Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mama Bear Strikes Again!

As my hand gently moved to lay across his arm, he knew there was going to be trouble...

Last night we had teacher conferences at school for all 3 boys and it went very well for the most part. We heard wonderful comments about each of the boys and were quite happy with their progress. Then came the "moment", and Momma Bear came out with a vengeance.

Kenny has a team of teachers working with him, including special ed, speech, ESL and his regular teacher. We only met with the special ed teacher in addition to his regular classroom teacher last night. The conversation was moving along just fine as we reviewed Kenny's test scores, discussed classrooom behavior, etc. Then we mentioned that we are still considering holding him back to repeat 3rd grade and would make a firm decision on that at the end of the year.

That's when I was suddenly subjected to being talked to like an uneducated idiot who couldn't POSSIBLY know what was right for my child. The special ed teacher IS a well educated, articulate woman who knows her stuff. She also has no understanding of post-institutionalization whatsoever and has not once ever taught a child with Kenny's background. Yet she knows what is right for him, in her opinion, and didn't hesitate to provide me with the benefit of her expertise and superior education.

And at that moment I laid my hand on Dominick's arm, years of marriage and non-verbal communication paid off and with no need for words he subtly leaned back in his chair so I could then give this special ed teacher the benefit of MY experience and education...

"Research shows that holding a child back is NEVER the best option." and then she leaned across the table with an acusatory tone and said "So you are saying you want to make your child feel punished?". Then as I tried to express what we were thinking about Kenny's progress this teacher then threw out a threat, and with a haughty tone said "Well, before we do that we will have to involve the Principal and School Psycologist."

Don't EVER lean in at me with an unfounded accustion or threats, or I'll lean on you. Hard.

And I did.

Whew, was I hot!! I asked her if she had taught any children with Kenny's background, if she understood that for every three months insitutionalized a child was delayed 1 month...and Kenny had lived in that environment for 8 1/2 years. I also informed her in no uncertain terms that she could feel absolutely free to bring anyone into the dialogue, but in the long run if we wanted Kenny held back, he would be held back. Period. Or we would reomve him from school altogether and teach him at home as I am not at all averse to doing that and know that at least at this stage in his education I could manage that quite nicely. I explained that she was looking at test scores, which by the way were unsatisfactory in my mind for progression to the next grade, but we were looking at the whole child and would ALWAYS be able to see that whole child better than ANY teacher who worked with him an hour every day in a group setting. I explained to her quite clearly that Kenny was emotionally and developmentally in many ways a 6 year old...that away from school he played almost exclusively best with Josh and his friends despite the fact that Matthew was 8 months younger and far closer in age. I informed her that she may have forgotten but I currently have a son in 4th grade and am in the classroom often so I know exactly what faces Kenny next year should he move up, and not only do I recognize that he is unable to handle work at that level, but so does Kenny. I also informed her we had already discussed this possibility with Kenny long ago, and that despite what she thought he was not considering it a punishment should it have to happen.

Then I was finished, and she quickly left the room. Thankfully, his classroom teacher understands our perspective and doesn't think we are foolish to be considering this possibility. We will revisit the issue at the end of the school year when we will ultimately make the decision, and they can bring in the King of England if they want to but that still won't scare me off. I also know we DO have the support of the Principal and Psychologist, should we need it, and that is nice to know.

Why, oh why, do people who have never even spent 10 minutes with kids like ours from these backgrounds suddenly think they are experts in educating or parenting them? "Studies show...", "research shows"...that does NOT apply to my child unless that study was based upon post-institutionalized children from the former Soviet republics. You want studies? I'll give you studies that are applicable, and I intend on doing that very thing this week. But why do teachers and others not recognize that they show their OWN ignorance when they are so busy trying to reveal mine??

I am NOT an expert in special education. I AM the best expert they will find on Kenny LaJoy. I have a very intelligent son whose reading skills place him at the level of the end of first grade, and she thinks it is inappropriate to even consider holding him back from entering 4th grade?? You tell me whose thinking is inappropriate. He is also not yet working at 3rd grade level in math, which if he were might give me reason to pause. I have a 10 year old whose playmates are 6 year olds, so the maturity factor isn't a concern.

Why can't any well educated person recognize that a bright kid who has had only a year and a half of a new language, a new family, a new culture, and a new life might just need one thing to help him...more time. Kenny is ONLY "special needs" due to a lack of time here to learn. He has no learning disability that has been identified, he has a good brain which is making more and more connections all the time. He has support at home, he is surrounded by caring adults and siblings. What he needs is time to catch up, and he will. If he has it, I have no doubt that he will be performing at an A-B level, but if we don't give him that time his frustration will grow as he is certainly smart enough to see that he ought to be getting good grades and doing well, if only for not missing out on his early years of school.

As we left the building, steam still spewing from my ears, Dominick started laughing and said "I knew once that hand was on my arm that I needed to just sit back and let you go...I'll bet she never expected that!".

Yea, well, I never expected to be treated like someone with an IQ of 50 and as if I didn't know my own son. I never expected to be accused of wanting to punish him merely because I want to see him succeed and am responsible for providing him with all the tools he needs to do just that, even if one of those tools is Time.

Mama Bear is on the loose, don't let her come to YOUR school!


Dee said...

You go girl! You were absolutely right to set her straight. I get so tired of people who know nothing about post-institutionalized children trying to tell me what's right for my kids. They have no clue. I become Mama Bear, too, when faced with that sort of thing.

On another note, depending on when they get here, you may want to homeschool the girls, right at first. My mother tutored Michael intensely for 3 1/2 months before he started school, and that's why he was OK. Alesia didn't get that and it really hampered her learning.

Anonymous said...

:-) Thank God Kenny has a momma bear. They all need that. Obviously, if he were to be pushed on and on to an ever higher grade without having a solid understanding of the previous material anyone would flounder and lose self esteem. The idea is to educate the individual child not just keep him with his age group!
More power to you momma!

Raynola said...

Been there! Done that! You go girl!!

Maureen said...

Good for you Cindy! While the special education teacher has the educational background and research, you are so right that you have the every day experience of knowing Kenny inside and out. For some kids it would hurt their pride to be held back, but you are not making this decision on a whim. You are making a very thoughtful decision with the input of your son. You often say that you are not well educated, but everything you write tells a different story. There is classroom education and real life education. You ARE an educated woman. Never doubt yourself! Go Mama Bear!!!

Rachel said...

Cindy, I just stopped in after your email to the group - I have nothing to add other than good for you for advocating for your son!

Lori said...


And that, friend, is EXACTLY why I hate, hate, HATE public education. Now, imagine the frustration that that random teacher (we're out there, really, just few and far between) you come across feels as she ALSO sits in on those meetings and listen to the complete and total nonsensical DRIVEL that the school psychologist/special ed teacher/ whatever and has to toe the party line or they get reprimanded, blackballed and/or fired. I get SO sick of schools forgetting that WE WORK FOR YOU AND YOUR KID. PERIOD. My job is to be your kid's advocate--and even if that goes against the system...and it most often does. "Research says..." Ha ha. I can find research that says I'm tall and blond if I want to. That's BS. We don't want to do what is RIGHT for the children because we don't have the gumballs to do so...too expensive, makes us look too unsuccessful, and we TOTALLY SCREW children with IEPs because we are so scared of somebody accusing us of discriminating against special needs children if we don't just give them a diploma--regardless of whether or not they even have any backing behind it. Funny that we care about whether or not our childrens' psyche is eternally damaged with retention but we could CARE LESS that their every day of life in a classroom they can't keep up in is pure HELL for them. I HATE IT. I have a student that SO needs to be retained...he is going to thankfully and finally qualify for an IEP (because I threatened to help his parents with a lawsuit if not) and with that intervention and retention, he actually has a fighting chance. NOPE. Retention will make his heart hurt. GOOD GRIEF. What will his heart feel like when he drops out of school because he is pushed through with no attention to whether or not he is ready to move on or has the skills to do so... and ends up feeling like he can't do anything BUT drop out when he can?

All I have to say is you TEAR THEM A NEW ONE. Not that they are really indicative of my intelligence, but the several degrees I have (in education, communications AND psychology) don't mean SQUAT if I am not going to do anything meaningful for children with them. I'd have wanted to throttle that woman. In fact, I DO want to throttle her for you. You just remember...your tax dollars pay OUR you just tell them how it is going to be and that is that.

Anonymous said...

Come on to my school!! I'll (hopefully) be teaching third grade next year and I will take him!! :)
Of course you are going to have to move to Seoul but hey :)

Lenore Ryan said...

I can just picture you in that conference!! Way to go, Cindy!! If you won't fight for your kids, no one will!!

Hilary Marquis said...

Can you teach me the way oh wise one?! I had to call the public school this week because they are changing Ty's resource teacher for what will be the 4th time this year!!! Because of a certificate that she doesn't have, yet she has 30yrs teaching experience, they cannot retain her in this capacity! Thank you oh so much no child left behind...So, the child with AS who needs continuity, a teacher that knows him, routine, normalcy, etc. will be getting jerked around AGAIN because of worthless government paperwork,, all in the name of a "great education"! Why can't anyone sit back and see the big picture and what is really in the kid's best interest? For the record, I think you are doing what is right for Kenny, and I have never met him. You are his mom,, no one knows him better than you! That teacher should be taking courses from you, she could learn a lot!

Christina said...

You go! I too plan on teaching 3rd next year, so if your plans include moving to Orlando ;)