Thursday, December 6, 2007

20th Century Education

I have run into several of my kids from the high school recently. One young man called me the other day to talk after a friend passed away, and I saw one yesterday at the store. One new young mother came up to me a few months ago eager to show off her new daughter. Seeing these kids and having them come to me to share their concerns and joys really lifts me up. It has been 2 1/2 years since I quit working outside the home so I could home school my girls. And I really miss my other kids!

God sent me to work at the high school. (Seems my psych degree and work history at a juvenile placement facility and as a correctional officer at a medium security prison perfectly qualified me for high school work) I believe that was the final thing he did in convincing me to home school. See, I worked with some awesome kids. There were even some incredible teachers, and a wonderful principal at the school I worked at. But the kids I worked with had learning disabilities and behavioral problems. And there is this nifty little rule in place that says that the school system must accommodate ALL disabilities. Sounds great, but in the school system's attempt to be accommodating, they bind and gag their staff and then instruct them to teach effectively. They use the term 'disability' to cover any and every deviance in an attempt to placate some parents of out-of-control teens.

Let me give an example. I was given charge of a teenage boy whose mother insisted he was bipolar. Numerous psychiatrists had not yet determined that, but mom was insistent. He gets upset with a teacher who asks him to participate in class, puts his head down, and starts playing with a lighter (not supposed to have lighters in high school!), trying to light papers on fire and fling them into the trash can. I try to quietly take him to the hall, and confiscate the lighter, and tell him to show his teacher the respect of listening instead of being distracting. (Always take a kid aside quietly- never make a scene or embarrass them in front of other kids - you lose them.) He tells me (very loudly....with swearing) that the next time he will light the whole school on fire. I try escorting him to the office while he storms off from me, loudly swearing at me down the hallway, disrupting every classroom on the way. I probably had about three hundred witnesses. After his talk with the vice principal, (did I mention I was instructed to wait outside?), he is given a warning to try to control his anger and a smile......and I am informed/reminded that he is bipolar, have bipolar slowly and patiently explained to me, and am instructed that he is not acting out - it is his 'disability' speaking, and told that we must work around his 'disability'.

He was quite quickly shown that I have no authority, and that he can do whatever he wants! I am given the same speech by one of the other teachers, the whole time wondering why they are speaking so slooooowwwly to me. Do I appear slow?

I must share my response. I was a little rude. I instructed the powers-that-be that I did not come to the school with a degree in education, but one in psychology - neuropsychology to be exact. And that I had studied bipolar disorder pretty extensively - even knew folks with it. And that that kid was not, in my opinion, bipolar. He was defiant, disrespectful, and had no respect for authority, and had never been held accountable for his actions, but he was NOT disabled. And then I told them that we were crippling him by allowing him to get away with it, and we were robbing him of an education. He was going to be shocked the first time he ran into trouble with the law, threw up his hands and said 'but wait, I have a disability!' and they told him to shut up and threw him in the slammer.

And, by the way, what about the other kids? What about the kids whose classes were disrupted? What about the kids in his class, unable to learn, because of all the drama constantly going on around them? What about the kids he threatens, because they happen to be in his path when he is throwing a temper tantrum?

So, like I was saying....I still miss my kids. But the bureaucracy of the public school system, in an effort to be politically correct, and in an effort to give everyone an equal education, places enough restrictions on the educators that they are not able to effectively teach as they desire. Equal education now means average, not excellent, education. Some kids, thankfully, still manage to excel. But it is often a result of their own perseverance, and alot of time and effort from their parents. And it is not because the teachers are incompetent. I met some incredible, gifted teachers. But most teachers, given time, will grow weary of trying to teach bound and gagged.

I think God wanted me to see the system. He wanted me to realize that my own children could possibly be those other kids, incapable of learning to the best of their ability, because the teacher has to accommodate the needs of other kids first. Or maybe my children could develop into the defiant, disrespectful kid, their education being put on hold while their behaviors ignored. And I am so thankful, because I know I am not the best teacher, or the best mom. But there is one thing that homeschooling allows me to do. It allows me to teach my children, without the worries and distractions of dealing with the bureaucracy of the school system, free to flail my unbound hands, and speak from my ungagged mouth.

No comments: