Sunday, January 20, 2008

Banging Our Heads Against the Wall

I've had a student in my homeroom the past year who I'll call Sharpie Boy because, among other things, he is constantly giving himself tattoos with Sharpie markers. He's fairly bright, reads well, and although he's identified as special ed with a severe case of ADHD, he tested proficient on all his Big Deal Government Mandated Tests, so he was put out into science and social studies this year. He does not have an ideal home life. His mother, while agreeable enough on the telephone, has never graced us with her presence. There is little money. He has some older brothers who aren't exactly living squeaky clean lives and are definitely not a good influence on Sharpie Boy.

That being said, I've never had a behavior problem with Sharpie Boy. He's a little chatty at times, but I have many who are worse. He does have a problem with organization (which is typical of most of my special ed kids), and rarely has a pencil. Out of all the pencils I've handed out this year, over half of them probably went to him. Academically he started out great with a passing grade of 72% the first nine weeks of school. Granted, he gets modified tests and they're read to him, but that isn't bad. However, the second nine weeks he earned a whopping 17%. He pretty much decided to do absolutely nothing, and that's exactly what I got out of him - nothing. I'd talk to him privately about it, ask if he needed help, ask what the problem was, and I'd get a happy little answer that things were fine and he'd really try to do better. Mom was understanding but nothing changed. Mr. Social Studies had similar results.

However, apparently Sharpie Boy had behavior issues outside of my room and Mr. Social Studies' room. If a class was slightly unstructured, such as Art, he'd lose it, get in a fight, or do something else to get in trouble, and wind up in In School Suspension. While up there he'd mouth off, sleep, and generally get into more trouble which would earn him an Out of School Suspension. He was up there for the two weeks prior to Christmas and did not do one assignment that I'd sent up for him. He'd ditch school (and get caught, he isn't very good at being sneaky), talk back to other teachers, and generally act like a pill. He was racking up the discipline points with abandon and was a candidate for alternative school.

On Thursday Mr. Social Studies and I, along with Mrs. Tropical (one of the special ed teachers who knows Sharpie Boy very well as she had him last year for two classes and this year for two classes), Mrs. Squirrel and Mrs. Saint, had a meeting to come up with a behavior plan for Sharpie Boy. He'd just gotten two referrals from ISS, and was most likely going to wind up in alternative school. One of the referrals was for writing a note to another boy up in ISS discussing the various sexual positions his (older) girlfriend and he had tried over the past weekend. According to Mrs. Tropical, Sharpie Boy, who is all over 13 years old, has always been a little more wise in sexual matters than a kid that age probably should be. He's also very wise to the world of drug use (see older brothers). We had to discuss whether or not his behavior was the result of his learning disability.

It was an interesting meeting. Mr. Social Studies stated his belief (which I agree with) that Sharpie Boy does not like being out in the general school population because he's not the big fish in that pond like he is in the special ed classes. Consequently, his refusal to do any work so he'll fail. Mrs. Tropical furnished the log of the 18 phone calls she'd made to mom, and the 6 different meetings she'd attempted to set up to discuss the problems with Sharpie Boy. She also filled us in on habit of inflicting pain on himself, as well as his deep dark depressions he would have at times. The kid has some mental issues but mom doesn't want to see it so therefore we have no diagnosis of anything. Although he really should be going to alternative school, we decided that isn't the best place for him because we seriously doubted his mother could get him there and he'd end up running the streets. (The District does not provide transportation for the little darlings who earn a slot at the Alternative School.) The decision was made to but him in the behavior modification class with Mrs. Saint, because he probably does have some undiagnosed emotional issues, and that way he would at least be in school. Mrs. Tropical calls mom, mom loves the idea as she thought alternative school would be a problem. All is well.

So, Friday he cleaned out his locker outside my room and headed off to Mrs. Saint's class. He seemed happy about it. We all thought we'd made the right decision for this kid because at least this way he'd get some attention and some help with his issues.

Four hours later he's being picked up by his step-father (first any of us had heard about a step-father) because he'd showed another kid the 4" switchblade he'd brought to school and as a result earned himself a 90 day stint at the alternative school.

So much for trying to do the best thing for this kid.


Kim said...

Heart breaking.

Mrs. T said...

Ooof. Sounds like the Alternative School may have been the best placement in the first place. Hopefully he will do well there and not pick up some additional behaviors.

HappyChyck said...

That is head-banging worthy for sure! It's so frustrating when the % of caring is waaaaaaayyyyyyyy lopsided and then the student (or family)does something that is beyond our control...and all is lost.

There are always more students to save.

Liz Ditz said...

Oh darn--for you and for Sharpie Boy. But thanks so much for sharing about one of the kids who are difficult.

You know I'm a (former) SpEd parent -- I say former because darling dyslexic daughter is now in college -- and I hang out a lot at the parents' board at SchwabLearning (plus some real-life groups here).

Thing is my parent cohort is the opposite of Sharpie Boy's parents actions. I think it is human nature to perceive our own actions as the norm.

I went to a training in SpEd law last Friday and was a bit uncomfortable, because the presenters were slanting the presentations to help schools cope with Sharpie Boy's parents.

Antonia Kittrell said...

Each of you did well with Sharpie Boy. You intervened and one day Sharpie will remember what each of you did. As educators, you displayed the characteristic of compassion. Sharpie Boy will never forget that. Continue to help students. Many times teachers are the lifeline and life savers for children.

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Mrs. T, you're probably right. Our only concern was whether his parent would/could get him there. Our fear is she wouldn't and he'd be running the streets. We shall see.

Liz, thanks for your comment. I've had spec ed parents who were awesome, who attended every meeting, who were working in partnership with us to serve their child. Then you have parents like Sharpie Mom who doesn't. However, I don't think it has anything whatsoever to do with him being a spec ed student, but has everything to do with the culture of poverty he's living in. I see the same things in kids who aren't spec ed.

EHT said...

This example you give is one of the reasons why out colleages give up at time and why I get so frustrated. We try to do the right thing and then get blind-sided.

Keep up the good fight because Sharpie Boy isn't alone.