A few times in my career, I wrote medical excuses to keep students from doing homework. I know it sounds ridiculous, but what I saw were students who were in great mental pain, as were their families, from homework that was way beyond their means, especially due to significant mental health disorders that affected their ability to learn and their ability to even engage in the process of learning or wanting to be in a learning environment. When they got home all they wanted to do was crawl under their blankets, but instead their parents felt that they must drag them to the kitchen table and make them do homework. There were a number of times that the student would go off the deep end and the police were called.
Removing homework stabilized the families. The schools had to find a different means of working with the student. In the end, the students didn’t fail – although they would have if they hadn’t turned in their homework. The students did learn.
Below is the link to an article written by a relatively new teacher (about 5 years in the classroom) who lists all the things that she has done for her students and all the struggles they have experienced during her tenure. She is strongly considering quitting the profession but wants the policy makers to understand why.
This burnout is not just occurring in the schools. If you ask any of the professionals whose passion is helping children and adolescents, you will year the same issues, the same frustrations, and the same hopelessness about how we, as a society, are letting down our youth.
Please start a conversation here or among your colleagues about what she has said and what we can do, both at the grassroots level and at the policy level to turn this around. One thing is certain, we need our “in the trenches” professionals to be part of the conversation and solution, not just the ones who have to live with the “wisdom” of others.
Have you ever come upon someone who needed help that you didn’t know? Or even someone you knew but felt was somehow different? Did you stop to help? Or did you avert your eyes as you veered away?
This video shows what happened as a social experiment using two individuals: What would you do? One looked like a businessman who fell while trying to use his crutches along a busy street. The other was a homeless man who also fell while trying to use his crutches on a busy street. How did it make you feel to see the difference?
Did you know that this same type of scenario occurs in schools every day with students who are seen as lazy, unmotivated, disrespectful, etc. Having talked with over 3000 of these students in the last 30 years, I have heard their frustration of feeling like they are not being listened to. That they are discounted by teachers and sometimes parents because they are judged on appearances. They feel that no one actually tries to understand how they are struggling, how they are trying but not succeeding academically, socially, or in everything they try to do.
Next time you see a child, adolescent, or student not achieving, will you take a minute to just stop and ask how you can help. Assume that they don’t want to fail, but rather need support to succeed.
As a child I spent a great deal of time considering the possibilities of the world. I asked “what if” and then followed up with trial and error to achieve what I was working for.
My children and I played “what if” frequently when they were small. It helped them to think of the world as a place of adventures and creations waiting to be developed.
My grandchildren experience that with their mother, who has a degree in art.
But in my practice, I see too many children who don’t know how to ask “what if” except for fearfully. They don’t know how to ask with curiosity and anticipation. In school they are presented with worksheet after worksheet. They are losing recess time to complete these worksheets, sometimes because they can’t get them done fast enough and other times because they need to reach a certain goal of materials covered.
This article on creativity is a major red flag about how the current focus on teaching to the test is causing our children to lose their creativity. Creativity is so important for innovation and problem solving. Let’s begin a conversation with “what if” looking at ways to bring creativity back into the classroom and see what that does for test scores. I am sure it will improve useful life scores when they go to get jobs and start careers.
Too many people take teachers for granted. And they blame them for children not achieving. But, as Hillary Clinton said, it takes a village to raise a child. We need to support each other in helping all children achieve, even if their needs, in order to achieve, are different from the majority of students.
I just got back from 6 days of speaking (3 in Ohio and 3 in Northern California) and I can tell you that there are professionals out there who are looking at how to help the children who function differently. These are the one in six children who have a neurodevelopmental disorder – 1) intellectual disorders, 2) communication disorders, 3) autism spectrum disorders, 4) ADHD, 5) learning disorders, and 6) motor disorders. These children process life differently and need teachers, mentors, and coaches to make the time to teach them the strategies and coping mechanisms to feel functional in the mainstream world of our communities. It is not easy and it is not fast, and YES, it is very tiring. But as this blog states, it does make a difference. It does help keep these children out of jail as they get older.
We still have a long way to go, but believing that as you learn about these children and find people who can help you develop strategies to engage them in learning and understanding social interaction, you will be part of that village that will successfully raise our children.
It is the middle of September and you are already tired. It is scary isn’t it? This tired feeling so early in the school year. If this is what September feels like, how will we ever make it to Thanksgiving? How will we ever survive until May? There is just so much to do. So many new programs to learn, new formats to master, new IEPs and 504 Plans and accommodations to keep track of. It isn’t that you don’t want to do all of things, it is just. There are all of the things. All of the things all of the time, and every year it seems as though there is a new system in place. It will get easier, they say. Once you get used to it. You would like two years with the same program and the chance to get used to it all.
By Press Release TRENTON — Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew and Senate Education Chair M.
Dr. Pat McGuire‘s insight:
This is such an important action by New Jersey for all those with dyslexia. We as a nation don’t recognize dyslexia as the neurologic, language-based disorder of oral and written language that it is. It is sad that knowledg has to be legislated but sometimes that is the only way to get people to acknowledge something they need to know more about. Now lets get the rest of the states that are not already on board (which is most of them) so that accurate identification and remediation can be put in place for our children.
Contact your elected officials to see where your state is (Iowa doesn’t recognize it for example) and push for a bill to be introduced and pushed to passage fort his significant minority of our population (1 in 7 to 1 in 10 depending on how it is classified).