A friend of mine requested this blog topic… hope you find it helpful!
I never wanted to be a teacher; let alone an EC teacher. When my mother mentioned this to me, as I was floundering through different majors in college, my initial response was “NEVER”. She simply asked…why? Well, teacher’s are mean, they don’t care about kids, they push you under the desk and dig their nails into your arm when you find yourself being easily distracted and talkative in class (true story), they wear ugly jumpers and are cranky. None of these things described me or my personality. My mom’s simple reply “You don’t have to be one of THOSE kinds of teachers”. Lightbulb! You mean….there are other kinds of teachers?
While I forged ahead with my academic career and became the teacher I never had, I still encountered, on a daily basis, THOSE kinds of teachers. Chances are you encounter them too. So, what do we do with them? You have written them emails being polite and asking for their kindness, compassion and help. You have offered to be a helper in the classroom. You have explained your child’s special needs with an open heart. And yet….. the response you have received goes something like this “if he would only try then he would do better”, “she just has to work harder”, “he didn’t finish his work during class, so he had to finish it during recess”. Believe it or not, this lack of understanding is the beginning seeds of discrimination. Yup, I wrote it.
Discrimination is defined as to discriminate against or”making a distinction in favor or against a person or thing on the basis of group, class, or category to which a person belongs rather than according to their actual merit” (according to dictionary.com). Your child has a defined disability whether it be learning disability, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, etcetera. Your child is not DEFINED by his/her disability, and yet it needs to be accounted for when trying to hold your child up to the standards set by neuro-typical children. Fair? No it isn’t fair for your child to have to reach the potential set by neuro-typically functioning children. This is why your child has an IEP. To level the playing field and make appropriate accommodations so your child will be able to acquire information in the manner in which they learn, and demonstrate that they have retained what was presented. Your child only has to live up to his/her potential; not the potential which has been predetermined by the teacher or fellow students.
My first suggestion when dealing with “those” kinds of teachers- have a paper trail. Keep everything the teacher writes or emails to you about your child. Document how many times he comes home with a packet of work that he did not complete in class but “needs” to complete at home. Secondly, have a meeting with the teacher and the EC teacher to discuss that not all “team” members are on board with the actual needs of your child. If the teacher still believes that your sweet child just needs to “try harder” or “pay attention more” or “apply himself”, you have the right to go one step higher… the Principal. Ultimately it is the Principals responsibility to make sure all teachers are abiding by the law and serving students based on their individual academic abilities. This is where your paper trail comes in handy. You will be able to present ways that the teacher is discriminating against your child.
If after all of this your child’s teacher is still challenging the notion that your child has special needs, neglecting to provide the documented accommodations, or even bringing undue attention to your child in a negative way, and you have met with the Principal and witnessed no change in the teachers behavior, there is still one more path of recourse. You have a right to contact the Office of Civil Rights under the Board of Education. This is your last resort.
I pray that you don’t have one of “those” teachers in your lives. If you do, take a deep breath and try the strategies I wrote about. Email me or write a note in the comments section. My email is thru Spruce Kids- email@example.com. You are not wrong for loving your child. You are not wrong for wanting the best for your child. And you are not wrong for being an educated advocate. I am so glad I came to realize that I didn’t have to be one of “those” teachers. If you have a teacher that is compassionate, kind, understanding and has a heart for your child- treasure her. Send her notes of encouragement and remember her during teacher appreciation week (whenver that is). She probably never thought she’d be a teacher of “those” kinds of kids 😉