Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Remember when special meant something good?

This morning, I came as close to being truly angry as I ever get.  While I am very passionate, occasionally irritable, sometimes excitable, and frequently squirrelier than a Bullwinkle film festival, I very rarely ever get angry.  It's just not in my nature.  But today.....ooooo....dang.

So, I'm doing morning duty in the gym (or as I tell the kids....I gotta go do a doody in the gym!)  My job is to make sure they don't eat or drink in the gym, stay in their seats, and don't kill each other.

I'm watching this 7th grader in a green jacket shove two or three kids about half way up the bleachers.  I can't have this...so I march over, and invite the little hooligan to come down and have a seat on the front row until the bell rings.  Pretty benign, just trying to contain the madness.  He says "No." and turns and walks away from me.

Oh heck no.  That kid did not just diss me like that in front of 100 kids.  So I followed him and gave him one more opportunity to comply.  This time he yelled "NO!", and sat down and glared at me. 

After telling him to go the office, and then asking his name, both time met with "NO!", I got his name from another student, and after the bell rang, stomped off to find the Assistant Principal.

By now, I am livid.  This does not fit in with my world view in the least.  I am the teacher.  I am the authority figure.  That is what makes our microcosm society of public education work.  One of my greatest fears is that one day the students will figure out that they outnumber us 50 to 1, and that we really have no real power over them whatsoever.  When that happens, it's going to be the ants vs. the grasshoppers all over again.

So here I come, barreling down upon the poor Assistant Principal, who is monitoring the hallway, blissfully unaware of the 200 pounds of irate teacher bearing down upon him.  As I storm up, I cock my head at him and say "Do you know (insert kid's name here)?  Big, deep, soulful sigh from the AP.  Yes, he knows him.  I explain to him what whet down, and expect a reply something along the lines of "How dare he!!  Let's hang him by his thumbs in the dungeon!!"  Instead, I get "He's special ed.  I'll tell the head of the department."

Well, there went the wind out of my sails.  Special ed.  I know exactly what is going to happen.  Nothing is going to happen.  And tomorrow he'll be back in the gym, doing the same thing, and 100 pairs of eyes will be waiting for my reaction.  When they see me standing there watching, completely powerless, every bit of authentic authority that I have is flushed like a dead goldfish.

Please understand.  I am a huge advocate of special education.  I have long championed the idea that every kid should receive the modications that they need to get the most of of their education.  But at what point should we hold our special needs children accountable for bad behavior?  Today, I taught this kid (unwillingly) that he can do whatever he wants, and there will be no consequences because he has an IEP.  This will most likely be reinforced through his public education career.  How cruel will the real world be for this kid?  I promise if he gets a job and treats his supervisor the way he treated me this morning, there will be no modifications for him.  His rump will be sacked, and he will be standing there wondering, "What just happened?  That's not the way this goes...."

Now that I've had some time to cool off, I'm not mad anymore.  I'm sad.  Will this kid be able to hold a job?  What happens if he runs a red light and decides not to pull over for the police because he is in a hurry and doesn't want to?  By not giving this young person a consequence for breaking the rules in 7th grade, we are laying a certain foundation for this boy.  We should be trying to prepare him for his future.  That's our #1 job, isn't it?