I had a post drafted for today, but I had to revise it. I’ve mentioned the struggles we’re having with The Boy’s new school, and how little they seem to know about autism, and how to make modifications and accommodations that are necessary for him to thrive within the general education curriculum. His teachers came to his IEP meeting with that deer-in-headlights look, as if they have never seen a creature like my son before, and had no clue about how to assist him in his learning.
As a teacher, I knew that ineffective teaching existed — I just didn’t really witness it. I taught for over 17 years, and rarely did I work or come into contact with colleagues from whom I wouldn’t want my son to learn. There were strict teachers and lax teachers, friendly teachers and more distant teachers, scattered teachers and organized teachers, but essentially they still knew what they were doing. It was even more rare to come across a teacher who was not good with kids. Even teachers who were not warm and fuzzy were still able to form relationships with kids and treat them fairly and professionally.
I guess that’s why I’m having such a hard time with one of The Boy’s teachers in particular. They all seem a little lost in terms of autism, and a few seem a little scattered in terms of general teaching skills. This one in particular has problems communicating, both with me and The Boy. She assigns a crazy amount of work, even for a neurotypical student. She uses rubrics, but they do not seem to assess knowledge of social studies content, rather the processes by which the content is expressed – for example, there is a public speaking rubric for sharing current events, and a writing rubric for a research project. I don’t know for sure, but I can guess that she is not teaching about public speaking and/or writing in her class, so where are the assessments that give her information on what the students have learned from her?
More importantly in our own case is that she seems to dislike having a student in her room that isn’t “normal”. She decided on the second day of school that The Boy should be placed in the resource room rather than go to her class because he wasn’t “doing the work”. She wrote in his planner last week that he wouldn’t “answer” her. She sent me an email today, saying that The Boy had printed off 43 pages from the internet in the computer lab yesterday and that there is a rule against printing without a teacher’s permission. She has made only one modification since the beginning of the year, giving The Boy a modified review sheet and quiz that she had printed off from a “special needs workbook” published by the textbook publisher, and refused to give him extra time to study as I requested, and which is also an accommodation spelled out in his IEP.
When I got the email about computer lab printing rules today, I could hear my pulse quicken, could feel the blood in my veins heat up, saw my hands clenching into fists involuntarily. I took a breath, and reminded myself not to answer immediately (calm down, Mama Bear – Ha!). After a few minutes, I responded that I would reinforce the printing rule with The Boy when he returned home, but also asked her to please remember that he has a hard time asking for help when he needs it.
And then I sat down to write this post.
And this seemed like even more proof that this woman was not nice, would continue to be a source of frustration and obstruction this school year, and was looking for any excuse to prove that my son can’t.
And then she responded to my last email, telling me she knew he didn’t do it on purpose, and that he shared his research project in front of the class by sharing his maps while she read his points of interest, and the children clapped for him. She said it was a successful day for everyone.
And all of a sudden, my impressions of her became blurred, and a little bit of hope peeked through.
I can only hope that we will all learn a lot this year.