied the principal on an email I sent to the guidance counselor. I’ve never sat through anything more inappropriate. I handled it by being conciliatory and trying to win the teacher over. I felt I needed him on my side for Ace’s sake.
I’ve been operating under that plan since then. I try to work with the teacher, develop a positive relationship, get him on our team. I felt it was crucial to have a good relationship. I still feel that. I just don’t think it’s possible anymore. My being nice is not getting through to this teacher.
At every meeting we’ve had, we have asked Ace’s teacher to sign off on his homework assignments at the end of the day. It’s covered under the 504 plan. It should be a no-brainer. At every meeting he says he will and he does for a few days and then it stops. Ace starts missing assignments again. I start sending emails asking the teacher to sign off on his homework assignment book. Around and around we go. Finally I got the guidance counselor involved because she administers his 504 plan. She talked to the teacher. It got better for a bit.
Then today I get the stack of slips.
For a kid who desperately needs consistency, it’s a disaster to have inconsistent help. For a kid who needs positive reinforcement, it’s a disaster to have continual negative reinforcement. Ace feels like a failure at school. He is trapped in a negative spiral. The more negative feedback he receives, the more negative his behavior, then the more negative feedback he receives and so on. He has told me over and over this year, “It’s like no one there understands that I have ADHD.”
It’s not that I don’t think Ace bears some responsibility for his behavior. He does. But he needs help in certain areas. He can’t just make his brain more organized because we tell him to do it. That’s why we have the 504 plan.
After all this work . . . all the meetings . . . all the emails . . . all the babysitting of homework. All the talks and the therapy sessions. All the money and all the time and all the energy. After all of that, I get a stack of homework excuse notes on a Friday afternoon for assignments that were never written in the homework notebook from a teacher who never checked the notebook despite being asked and asked and asked to do this one thing. Sign off on his homework. Take 30 seconds and sign off on his homework, so I can help my son.
I was enraged. I was every cliche you’ve ever heard. I was hopping, spitting, jumping mad. I wanted to put my fist through the wall. I wanted to scream and scream and scream some more. I had to go into my office and shut the door. Enraged.
I am never going to get through to this teacher and the one who is suffering is Ace. I’m no longer concerned about having a good relationship. I’m no longer concerned that he likes me. I am no longer concerned with explaining the situation to him. I just want him to do his job.
My next meeting is going to take place with the principal.
I’m done talking.