Navigating life with a teenager….who happens to have bipolar disorder

We had an incident happen with one of my son’s teachers last week. She said something defeating and borderline cruel.  It ended up in a meeting with the principal to get some more information. I really try to avoid principal meetings if I can, but this case warranted such an action.  After it was all smoothed over, it got me to thinking. Teachers all studied and took the time to invest in their education to make this their career, so why are some of them so indifferent to their students? Didn’t they start teaching to make a positive impact on young lives?

After letting this stew in my head and fume over it for a couple of days, my anger at this woman lessened and I started to think a little differently.  We, as parents of special needs kids, expect teachers to be flexible and understanding that our children learn differently……yet, we are not flexible and understanding when teachers aren’t able to teach differently.  I am not saying that all teachers are the best fit for special needs students, but it doesn’t mean that they are bad teachers.

Teachers

I try to teach my son that he needs to respect his teachers and school administrators, even if he doesn’t agree with them or understand their motives. I want him to know that, in life, he is going to come across people that he will not work well with; it doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t try. I feel the same should go for the teachers.  Every year you have multiple students walk into your classroom. Odds are that there are some personalities you are not going to like……there are some you are going to hate, but it doesn’t mean that they deserve less of your respect or effort.

I am also aware that teachers have a lot on their plate. I have heard that parent communication is the least of their worries. In this day and age, where electronic media is at your finger-tips, it should not be as challenging as it was when we were kids. If you are teaching special needs kids, it should be a given that you will need to fit some time into your day to communicate with parents.  Of my son’s core classes, he is struggling with 2.  I have been told his grades reflect work missed due to absences. When he is absent, I email teachers to get assignments he can do at home. The classes he has trouble with are with the teachers that rarely respond to me….if ever. I feel that this is not a coincidence.

Administrators

My son is in an inclusion group that is part of a modified special ed program at his school.  They are in mainstream classes, most of which have an aide there if needed.  There is one inclusion team per grade. My suggestion to administrators is take the time in picking your inclusion teachers.  Get information from parents of students that have had that teacher to get a feel for their patience level and teaching style before having them work with special needs kids. It will not only help the kids, but it will help the teachers, too. If you have teachers that don’t work well in this type of situation, they are simply going to be miserable…..and that will carry over into their other classes and students as well.

Parents

Our kids sometimes perceive things a bit differently than they actually happen.  Before you jump to conclusions about anything at school, ask questions instead of throwing accusations.  Instead of starting a conversation with “my child said you…….” you can say “I would like to discuss the conversation you had with my child. I was hoping you could shed some light on what was said”.  The difference is discussing what happened rather than putting them on the defensive.  This way, you are also including the teacher in finding a solution for future interactions with your child, instead of criticizing them for poor job performance…..which, let’s face it, is what parents are doing every time we complain to a teacher.

I am not saying that we should not advocate for our children. Believe me, my son’s teachers know me well.  I will be the first person to call them on wrong or hurtful actions……but I also call my son out as well. Parents have started to look to teachers to blame them for our children’s poor choices at school. Parents need to step up and realize that our children are far from perfect.  Yes, for special needs kids, their challenges may play a part in that, but our parenting plays an even bigger part.

Is this always easy? No, of course not. Believe me, I had trouble sending my son to school this morning knowing that for the next month he is going to have to work with a teacher that used threats and put downs as motivation. I can only hope that this makes him stronger and he can prove her wrong. Show her that he is worthy of her respect and that he is not less than.

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All kids, special needs or not, learn by example.  If the adults in their lives, parents, teachers and administrators, don’t step up and do better, we are doing these kids a disservice.

 

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