Remember the first time someone gave you the lecture on having a choice to be part of the problem or part of the solution? Well that lesson has sure come in handy this week. I think first and foremost, it’s important to pinpoint the cause of the problem instead of looking at the enormous entirety of it all. I remember the first time I ever saw this quote and the way it changed my perspective on dealing with problems that felt bigger than I was able to handle. It goes something like this,” Don’t tell God how big your problem is, tell your problem how big God is.” Sometimes, the solution you need is just a new way of looking at the problem in the first place.
Yesterday I found myself in what you could call an emergency end of first marking period meeting. It was recently brought to my attention that Chase had several missing assignments and a test to make up from over a month ago. Why was I just hearing about this now? Why was I just now hearing that a 4 part project was due the next day? Why did the teacher send the make up test home with Chase last week when she knows he doesn’t complete his work and the work he does complete he can’t turn in because it has most likely gone missing? Why do you give a child with ADD extra responsibility when he cannot juggle the responsibilities already on his plate? There was my answer hiding boldly behind the black and white print of the words in an innocent email the teacher sent me regarding whether Chases medication appeared to be working.This is a direct quote from the teachers email to me, “As far as his medication, he has always been fairly quiet in my class and behavior hasn’t been a problem. Are there particular signs I should look for? Does he fidget in his seat when the medication isn’t working? I know that different medicines have all different effects, so I will let you know if I notice anything out of the ordinary.”
What a moment, to finally get to the root of the problem. All this time, the teacher had absolutely no knowledge of ADD at all. She was referring to behaviors associated with ADHD which is significantly different that ADD. Worse than that is the stigma and misconception that comes along with those awful words that mislead people and teachers to believe both ADD and ADHD are merely a behavioral problem where kids fidget and act out and are treated with medication to make them sit down and shut up. This is so far from the truth however, and often why kids with ADD go unnoticed. They are the kids that behave, sit quietly in their seats and appear to be working. Only, they are labeled as mediocre students and kids that don’t work to their full potential. They are the kids labeled as lazy and unmotivated because they cannot finish their work in a timely fashion if they remember to hand it in at all. These are the kids that get a poor grade on a project because they are unable to follow multi-step directions. They are the forgotten few who quietly slip through the cracks while the squeaky wheels get oiled.
I remember how excited I was, ecstatic even, that we finally got our 504. For me, it was a red flag for the teacher that let her know from day one that Chase had a problem that required special needs and provisions in the classroom. AND, the plan would be there for them to implement so that the teachers would know what to do and Chase would have his best chance to be successful in the classroom. Sounds like a win- win for everyone right? You know what they say, if something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.
This was my moment of discovering where the system was broken. Can you imagine assuming your children is being given his best chance at success, yet not only is the plan NOT being followed through, but also the teacher doesn’t even understand the disability or disorder behind the 504 or the IEP in the first place? So what does the IEP or 504 become? A useless piece of paper and nothing more.
This, however, gave me a glimmer of hope. When the game changes, the plan must change too. I went in and I educated the teacher on ADD. I explained what it is like for a child with ADD to sit in the classroom and why traditional teaching methods don’t work.I gave her clear examples of how she was assuring Chase would fail and alternatives that she could use to turn this thing around. She was receptive and grateful. These poor teachers have no one leading and educating them with the diverse needs of various kids in their classrooms. This has become the way of the world. No leadership or organization. It trickles down from the top….it’s not my responsibility, I don’t know whose in charge of that. People are put into positions yet are not told HOW to do their job. They just don’t know. It’s not a matter of not wanting to do it, it’s a matter of not knowing how to do it. Are these teachers expected to take this on themselves when there are 34 other kids sitting in their classroom and while they are trying to teach?
During my meeting, another teacher dropped in to let me know how much the team cares about Chase and how they were really pulling together to figure out how to make things right. She was really interested in hearing what I had to say and shared some of the suggestions she had read on the Internet and how she was using them in her class. I had a whole new respect for his team. They were really trying their best to get this right. His Social Studies teacher was telling me how excited she was that Chase got his braces, because ever since the metal was put in his mouth a lightbulb seemed to turn on in his head. She told me he was raising his hand to answer questions, getting all his work completed and handing it in EARLY. I congratulated her on recognizing the difference between a dose of medication that is not working and one that makes the difference. The day Chase got his braces, we increased his dose of medicine and guess what? She noticed! Finally what I had been asking for since the beginning of school, confirmation we were finally at the right dose.
I am feeling much better about the upcoming semesters. I really feel like we made headway and I connected with the team in a whole new way. They let me in and now we are a team of 5. I have always felt my purpose, or gift as some call it, has something to do with teaching and education. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it for some time. I now realize maybe it is much broader than I ever imagined. Maybe I’ve already been doing it, through the years I coached gymnastics, taught my patients about diseases and medications when I worked as a nurse, through the words I write in my blog, and perhaps providing these few teachers the understanding and patience and knowledge they need to pay it all forward and share what they learn with other teachers so maybe somewhere down the road, we can help another kid that sits in class quietly struggling with his ADD. I believe these teachers will do their part. I will continue to do everything I can to help these teachers better understand and as I learn through trial and error, they will learn too. It’s a road that is long. I don’t expect it to be easy, but knowing I have a small tribe on my side, and Chases side, gives me the hope I need to keep on traveling this road, and it’s nice to know I don’t have to do it alone.