Updated: Aug 18, 2020
I want to get this straight right out of the gate. I don't hate teachers. I love them and respect them highly. They have a hard job that is often thankless and often hard from the constraints the government puts on them. I want to thank all the great teachers out there keeping up the good fight.
I went to public school and I have mixed feelings about my experience. As a person who has learning disabilities we had to hide from the school to keep from being put in the inclusion classroom where I didn't need to be. I just needed understanding and patience but they didn't do that back then. I routinely performed poorly in daily class assignments and they'd discuss holding me back but then end of the year testing rolled around and then I'd be being tested for the gifted program because of my test results. To say it was frustrating is an understatement. There were a few teachers sprinkled throughout my school career I truly loved and helped me shine and grow. I also had my share of bad eggs. I encountered sexist, racist, baised and one male teacher who gave me the nickname Betty Boop when I was in middle school that still kind of creeps me out.
When I had kids of my own even with my mixed feeling I sent my kids to public school. After all that was what you are supposed to do right? The public school is the place our kids are supposed to learn. Mine did...For a while.
My oldest has several learning disabilities so I was already worried about him but my sweet girl was a people pleaser whom most people always seemed to love. I never expected what happened to her to happen. Every teacher she's ever had has said they wished all their students were as polite and well mannered as she was. She didn't deserve what happened to her nor do the countless kids who are bullied by their teachers.
My Child Became Her Target
My daughter went to a very advanced pre school and an advanced school for Kindergarten. I was very sad to leave it but we moved and had to go to a new school. She starts First Grade already having done a lot of the material this school was covering through the first two nine weeks according to the syllabus. The teacher hated that my daughter would get bored during circle time and not pay close attention but when called upon on could answer the question she was asking. She began screaming at her daily. She had other subtle ways of treating her to make her feel unwelcome in her classroom.
When I attempted to get her an IEP/504 for her handwriting suspected dysgraphia she lied to the IEP team that Bella had no writing problems and even brought in samples of work that was another students. She also claimed never to have seen the improper handgrip. As such I forced them to bring her in and write for them and it proved the teacher was either lying or not paying attention.
That seemed to cause even more backlash for my daughter. She was vindictive and cruel and I wish I could have saved my daughter from this better. When I would ask my daughter wouldn't tell me what was going on or how bad it was the teacher wouldn't let me in the classroom so I felt helpless. Once she finally confided in me and I was able to do some things to help but it was so late my options were a little more limited.
If you find yourself in this situation here are a few ideas to help them and you get through it.
1. Document Document Document
This is the most crucial and important steps you should start the second you feel something is off. Every story your child comes home with try to document it as soon as you can so that its fresh and as accurate as possible. Keep a record of any communication between you and the teacher and any notes sent home that may be relevant. Keep track of any behavioral changes you notice in your child such as anxiety or all the sudden stomach aches every school day. If your class has a facebook, group me or other form of communication record anything mentioned to you by other parents. Watch the pictures the teacher shares of the class. Is your child in them? Do they seem happy? Are they off to the side and appear left out? Every single detail you can gather will help you and your case to get help for your child.
2. Work Your Way Up The Chain Of Command
Once you have all your detailed documentation together to back up your complaints, start by emailing the principal outlining the issues you are having. Make sure you copy the vice principal the grade level team lead and IEP team if applicable. Don't start with the superintendent, but don't be afraid to involve them if the need arrives. Everybody even school leadership has a boss and sometimes it takes seeing that their boss has been involved that will light the fire under them to get something done.
Don't be afraid to request a face to face meeting with the principal if you feel you are being brushed off or dismissed. If that doesn't work continue with face to face meetings moving up the ladder until you get results you are satisfied with. Continue to document all these communications as you continue to fight for justice for your child. Keep your head up and hopefully it won't take having to go to the news but don't rule it out you are your child's advocate you are teaching them to fight for others.
3. The Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease
We have all heard this saying about various scenarios and it is just as true when it comes to getting your child help. I am very non-confrontational and I have never been one to rock the boat. When it comes to my kids well being and mental health my mamma bear claws come out, and I will get loud when I have to.
You will have to get loud and you will have to write email after email. Keep your squeak going as loud as you can they won't be able to ignore you.
You will have to make piece with the fact that requested meetings and the constant squeak are inconvenient or uncomfortable for school administration. Make piece with the fact that not everyone in the room is going to like you. You are forcing them to take action and be held accountable for what is going on in their school. Don't let them distract you with charm and false promises. Demand action and have it written out and signed by all parties. Don't let your child pay the price for others ego and discomfort.
Stay noisy for your child. Just keep squeaking they will learn this wheel isn't going away until it gets fixed.
4. Consider All Your Options
Sometimes no matter how hard you try or how loud you squeak they are not going to budge. Sometimes a teachers bullying behaviors will be allowed or even defended especially if the teacher is tenured or consistently get kids to perform well on state tests, which in our case is what happened. The school admitted they knew of her behaviors, but she got really good test results. Those are the times that the one size fits all education system doesn't work for all. At these times you have to consider all your options.
Keep your child in the same school. Insist on a new classroom but know that if you choose this option your fight is not over. Schools often seem to like to punish the child when they are forced to do something they should be doing. Just ask any mom of a special needs child and they will tell you schools hate being held accountable.
Consider a private school. This is not always within budget for a lot of families but they do sometimes have scholarships you can apply for to help offset costs. These schools are not without drawbacks as they come with their own sets of rules and requirements. They don't have the same requirements or leadership so if something goes wrong there are less options for recourse.
Look into homeschooling. I know it seems scary and daunting but it's really not as scary as it seems. It isn't how it used to be there are so many programs, curriculums and opportunities for socialization. There are lots of support groups and it's a great way to bond with your child.
Run for a seat on the school board. The best way to make change is from the top. You can run on your story and help make sure what happened to you family doesn't happen to another.
Just remember if you find yourself in this situation you are not alone this has happened to others, and will continue to happen as long as we are afraid to fight back. Bullies who use their power and position to hurt others who are smaller and weaker than them need to be stopped. We send our kids to school to learn and we expect them to be in a safe and nurturing environment. When we find ourselves in this situation we need to forget about playing nice, making friends or worrying about being liked. Our children's mental health and wellbeing are on the line and nothing is more important than that.
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