Have you ever said or written something and then realized it didn’t come across the way you intended? After my April 14 column, I was made very aware that had happened.
So you don’t have to dig through your recycling, I was venting about some systems in education for knowing what’s happening with students (or not knowing in most cases) and how we’re expected to respond, as well as how this links in with some ways students find to not complete work. I tried to string together too many disparate threads, and my message was lost.
As many of you know, I never send in a first draft, and the column I sent in that week was pretty different from how it started out. I made some wholesale changes to some of my beginning ideas based on how thoughts flowed as I wrote, and I also made some big changes to wording, trying to get my message just right. I failed.
To some people who contacted me, I came across as insensitive to those with mental health issues. How dare I not allow a child to go see a counselor or therapist when they asked? In retrospect, I should have mentioned how earlier this year we heard that we should not just allow anyone who asked to leave to see those people unless they had a pass. This segment of our staff is so overloaded, which is why, a week before that, I had implored our legislators to give more money to schools to expand in that area.
The caveat to all this is that if we see something that would indicate there is a need right now, we could certainly send them at least to the office. I’ve done that before, just the same as I would with a child who is physically ill.
I was asked by someone if I feel I’m qualified to determine if someone is having a serious enough issue to warrant this. While I’m not certified like others, all teachers have some background in that area, we’ve had training in noting some of these characteristics, and I’ve been working with kids for two decades which has allowed me to see much.
A concerned reader asked me how I would feel if I denied a student the ability to leave and go see someone, and later on that student did something terrible to him or herself or someone else. Of course, I would feel horrible. I know many issues don’t follow a schedule. However, think about this from another perspective. What happens if I allow a student to leave who is not expected somewhere else and that student never ends up there? What if that same terrible scenario from before happens in this case?
We’re getting to the point in schools today where any kid in the hall needs an escort. If I send a child to the office, I call down to alert them, but that’s still no guarantee they’ll make it. I like how our band director will come and escort students to a band lesson – they’re always on time and never take a detour!
We all know the story of the boy who cried wolf. So many teachers have been burned by kids who claim a need to leave and don’t end up where they say that we’re hesitant. A large part of the point I was trying to get across in that column was the lack of communication in this area. I know there are data privacy issues at play here. As I told one e-mailer though, it’s not that we’re nosy, but if we know NOTHING of what’s going on, how do we help?
At the very least, a list of students who usually see these important staff members would be helpful in sorting through the morass. There might even be priority ratings for students who are having some extremely serious and sensitive issues. Granted, this would be changing all the time, but that’s similar to my grades changing every time I plug in a new assignment.
And this was the other side of the responses I heard; they weren’t all negative! A number of my fellow teachers cited a desire to be more helpful through more knowledge. We care about and value our students, and it’s frustrating to constantly be told there’s a reason for a behavior but that we can’t know that reason. I was told by others that they agreed it’s not much of a reach to assume laziness and obstinate behavior when work isn’t getting done or attitudes are flaring when we’re not even aware the child is seeing someone about some issues. Of course we’ll react in a manner consistent with our normal classroom management techniques.
It’s a little like being given a stack of boards and some hardware and then being told to build something without any directions. We have the materials (the students) but not the knowledge to create the best design possible. Obviously, the school’s hands are tied in relation to some data, but many teachers approached me and said there has to be more available to us than what we get. The consensus was that if we’re part of the team in educating and helping these kids, we have to be more than the kid looking in at the dance, wishing he or she could go in.
My dad taught me the Latin phrase, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa,” which he used to recite in church. It is an acknowledgement of fault, which I hereby offer. I’m at fault for not being really clear on the meaning of my column, and I apologize for raising the ire of some of my faithful readers. I’m so passionate about items I perceive as problems that I too often forget to scale back and think about how others will view my comments. I sincerely hope all involved can work together to better help all our students.
Word of the Week: This week’s word is parsiology, which means the deliberate use of unclearness in one’s writing, as in, “The columnist didn’t intend for the parsiology which led to misinterpretation of his writing.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!