Sunday, November 23, 2014

"THAT CHILD"

As we approach the epic parent teacher conference season, I stumbled on an article that I found very profound.  It's not often that articles challenge me to rethink the way I approach things and even make me cry, but this one did just that.  Thank goodness, I am now responsible for 600 children and their families.  I have a distinct pleasure of walking up every day and going into a building knowing I can help children learn better, grow, and blossom.  I love sitting in the classrooms of my over 40 teachers watching them work with the children to facilitate learning and foster critical thinking skills and a sense of ownership in our students over their educational experiences.  I love spending time with teachers on curriculum, new initiatives, and exciting projects they are doing in class.

In anticipation of the upcoming midterm progress reports, I have met with most of my staff already to have the first class progress meetings with them of the season where they actually fill out a sheet http://bit.ly/cpmtemplate prior to the meeting telling me various information about each child in their class.  Then, we use to meeting to discuss each child and create a plan of action for every child in the classroom so that they can succeed.  Inevitably, at most meetings with teacher, the issue of "that child" comes up in each classroom (or many).  After reading the recent article in the Washington Post, I really feel like I have been approaching "that child" wrong.

First, let me describe to you who "that child" is.  According to the article, "that child" is the one who "hits, disrupts, and influences YOUR child," but I actually took this to mean a lot more than that.  Sure, in the lower grades and even in nursery programs that is probably an accurate description of "that child", but in the older grades, "that child" can also be the one who "doesn't do her homework, curses at other kids, pushes kids in the cafeteria, and or bothers them on the bus.  So regardless of the exact criteria that make "that child" the one and regardless of what age the child is, the perspective shared in this article applies.

What the article does nicely in the beginning is turn the focus away from the child's behavior and toward the causes.  Most of the time, the causes of this extreme behavior are in fact linked to issues outside the boundaries of the school itself.  Everything ranging from family problems, to psychological problems, to medical issues appear to be the most frequent culprits. Then, the article focuses on what is being done for the child in this situation by the school and parents to help the child.  Lastly, the focus becomes "that child's" growth.

After a discussion about that child, the author turns to the parents of the other children and promises that if ever there child becomes "that child" the teacher will continue to do everything in her power to help their child. She states that she worries about every child in the classroom, including the other kids.  That every child has something that keeps her mind turning.  It is such a powerful letter that I really think every educator and parent needs to read it.  I have the link below:

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/11/14/teacher-to-parents-about-that-kid-the-one-who-hits-disrupts-and-influences-your-kid/

What is the lesson we can take from this as educators?  While there is so much we cannot reveal to parents about what is going on in the classroom (with other children) the focus must always be consistently on their child and what we are and should be doing for them.  We must reiterate to parents that ultimately we feel blessed every day to have this sacred obligation and calling to teach their child and every child who walks through our door.  And that yes, we are doing everything we can for each child.  We also need to go into parent teacher conferences confident in addressing parents who voice concerns over that child that in fact it is being dealt with and that ultimately if they too had a problem with their child, we would be there for them as well.  We must reiterate that we really are there for their kid who is not "that child."  We must also never stop and think of "that child" as the disruption in the classroom, but rather someone who is suffering who we are blessed with the ability to help.