What a difference the {right} teacher makes.

It’s no secret this has been the worst school year for Luke. The worst. Nope, I take that back. The second worst. I think Kindergarten still holds the title of worst. Anyhow, this year has been extra bad.

He started the year at a small private school here in Asheville because I fought his entire year last year for appropriate accommodations and couldn’t make progress. I found this little school, now officially called School Oh-No, that has small classes and an emphasis on science and hands-on, experiential learning. We visited the school, we stayed in the classroom for a day, we sent countless pages of evaluations and reports months before he started school there, and it still wasn’t the right fit, they weren’t equipped for him, we were asked to leave after just two months of the school year.

At that point, I had to come back to our district public school. I met with the principal, who knew me well by this point, after all the arguments I dragged her into the year before. We spoke about how things would be different and we worked together to choose a fourth grade class for Luke, an appropriate placement based on his {special} needs. I knew just one teacher in the fourth grade, the one my daughter had had three years prior. I wanted to go with the teacher who was familiar, but the principal strongly suggested another teacher. There was a teacher who had a grandmother of one of the students volunteering in the classroom FULL TIME. She urged me to go with that situation thinking the extra adult would be of great help to keep Luke on task.

Boy was she wrong, and she admitted so back in late March when she moved Luke to a different classroom. The teacher he had was stubborn and refused to implement any of his IEP. When I incessantly pushed her on reducing his assignments, she pushed back. And then we came to blows. I told her that her work load was insane for any fourth grade child. I reminded her she was to be reducing the magnitude of assignments for Luke per his IEP, which was enforceable by Federal law. Then she said, in writing (email), “I’ll just put an A in my book for this project since that’s what you want.” I responded, copying the principal of course, that I had never insinuated nor asked her to fudge Luke’s grades, and I hadn’t. I reiterated that I do not want her to fudge his grades, that my goal, as well as the goal of the Special Ed department, the principal, and his IEP document, was to level the playing field for a child with disabilities. That email went back and forth about 5 or 6 times, more heated with each rebuttal. She even went so far as to tell me that she obviously thinks more highly of Luke’s abilities than his own mother. Flames shot out my ears, daggars from my eyes. That was way over the line. I waited for the principal to step in.

Then, two days later, I received a phone call from the principal. It was a Friday afternoon. She suggested we move Luke to another classroom the following Tuesday at the start of the last grading period. I hesitated.

Yep. I’d been through hell’s entry fire and back a hundred times with this teacher over the last six months but I hesitated about moving Luke so late in the school year, after he’d already been through an entire school change too. I was worried about his self-esteem and how the {mean} kids would react. I worried that Luke wouldn’t want to move — after all, he thought this stubborn teacher was wonderful. I could see the anxiety caused by this classroom taking over his thoughts, emotions and even his physical body, but I hesitated. I wanted to do the right thing for Luke, NOT the right thing for me. The principal assured me they’d handle any fallout and be sure that Luke was doing alright. So he moved across the hall that Tuesday.

What a difference the {right} teacher makes. I can’t begin to tell you the relief that Luke has experienced, that I have experienced — our entire family let out a great big sigh of relief. We got our lives back.

Ms. S, Luke’s new teacher for the remainder of the year, gets it. You know what I mean — she just truly gets it. She understands him. She understands his behaviors are signs, triggered by his lagging skills or his different needs. She understands there is more than one way to learn and more than one way to show what you’ve learned. She understands we don’t all fit in a neat little box.

She. gets. it.

This teacher has wings.

To illustrate the difference between these two teachers, I’ll tell you about our last two IEP meetings and you’ll see the stark contrast.

After Luke’s experience in Stubborn Teacher’s classroom took a turn for the very worst (he had a meltdown so big during a toy reward ticket auction that the room had to be cleared for the other children’s safety), I raised Cain and they asked for a Functional Behavioral Analysis (FBA). We met the next week with the Behavioral Specialist for the county (who also has wings), our entire IEP team and the classroom teacher. The meeting was four hours long after the Behavior Specialist told us at the start it would be one and a half hours tops. Why so long? Because Stubborn Teacher fought us tooth and nail. She disagreed with everything. Every trigger we recorded, every behavior we described and, especially, every strategy we suggested to help Luke. Four hours of her making strong rebuttals to every single observation and suggestion every one of us made. Besides the length of the meeting, the intensity was exhausting. I raised my voice at her 2-3 times during that meeting. Those that know me personally know that things must have been pretty severe for that to happen. And no one else in the room (school staff) stopped me, because they knew I was right.

Now, just this week we had an FBA followup meeting with the new classroom teacher, Ms. S. {swoon}. It was less than an hour. She agreed with everything everyone said. She hadn’t seen the FBA chart we had made in the first meeting with all the strategies (yes, she should have been given a copy) and yet, when we reviewed the strategies to see if they are beneficial, she was already implementing just about every one of them from her own intuition. I {heart} this woman!

The real test of the efficacy of this change is Luke. He is doing marvelous. I could see relief wash over him after just the first day in Ms. S’s classroom. I kept telling everyone that school was escalating his anxiety ten-fold. We even went to a psychiatrist through the school who said the same thing. Then the teacher would say that Luke is fine in her class and doesn’t complain about anything and he’s just telling us stories at home. He didn’t tell her anything because he was deathly afraid to. After seeing him in the new classroom, it is evident to everyone that he was really suffering with Stubborn Teacher.

Is life with Ms. S perfection? No. But that’s not about her. Luke has ADHD and learning disabilities, it was never about perfection.

For our kids, and our families, it’s all about having the right teacher. Our principal is retiring this year. She has been the one constant ally in the school all this time and I am afraid of what will come next year in her absence. She is going to help me secure the right teacher for fifth grade before she passes the baton this summer though. And this time, I will make sure Luke has the RIGHT teacher, whatever it takes.

COVER3D_400sq_bestsellAward-Winning Blogger. Freelance Writer. Author. Warrior Mom.
A self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams is the author of the Amazon best-seller about her parenthood in the trenches, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is also the creator of the award-winning website, {a mom’s view of ADHD}, a frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications, and co-founder of the annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend away for moms of kids with neurobehavioral disorders. Look for her second book, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD, in late 2014. Follow Penny at http://BoyWithoutInstructions.com.

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academic achievement, adhd and outbursts, adhd and school, adhd and stress, ADHD stress, advocacy, behavior modification, caregiver stress, CO-MORBIDITIES, hope, IEP, learning disabilities, learning styles and Adhd, parenting/FAMILY, school behavior, school failure, special education (IEP), teacher, twice exceptional ·

About the author

COVER3D_400sq_bestsellAward-Winning Blogger. Freelance Writer. Author. Warrior Mom. A self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams is the author of the Amazon best-seller about her parenthood in the trenches, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is also the creator of the award-winning website, {a mom's view of ADHD}, a frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications, and co-founder of the annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend away for moms of kids with neurobehavioral disorders. Look for her second book, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD, in late 2014. Follow Penny at http://BoyWithoutInstructions.com.

9 Comments

  1. Ariel says:

    Thank you for posting this today. Your timing (for my life) is perfect as we decide what preschool room my son will go into next year. The teacher the rest of the class is going into has a stuborn teacher but I feel torn because that is where his “friends” are going. The other option, is a better fit in so many ways, not perfect but understanding. My heart knows where my son needs to be, but tearing him away from his current peers will be hard.

    Reply
  2. Dee (dmd) says:

    Penny, I swear we are living somewhat parallel lives.  No, Dylan didn’t go to a private school only to be asked to leave, but we have had our worst school year.  And like you, his teachers have fought tooth and nail to keep to the status quo and not effectively follow his 504.  And even though his main teacher seems overwhelmed, in meetings she makes me look like the crazy one.  I get nasty notes about homework, yet when I ask what we can do, I’m told it’s all on Dylan.  Dylan won’t succeed until he wants to succeed.  So it’s my fault, but nothing will change until Dylan’s “will” changes.  I thought I had one teacher on my side (his reading teacher) until today.  Dylan came home and said that teacher told him that his parents don’t believe in him and his ability and that he is pulling the wool over our eyes.  TOLD him this.  Does that message sound familiar? 

    I do not know what to do.  Dylan is in French Immersion which I think makes it harder but he does not want to change.  How can I punish him and deny him that?  And next year, if I did get him in the regular class, guess who he would probably have – the reading teacher.  I feel like I can’t win for losing.  Not only is there no other reasonable school for him, Dylan loves his school.  Loves loves loves it. 

    So we have parallel lives…but we haven’t found the swoon teacher yet.  And I’m about to lose my mind. 

    Reply
  3. 3badtore says:

    I have been through the bad and the good teachers.  It is so important that the teacher understands and works with our children.  When my now 12 year old was in kindergarten he had the worst teacher, always whining she had 20 more kids and to my dismay advised me to up his meds.  Totally against the law.  To top it off I had the vice principal of that school calling me everyday at work and telling me all the things my son did wrong.  I work in a production setting he almost got me fired.  When I threatened to get a lawyer the principal finally stepped in.   She was my only go to person to talk about my son. Whom she liked.  His teacher was replaced (not him moved, but she was moved to a smaller class) and the new teacher was a gift from god.  He had a great rest of the year.  He has had a couple more that just didn’t work well, and a few that did.  It is just the luck of the draw. 

    Reply
  4. Christy Mc says:

    Penny

    This is a very nice post. My son is in 3rd grade this year, he also has ADHD. He has a wonderful teacher, whom is also a very good friend of mine. It is sad to me that most teachers, not all, feel that these children are just “misbehaving”. They think punishments will whip them in to shape, but it has quite the opposite effect on these kids. I was very worried about about my son in school and felt that I was going to be the only voice and advocate he had. I had my BS in psychology and studied ADHD. I decided to go back to school to get my MA in Special Education. I have now been the special education teacher in my son’s school for 3 years now. I do believe that teachers in our school are starting to understand that ADHD is a true disability. There are 2 things a student with a disability, or behaviors 1. Teacher relationship and 2. Teacher persistence- the teacher does not give up on the student

    Reply
  5. Caroline says:

    I so feel for you, and all of you that have posted here. I know what it’s like to have people not get it, or not do what they’re “supposed” to. Sometimes you just have to keep going up the chain to get things done. The principal is not the top of the school chain. Go to the district special ed director, then the superintendent. Document, document, document. You can record IEP/504 meetings on your iPod (you may need to tell everyone you’re doing it, and put it in the middle of the table). If they’re not following the IEP, document each instance. Print each email. And then go to the state board of education if you have to. Even though it sounds extreme, get an attorney, or at least have the name of one in your arsenal. You’re the one who cares the most for your child, and if you’re being stonewalled by the teacher/school, you’re the only one who is going to keep fighting on their behalf.

    Caroline
    lifeunfocused

    Reply
  6. Pamela says:

    I’m so happy reading this, Penny. And I can soooo relate. I am very happy for you guys, and especially for Luke.

    Reply
  7. Pamela says:

    I’m so happy reading this, Penny. And I can soooo relate. I am very happy for you guys, and especially for Luke.

    Reply
  8. Dona says:

    Thanks for this article. Even though I know I am not, I feel like the only parent going through this. I have had good (one) and bad teacher situations at my daughter’s school. One took her under her wing and kept her on the honor roll. The rest don’t want to put any effort into her education and think that “something in her brain needs to click” in order for her to do better in class. They also talk between each other and she is now seen as a problem child.

    Reply
  9. Angiewalkerfm says:

    I’m so out of gas on all of this.  My dd’s teachers this year kept telling me not to get an IEP or 504.  I listed until the end of the 3rd six weeks when they told me she was just lazy.  That did it.  I then demanded an IEP which we put in place.  They proceeded to send everything home to be done at night and double checked by me.  So basically they put all the work on me.  We are now down to the last 4 weeks of school so I’m letting a lot of their nasty comments slide.  However, I’m scared to death about what we’re going to get next year.  I work full time and I’m completely exhausted and emotionally worn out by the end of the day because of all the work they send home for me.  I feel like nothing I’m doing is working.

    Reply

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The "ADHD Mommas" are not medical or mental health professionals, nor an ADHD coach. Any opinions shared here are just that, opinions. I, and the other "ADHD Mommas," are sharing our experiences with our own ADHD children. Please do not re-post or publish any content or photos without a link back to {a mom's view of ADHD}. Have the courtesy to give credit where credit is due. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

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