3 Things I’ve Learned from The Boy’s Worst Teacher

If you are a regular reader, you know we’ve been struggling with The Boy’s new school since day one of this school year.  They seem to have precious little experience with autism, or even with IEPs, modifications, and accommodations, which cannot be remotely possible, but here we are.  I have felt all along that their hearts are basically in the right place, they are just ignorant…  with one exception.  The Boy’s social studies teacher has repeatedly demonstrated contempt, if not for The Boy himself, then for the extra effort he requires.  She is the type of teacher who follows the textbook as if it were a bible, and pushes those 6th graders as if social studies is their only class, and their one true avocation in life.  Her assessments have little to do with the content learned, and seem to have been added as an afterthought, possibly when an administrator asked her to expand her resources to other sources than the textbook.

I received a note home from her in the planner, mid-week, that explained that The Boy had been given a modified test, and even with extra time had completed very little of it.  OK, Problem Number One: I looked back in his planner, what is supposed to be our primary method of communication between school and home, and there was no mention of a test.  I went on this teacher’s website, and there was no mention of a test, I looked back in my emails, and there was NO MENTION OF A TEST.  So I emailed the teacher immediately, pointing out that I had no previous knowledge of a test to be given this week, and was there a review sheet?  She emailed back the next day, saying she had looked in The Boy’s planner and it had been written at least four times in the last week that there was a test Wednesday…  This was an outright lie!  I had made a copy of the current page of the planner, because I like to document these notes of hers (this was not the first) that seem to imply she’s doing everything she can and The Boy is being somehow disobedient by not complying.  I emailed back to say that her statement was incorrect, that I had made copies of his planner pages, and there was nothing written in the social studies slot in the planner during the last week.  She responded, apologized and blamed it on the 11 year-old girl who helps The Boy write things in his planner, saying she had either written it in the wrong spot or had not copied exactly what was on the board.

Can you feel the anger rising in my throat by now?

We’ll get back to the outright lie in a minute.

Problem Number Two: She explained that there had been no review sheet, that the students were supposed to study from their “chapter work,” and that due to personal issues and being out for a few days the previous week, she hadn’t updated her website.  Well, The Boy didn’t have any “Chapter 3 work” to study — it had all been turned in.  I had requested review sheets from her starting with the first test (this was their third already), so that I could help him prepare and focus for the test, and again she had disregarded The Boy’s needs.

Problem Number Three: “Extended Time” as an accommodation does not mean an extra ten minutes within the same class period, and I explained this to her.  I also explained that he is entitled to take his test in another location, have his test read to him, and all of the other testing accommodations that are in his IEP.  I asked her if he could bring it home to take it and she didn’t respond.  She just keeps giving it to him every class period and expecting him to complete it.

In my opinion, this has gone beyond a teacher “trying” to provide my son with modifications and accommodations.  This is now willful ignorance.  She has a history of not communicating with me about upcoming tests.  With the first, we had one day’s notice, and with the second and third there was no notice at all.  And for all three tests, I have seen one review sheet.  She has a history of not providing modifications to his assignments, and when I requested more time for him to study before the first test, she refused.  And now, not only did she lie to me about there being four notes about this week’s test in The Boy’s planner, she had The Boy and his helper go back and write in the notes after I told her there was nothing in the planner.  She got my email, waited until the next day in class, had them write things in the previous week in his planner, and then claimed they had been written there all along.

I have requested a meeting with the principal about this, even though I am hopeful that we won’t have to deal with this too much longer.

What have I learned?

  • Document everything.  I had a feeling I should copy those planner pages the night I wrote my email.  Unfortunately, I only copied one.  But at least I have that, and I have every email she has ever written which shows this pattern of a lack of communication and a lack of willingness to accommodate my son’s needs.
  • Don’t assume every teacher has your child’s best interest at heart.  It pains me to say this, and I don’t think this is true for 99% of the teachers out there, but I’ve learned this the hard way.
  • Don’t avoid confrontation about something like this.  I could take the easy way out and just bide my time until we can get out of the school, but I know there are other kids with autism in this teacher’s class, and I can only imagine how they and every other kid with an IEP who has ever been in her class have been treated.  It’s not right, and she needs to be called on it.

Reflections on an IEP Meeting

Our IEP meeting was Thursday, and I felt like we accomplished something, but I’m reserved in my enthusiasm…  More of a wait-and-see attitude about it all.

The good:

  • They agreed to implement his IEP as it came from our previous state, to the best of their ability
  • They agreed that training for the teachers in modifications and accommodations was necessary immediately
  • The teachers seemed to support his need for an aide
  • We finally fixed his schedule so that he would no longer have two math classes
  • They will be adding ASD-specific life skills to his schedule to replace the math
  • They will be looking for some sort of computer for him to use for assignment
  • They will begin to actually implement his IEP, and the ASD specialist commented several times that this was overdue

The not-so-good, of the “shake my head” variety:

  • The teachers kept bringing up common autistic traits, “He won’t talk to me,” or “He won’t do his work, even after being directed”
  • The principal asked me point-blank, “He won’t verbalize it if he needs something??”
  • They are going to do more testing, including a psychological and intelligence (IQ) test, even though he was thoroughly evaluated this spring in his old district, simply because the new state requires these other tests
  • My concerns about organization help and communication were not addressed as specifically as I’d like them to be
  • They included a note about following his IEP “to the best of their ability”

I think I was heard, I think they have a better idea of what needs to be done, I think I’m not “that woman” anymore.  I don’t know to what extent they will follow through on their promises, and they have a great deal to learn about autism in general, and my son, specifically.

I hope we accomplished something.  I hope…

IEP documentation

Struggling

I’m really struggling here.  I have never ever had to worry about what went on at school for The Boy.  I knew how lucky I was then, because I read horror stories of what goes on in most school districts, but we were fortunate enough to have a great program, and the absolute best teachers who fought on our side the very few times it was even necessary.

Here, I think I have sent 40 emails in the past week to The Boy’s school personnel.  In addition to three meetings.

And the hits just keep coming.  There is still no aide, although the county autism specialist sent a TA to the school in the mornings to assist.  But only for this week.  I had to walk him back into the school yesterday when I found all of the school supplies (you know, from the supply list that they make available in the summer?) still in his backpack — He’d been carrying them since the first day of school and I had asked multiple times for someone to assist him in getting those things into his locker.  He still has his PE policies parent-sing-page in his backpack, all filled out, but not getting to its destination, plus several random untitled assignments – not checked, unacknowledged.

Last night, he had written that he had science homework in his planner, but neither what it was nor was it on the correct day.  I was clueless, so I emailed the teacher, after checking her website and still being clueless.  She responded to explain the assignment, and I responded thank you and we-may-need-some-more-time-on-this.  No response.  (Mind you, the assignment was to make a list of the characteristics of a science teacher and then draw a rough sketch of a correlating picture, and they will do a final draft of the picture in class, the purpose of which is to supposedly give the teacher a sense of their “work ethic”…)

projectWhile checking websites, I checked his social studies teacher’s website.  I saw that the “hot dog foldable” had been due yesterday, again no explanation of what that was.  I remembered something floating around his backpack that seemed like it fit the bill, so I made sure he completed that last night.  I also noticed on her website that they were given a “research project” today.  I had no idea what that was, but knew I wouldn’t be able to get any more work out of him last evening, so I let it drop.  Then, I actually found the assignment in his binder this morning – it had an explanation and a rubric and everything!  The goal was to help foreign visitors understand the “key historic, geographic and economic features of a region” – The Boy’s region was apparently “London”.  They were supposed to write up a four day itinerary, and include a map, outlining the route.  Got this assignment yesterday, due today.

So on top of my son having needs that aren’t being addressed in class, due to a lack of an aide to help him attend to tasks at hand, he also has needs that aren’t being met in terms of his organizational skills, and no one helping him to keep track of assignments.  No one is modifying assignments to my knowledge.  And we have a range of assignments from drawing pictures to one-night research projects!

If The Boy didn’t love school so much, I would seriously be considering homeschooling right now.  It’s totally not out of the question…