Friday, January 18, 2013

What if We Helped When They Were Still Little?

I have been teaching since 1992. Over the years I can recall students who really stood out to me as potential dangers to themselves and others. The experiences with these students were all equal parts heartbreaking and frightening.

My 3rd year teaching 1st grade, I had little boy in my class that I was afraid of and for. .

If his switch flipped, for any number of seemingly random reasons, he would grab the first object he could find and go stand threateningly over a nearby student and motion menacingly towards the student while glaring at me.(The first time it was scissors, many times a pencil)

This was my first experience with asking myself "How do I balance supporting, teaching & caring for this boy with the safety, both physically & emotionally of the rest of the children in my class?"

On the way to school each day as I got closer & closer to the building, I could feel my shoulders begin to tense up, would he be having a "good" day or a "bad" day?
Would this little boy move from threatening another student to actually hurting one?
Could I stop  him in time if he did?

I asked for help many times. I had "case conferences", observations, interventions,  read books, articles, met with his parents I used every avenue that I knew was available. I was advised to use a 'behavior plan".  Right, stars & stickers? Not helpful.

The only solution was eventually (after a parent from my class complained & asked for her child to be removed from the class) that he had a full time teaching assistant assigned to him. So one adult stayed within arms length of this little boy all day, every day. A bandaid to be sure, but it got us through the year.

I have no idea where this boy is today. I also have no idea what being in school every day with this little boy did to the other students in my class, to be honest, I hardly remember any other students from that year.

I have no idea where this little boy, who would be 27 or 28 today, is or how his life has gone.

But, what if we had gotten him REAL help while he was still little?

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