About THAT Kid
November 15, 2014 11:42 AM   Subscribe

 
Oh, oh, the tears are starting early today.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:45 AM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wow. Incredible.
Just a few weeks ago I raised concerns about that child at my kid's conference. This was illuminating.
posted by k8t at 12:04 PM on November 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


The thing is, dear parent, that I can only talk to you about YOUR child. So, what I can tell you is this:

...And one of the problems might be that the entire information/privacy/entitlement skew in this society is, well, skewed. If it "takes a village" the village kinda needs to be involved, not shuttered away. But then I like kids but as a tall white guy sometimes cross the street to avoid involvement.
posted by sammyo at 12:06 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


How the hell teachers survive dealing with even relatively well-behaved and adjusted children I will never know.

That we don't pay and revere teachers the same way we do doctors or bloody lawyers is a crime
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:15 PM on November 15, 2014 [111 favorites]


"I can’t tell you that his classroom job is to water the plants, and that he cried with heartbreak when one of the plants died over winter break."

;_;
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:16 PM on November 15, 2014 [21 favorites]


This is well done. Where I live is gossip country. People of the predominate religion regard outsiders as a problem. I worked a school where this was absolutely the case, the religion teachers were allowed into faculty meetings, and the principle didn't know what FERPA is. Federal Education Records Privacy Act. When the sapling falls in that forest, everyone hears it, and the chainsaw.
posted by Oyéah at 12:17 PM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


...And one of the problems might be that the entire information/privacy/entitlement skew in this society is, well, skewed. If it "takes a village" the village kinda needs to be involved, not shuttered away.

Surely, before we blame privacy, we should look at the real economic and social reasons why people are isolated from their communities and from support. We don't increase trust by eroding privacy, we can only do so by creating mutual reliance and understanding. You don't empower a working single parent who barely has time to raise her child, let alone integrate into her village, by saying that she has an unfounded entitlement to privacy. And you don't help her child like that, either.

Also, I have lived in villages. Villages have busybodies and bullies, just like anywhere else. I have seen the capacity for brutal intolerance of such communities at first hand. Privacy is a protection that should only be sacrificed voluntarily when one is sufficiently secure to do so, not a luxury good of which we've developed an unhealthy expectation.
posted by howfar at 12:17 PM on November 15, 2014 [82 favorites]


Yeah, I get it. I'm supposed to be moved by this. Maybe I should be. But there are limits to what "the village" should have to absorb. My college roommate's little boy was in a class with THAT kid. Repeated violence against other children, you name it. Throughout first and second grade, and into third. Then one day he "accidentally" took my friend's son's eye out with a pen or a pencil or something. That was was the bridge too far, and they finally took THAT kid out of normal school. Did it really have to cost another child's eye? Why couldn't the seventeenth punch at a classmate that semester have been that bridge? I personally think society seems to have gone way too far out of its way to protect the rights of every individual outlier to disrupt everyone else's right to be left alone and get along with life. Yes, of course, outliers have rights, too. But at what point do you stop letting one kid take over, bully, and terrorize all the others in his classroom? How can that be okay? Lots of kids go thorough lots of hardships. Most kids don't monopolize class time and injure other kids.
posted by azaner at 12:21 PM on November 15, 2014 [99 favorites]


Privacy and respect are inextricably linked to a culture of bland acceptance which is very important for the well being of students. Once the flight or fight response is actuated, no one learns. Children have to see tolerance and respect modeled in order to learn it. At school students get to know their neighbors without the filter of parental prejudice. They learn negotiating skills, and how to cope with differences between people, and that there are differences, and it is OK. Everyone gets a chance to learn what works best, if they have a good teacher.
posted by Oyéah at 12:27 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


...And one of the problems might be that the entire information/privacy/entitlement skew in this society is

I don't know.... I grew up in the 70s, when things like this were different. In 7th grade I was physically bullied by a classmate (who was backed up by her friends) to the point that my parents went to talk to the vice-principal about it. He told us that the reason she was lashing out was because she was partially deaf and wore a hearing aid, which she hid well. But her behavior didn't stop for a long time and it was excused because she wore a hearing aid. And for me, that's when I started ditching school and started turning into a rebellious kid. The school really just ended up failing both of us.

So I'm obviously not completely objective when it comes to "that child" but when you're the "other child" or the other child's parents, I don't think knowing the WHY really matters if you or your child is being harmed.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:27 PM on November 15, 2014 [29 favorites]


I can't tell you that some kids, when you get right down to it, are just little shits.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:29 PM on November 15, 2014 [26 favorites]


Problem kids are one of those two-extremes-meets-at-the-end situations. Half of them are the kids of uncaring degenerates, and half of them are the kids of focused-like-a-laser parents who demand that the system coddles their utterly impossible child at the expense of every other student.
posted by MattD at 12:33 PM on November 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


But at what point do you stop letting one kid take over, bully, and terrorize all the others in his classroom? How can that be okay?

If you think that such a threshold doesn't exist, or that each and every THAT KID hasn't been evaluated by school staff on multiple occasions to see whether they're over that threshold, I have to question your educational policy experience.
posted by Etrigan at 12:33 PM on November 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


mattd, you got any evidence to back that up?
posted by k8t at 12:36 PM on November 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


Shirley Jackson once wrote a short story -- "Charles" -- about "that kid" causing trouble when the narrator's son first starts kindergarten and receiving various old-fashioned punishments for it. The twist (it's a Shirley Jackson story, you know there's a twist) comes when the narrator attends her first PTA meeting, wanting to meet the mother of this bad influence in the classroom. We learn that: mouseover for spoiler (or jut read the thing yourself).
posted by zachlipton at 12:37 PM on November 15, 2014 [37 favorites]


as a parent of THAT child, my worry is that THOSE children have problems that aren't being diagnosed and need to be in a classroom more suited to their needs, until they can function in a "least restrictive environment", including a regular classroom

i consider myself and my daughter to be very fortunate that her autism was caught quickly in the school system and she was placed where she could function and learn

are there limits to what "the villiage" should have to absorb? - no, there are limits to what "the villiage" should require from those who are unable to cope with it and obligations (real, legal, obligations) to provide special programs for those with special needs

to the extent this isn't done, it's not a failure of the children, or of the teachers, but of the system and the community - of course, there's something going on with these children - sometimes it's a diagnosis, sometimes it's a set of bad circumstances, but leaving them in a normal environment they can't cope with is doing no one any favors

my thinking is that just as there is a special program for developmentally disabled or autistic children, there should be one for those who are found to be going through some kind of crisis - with individualized education programs drawn up and all the rest - once the crisis is worked through, then the child can be reintegrated into the mainstream
posted by pyramid termite at 12:38 PM on November 15, 2014 [11 favorites]


Having been "that child", I really appreciate the staff of the public schools I went to. I thank my lucky stars I was assigned to the school with experienced teachers who pushed me when I didn't want to be, and were human when I needed it; I won't ever forget them.

Detailing how I was "that child" would detract from this person's eloquence in a manner I dare not. I want all of you teachers (Yes, even you retired folks) to understand how much your effort can FOREVER change someone, sometimes in ways that the child won't be aware of for many years to come.

I know you understand the power you have to inspire young people and guide them; its ridiculously harrowing responsibility and I'm not sure I could do it. Please accept sincere thanks from a former "that child".
posted by ulteriormodem at 12:38 PM on November 15, 2014 [31 favorites]


Half of them are the kids of uncaring degenerates, and half of them are the kids of focused-like-a-laser parents who demand that the system coddles their utterly impossible child at the expense of every other student.

and what about the degenerates who are focused-like-a-laser-parents?

this is analysis? forget it
posted by pyramid termite at 12:40 PM on November 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


Snopes the eye out story. You won't find it anywhere. People all worry about their kids when they are at school,unless they don't, and that happens too. Kids don't get seventeen punches. I hear tell of "harassment suspensions" for six year olds who hug someone. I hear tell of 100,000 children trafficked in the US, what a about the two million at the very bottom, extras in their parents crazed scenarios? Schools do their best to educate everyone who comes in the door. Every kids' FAPE is in the hands of public ed. Fair and Appropriate Public Education, plays a role in their fates, in many cases it is the only decent thing in their lives.
posted by Oyéah at 12:41 PM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Kids don't get seventeen punches.

they used to - things have changed quite a lot in the last 40 years as far as what's allowed

*plays "smoking in the boys room" by brownsville station*
posted by pyramid termite at 12:46 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Vote #1 THAT kid!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 1:01 PM on November 15, 2014 [39 favorites]


azaner: Yeah, I get it. I'm supposed to be moved by this. Maybe I should be. But there are limits to what "the village" should have to absorb.

Oh absolutely. Like when the kids of the village get my "THAT kid" (autistic) to act out in class by triggering his verbal stims - certain word combinations are an earworm for him that he can only deal with by repeating them over and over. There's noting like hearing from the village elders that my kid got in trouble for saying "bad booty" over and over again. It's great that the village has a zero tolerance policy for this sort of nonsense ... except it doesn't, despite all the sloganeering.

I can't tell you how many horror stories I hear from other "THAT kid" parents about being told that their child doesn't meet the criteria for getting special education services despite EVERYONE around them knowing full well that they do. Or the fact that the staff's eyes seem to go blind when a "THAT kid" is being bullied and only seem to start working again when they lash out in frustration. You haven't see the tears of frustration from parents begging & pleading with the school district to help their "THAT kid". Often nothing gets done until something horrible happens and the resulting lawsuit against the district gets filed.

Trying to be proactive and get all of the psychological, linguistic, neurological, educational (etc.) assessments needed to force the school district to give your "THAT kid" the services they are legally entitled to is a long, time & money consuming process. Unfortunately, not everyone has the resources to do this so they are stuck, unable to advocate for their child with the school district. I understand your anger, but until you've had to wage (and fund) a one or two person war against the school district you have no idea what it's like to be a "THAT kid" parent.
posted by echolalia67 at 1:02 PM on November 15, 2014 [39 favorites]


i was very fortunate that i didn't have to fight that battle, that the school district was very quick to see there was a problem and very eager to see that the right thing was done
posted by pyramid termite at 1:06 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Every That Kid is a kid who needs more than they're getting. More resources, more time, more love, more attention. But as a parent, there is almost nothing I can do about someone else's kid. All I can ask is that they not be allowed to hurt my kid. It's a terrible, helpless feeling. Both kids deserve to feel safe and get what they need.
posted by emjaybee at 1:14 PM on November 15, 2014 [43 favorites]


Problem kids are one of those two-extremes-meets-at-the-end situations. Half of them are the kids of uncaring degenerates, and half of them are the kids of focused-like-a-laser parents who demand that the system coddles their utterly impossible child at the expense of every other student.

Problem kids are often kids with disabilities which have nothing to do with how they have been parented. My "THAT kid" is autistic and we are neither degenerates nor laser parents.
posted by Daily Alice at 1:14 PM on November 15, 2014 [28 favorites]


I wrote this post as a call to compassion and understanding

I wish for an equally eloquent call for better working conditions for teachers and an elevation of the status of good teachers in our society.
posted by Anitanola at 1:43 PM on November 15, 2014 [14 favorites]



The problem of problem children has grow right along with the growth of two working parents trying to raise children. I did NOT write two working PROFESSIONAL parents.
posted by notreally at 1:53 PM on November 15, 2014


Teachers are somewhat the problem themselves. Yes it's true that teachers are given too limited power over disciplining the children in their class. There's often not much they can do to stop a disruptive child without asking for a big lawsuit against them. And as soon as a lawsuit is threatened the school will simply fire them even if the teacher was right, because it's cheaper and easier to just fire the teacher than it is to do anything about the kid causing the trouble and dealing with the parents. So the teacher gets fired and the kid doesn't change or even gets worse because he/she understands there are no consequences for them.

Having said that- I've witnessed PLENTY of teachers take the same exact attitude as the schools do. That is- they blame the kid being picked on and bullied rather than disciplining the bully because they feel that's easier for them to do. As a result the bully gets even more encouraged to continue his/her behavior. If billy punches tommy and tommy tries to defend himself, it can be "easier" to just discipline tommy because he'll actually listen and sit in the corner where as trying to do so with Billy will cause an even bigger ruckus because he'll scream and refuse to be disciplined. So you've made the fighting 'stop' by punishing the victim instead of the perpetrator which means Billy is going to feel even more emboldened from now on in beating up poor Tommy.

I highly disagree with the sentiment of teachers needing to get paid as much as doctors etc. This can apply to some teachers but there are WAY more terrible teachers out there than there are decent ones. Furthermore, they get summers off. I don't know how it is in other states, but a public school highschool math teacher in NYC literally gets paid as much as Engineers in other states do. As an HR professional I have access to salary info of the teachers that come across my desk and the average salary for a public school HS math teacher who has a post-graduate degree is over 70k.. They don't necessarily have to be good teachers either. AND they get summers off AND they get amazing benefits ... AND it's almost impossible to fire them after a few years due to labor laws. Cry me a river. There are way worse and more thankless jobs out there by people who actually NEED to be good at what they do to hang on to their jobs.
posted by rancher at 1:54 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Furthermore, they get summers off.

Oh holy God they do not. Teachers work through the summer attending development courses, putting together lesson plans, etc. In addition, their workdays are closer to 10-12 hours long than the 6-8 hours they spend within the school building.

the average salary for a public school math teacher who has a post-graduate degree is over 70k

When you look at the actual hours they work that is not really that much. Besides, these are the people we quite literally entrust with the continuation of our society via turning small humans into educated large humans.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:02 PM on November 15, 2014 [107 favorites]


I lived with various teachers throughout my 20's freckless. Both Highschool and middleschool. I have very intimate knowledge about their schedules. They get summers off. At least in NYC. And they spend a few hours some days doing things, but for the most part, everyone else is at work for 8-10 hours and my roommates were during that decade were still in their pj's often when I'd get home from work. Sometimes they'd spend the day going to yoga class, (had even one roommate become certified as a yoga instructor during the summer.) taking cooking and sailing courses, going to mexico and cancun etc. Most workers don't have the time for that.

I'm NOT trying to imply that teachers are lazy. Not at all! They would work from 7 or 8- 3pm (sometimes later if they had after school events) and then they'd rush home and spend hours sometimes late into the night checking homework and tests. But they do have significant time off the calendar year compared to most folks.
posted by rancher at 2:07 PM on November 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


They don't necessarily have to be good teachers either. AND they get summers off AND they get amazing benefits ... AND it's almost impossible to fire them after a few years due to labor laws. Cry me a river.
Hahhahahahha summers off and amazing benefits for a job i don't have to even be good at where do i sign up

Teachers are just as vital to a society as doctors. They educate.

And there are plenty of bad doctors out there. I've met one top notch amazing doctor in my entire life - a life filled with medical care since I've been seriously chronically ill since I was young. One. I can't even count how many amazing teachers I've had in my life. There are just too many of them.
posted by sockermom at 2:09 PM on November 15, 2014 [30 favorites]


But they do have significant time off the calendar year compared to most folks.

To counter your anecdata, the best and most dedicated teacher I know paints houses all summer with college students to be able to pay his modest mortgage. Others work retail or take side gigs teaching camps and retreats.

What in god's name does this have to do with anything, anyway? Why are we talking about this?
posted by dialetheia at 2:10 PM on November 15, 2014 [22 favorites]


I had a long response typed out to this, but I'm just going to bottom-line it: Some of these comments are really cruel and hurtful. I try to be a good parent, and a good person; my child's neurological problem is not the result of his upbringing, or lax discipline at home, or any of those things; he was just born that way.

When you're making all these sweeping judgments about THAT KID and THOSE PARENTS, remember that we are real people, and we've probably been suffering pain about these issues for a long time. I just start crying now when I see the school's number pop up on my caller ID; it saves time. My kid asked me the other day, crying, when he would get to "be normal" so the other kids wouldn't make fun of him for being weird and different and refuse to play with him. Well, buddy, I don't know. But I know I'll be crying myself to sleep tonight on the back of that one.

It sucks to see people who've decided problem kids all fit this mold, violent and/or stupid and/or have terrible home lives. My child is none of those things; he has a neurological deficit and because he is a small child, he sometimes lashes out physically when he is overwhelmed or frustrated, which happens to him more often than the average kid. But at least I can rest easy in the knowledge that people will be pigeonholing him for the rest of his life, and not at all interested in getting to know him, once they've decided he's THAT kid.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:17 PM on November 15, 2014 [104 favorites]


the average salary for a public school math teacher who has a post-graduate degree is over 70k

Why shouldn't someone with a post-graduate degree start out earning that? It's not that far off from the average starting salary of someone with a post-graduate degree doing anything else.

I seriously don't understand how that is even an argument.
posted by winna at 2:22 PM on November 15, 2014 [41 favorites]


["The problem with kids today is overpaid lazy math teachers" is maybe not the most productive route to go down, when we're talking about a kindergarten teacher and an article about having compassion for other people's kids?]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:25 PM on November 15, 2014 [47 favorites]


'That Kid' in my school days was a kid who had failed a grade and was larger and stronger than all of our classmates right up until grade 6 when enough kids had caught up growth wise and as a group we laid an epic snowball beat down on him. The absolutely awful reign of terror stopped.

He was dead before 30 by his own hand. It turned out his home life was a complete nightmare of abuse and neglect that had him and his sisters applying for emancipation and on top of that he had gender dysphoria.

All I knew in my pre-teen years was that he made some moments of my daily life miserable because he lived on the corner of my street and I had to worry about running into him.
posted by srboisvert at 2:30 PM on November 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


My oldest works as a special instructor for these kids. It gives their regular teachers some relief and allows them to focus their attention on the rest of the class. But our school district is suburban and fairly well-off so being able to have these additional teachers isn't an issue.
posted by tommasz at 2:32 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


My daughter has That Kid in her class. She doesn't know what to do with him; she hasn't figured 'being assertive' out completely yet. One girl in the class will tell him, 'that was mean' when he is mean to the teacher. We talk about different strategies when people do mean things. We talk about how unhappy he seems, and that he doesn't laugh at jokes or tell jokes, and when I asked who his friends were, she didn't know. I said he sounds like he might be frustrated and lonely. She said Yeah.

We don't know. I did bring him up at the teacher conference, but accidentally, when the teacher said Silas was in her reading group and I was like SILAS is in her reading group? And the teacher heard my 'oh my!' tone and was kind of like, YEAH in her own 'oh my!' tone, and we just sort of sat there together, blinking and thinking of Silas. She's a young teacher. She's really lovely and terrific. (We were all, 'Oh my' because she knows and I know and she knows I know that he's telling her to go pound sand on a regular basis.)

It's a hard thing to get a read on as a parent, getting this information third hand. He gets sent to the principals office all the time. He's six.

I think the principal and the teacher conspired for him to win a robot. They came into the classroom and presented it to him. I thought that was sweet and compassionate and I believe in they are doing the best they can with our friend Silas. My observation is that his behavior is being addressed in a variety of ways and that one of those ways is by being kind to him and the other main way is by defining boundaries.

That said, I am also trying to teach my daughter about how to be assertive, how to say No, how recognize injustice and speak out against it in the teensy tiny ways you do that with a six year old. How to stick up for yourself, and that it's okay to stick up for yourself. And at the same time have compassion for the poor kid. It's a difficult, nuanced thing.

I got a lot of 'turn the other cheek' as a child and I have to say I don't have a lot of respect for that particular approach -- I just wound up feeling like a doormat and it made everything much worse.

All of that said it has never occurred to me to complain that Silas was sucking down resources or whatever, or in fact, to complain about anything about Silas.

Also kid isn't actually named Silas.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:46 PM on November 15, 2014 [35 favorites]


As the grandfather of a child who had to sit next to "that kid" all this love and understanding well and good. But perhaps selfishly I draw the line when "that kid's" right to swing meets my grandson's nose, which it did more than once. We were told to be understanding, that "that kid" had issues that couldn't be discussed.

This discussion so much reminds me of my experiences as a casual cyclist on local bike paths: When a dog lunges and bites me (yes, more than once) the owners make a million excuses and insist their dog is a good dog, not to blame, or was just startled. I, none the less, still have ripped pants.
posted by cccorlew at 2:50 PM on November 15, 2014 [12 favorites]


Some of these comments are really cruel and hurtful.

No kidding. I know it's a human impulse to want to reach for pat, overarching and simple explanations for bad situations, but many of these situations rest on a myriad of factors. Likewise with "problem" children. Just to give one example:

My daughter is autistic. While early detection and intense, daily therapy has done wonders for her, she still has considerable difficulty with language (can understand most things, but has very limited vocabulary, and her pronunciation is hard to understand). This can cause her great frustration, which can manifest itself in aggressive behavior. Now, her teachers know this and are great at being able to deftly diffuse things, but the afterschool care center she goes to is staffed mostly by high school-to-college aged kids. None of them have the training to deal with an autistic child, and even when I try to convey some simple guidelines for how to diffuse things, the staff is constantly rotating (there's a really high turnover rate at this job, for very understandable reasons). As my daughter cannot tell me what happens at school or the afterschool center, I'm relying solely in what is written in her communications book by her teachers and the afterschool center staff, where entries can be as terse as "[X] bit someone today. Otherwise things went well."

As you might imagine, none of this does much to quell the constant anxiety I feel about what is actually going on at her school. I've fantasized about fitting her with a wire, Miami Vice style, to hear what's actually going on. It's a messy, complicated situation with no one sweeping solution. I just keep working with her at home about good ways and bad ways of expressing yourself, and hoping for the day when I can have an actual conversation with her and get a cogent response to "How was your day at school?"

Now of course I'm not trying to diminish the worry and anger that parents whose children have been bitten, hair-pulled or pinched have. But none of us are islands in themselves, and maybe having in mind that there are more than two possible explanations for a problem child would help create a little more understanding because believe me, as the parent of a child who can cause problems, I can attest we're trying our fucking damnedest as it is.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 2:53 PM on November 15, 2014 [12 favorites]


I just wanted to add: my observation of other parents, now that I'm a parent, and I see them in schools and grocery stores and kids parties etc -- I think most parents are really pretty decent. I kind of expected that as a parent, I would be much more down on other parents than I turned out to be. I actually overestimated my own judgey-ness. Based on previous experience with my judgey-ness. I don't know if that's universally true or what -- but most of the time I see parents as genuinely doing the best they can.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:55 PM on November 15, 2014 [11 favorites]


Aya Hirano, my comment posted after yours and seems like a response but I hadn't previewed. It's just a similar line of thinking...
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:59 PM on November 15, 2014


Public schools are woefully ill-equipped to handle the task they have been given of integrating all children into the classroom, even in shangri-la, well-funded public services-loaded, Canada. Last year, my kid's grade 5 teacher had FOURTEEN kids with individualized learning plans in a class of thirty. She was completely overwhelmed and told us straight up, at the first meeting of the year, that if our kids were passing and seemed to have a reasonable grasp of what was going on, she would be paying very little attention to them because there were other kids with much greater needs.

Regarding: Kids don't get seventeen punches. I hear tell of "harassment suspensions" for six year olds who hug someone.

THAT kid was in my daughter's pre-kindergarten class. He was a sweet kid in many ways, super bright and articulate, but developed obsessions and had terrible impulse control. After the Christmas holidays that first year, he locked in on my daughter. He didn't want anyone else to talk to her or play with her and when she played with other kids, he would kick or punch her. Once he bit her on the face. On another occasion, on the school bus, he grabbed the hood on her coat from behind and choked her until the bus driver pulled him off her. It went on for SIX MONTHS.

It had been determined before he'd even started school that he would need one-on-one help from an education assistant and he got that, but for only HALF the day. The rest of the time the teacher had to balance 14 other kids' needs while looking out for him. I had many meetings with their teacher and his ed assistant where they outlined how they were going to keep my daughter safe and tried to reassure me that he wasn't malicious and the violence was because he liked her so much, which was also the line they used with my daughter. Thank you for telling my five year old that it's OK if a boy punches and kicks you if he does it because he really, really likes you!

I think I handled it really badly, and have a lot of regrets, but honestly don't know what I would do differently now. I tried to balance my daughter's need for safety with his right to be in the classroom and I think I erred too far in his favour, frankly, because he was such a sweet kid, violence aside, and his poor parents were so sorry and heartbroken about the whole thing. I spent a lot of time with my daughter explaining autism--the school shared that with me immediately, I don't know if the parents were OK with that or what--and on a couple of occasions made the foolish decision to hang out with him and his mom outside of school, which was a disaster both times. She tried, we tried, the school bungled it, and in the end, all they could offer was the promise that they would not be in the same class or even on the same floor the following year.

The next year he targeted two other little girls, whose parents eventually took them out and sent them to a different school. Then in grade 1, he chose the wrong girl, because her parents IMMEDIATELY insisted that the school enforce the board's bullying policy. He was suspended for a day, then 3 days, and then a week. Eventually his parents pulled him out of the school. I think it was a mis-application of the policy, and hate that he essentially got shut out of public school, but there is no denying that the effect on the girls he was hurting was profound. The last girl ended up spending a lot of time with a counsellor and had nightmares right into second grade. I don't know how to balance everyone's rights in a situation like that.

Clearly the system isn't working. I don't even know if more money is the answer. But none of the kids, neither THAT kid nor the other one, is being served well by what we've got going on right now.
posted by looli at 3:00 PM on November 15, 2014 [47 favorites]


I am SO in favor of providing extensive personalized education to kids who need more support, but I really really think when violence is involved it really does need to happen in a separate room. I spent a large portion of my life loving and trying to understand and help people with violence and aggression and abuse problems and I still love them, but I no longer favor integration or the idea that in order to love them they have to have the same freedom as everyone else to keep harming people.

We can love people with these issues MORE when we create safe ways to be in their lives, and of course expanding services, funds, and programs to get extensive supports for people faced with these issues. I think we have a duty to each child, to help them have a safe learning environment that is meeting their needs- and consider emotional needs and supporting parents with that task part of our social duty to support families. That means helping parents have time to be home with their kids when they child needs it, supporting parents healing their OWN wounds and stabilizing stressful situations with safety nets and emotional support and therapeutic services. When overworked traumatized parents are being asked to suddenly provide a level of care that people who are hiring in home servants to achieve and are STILL struggling-- we're doing it wrong and asking things of parents they can't possibly do and blaming them when their kids show the signs that we are treating the parents needs as irrelevant and it WILL effect the kids when parents are overworked and unhealthy no matter how nice the parents are.

I LOVE the compassion for kids going through this stuff, everyone should feel that-- but I don't love the idea that ongoing violence is being kept in general classrooms and the only reaction people have is more tolerance.

I had to go through a LOT of suffering of other people's abusive behavior to get there, but I've reached the end of wanting people to be tolerant of ongoing violence taken on them just because the person doing it needs more love or support or resources. It's likely a LOT better, even for the person doing violence, to be removed from situations where they will harm others since they really can't control themselves- and even THEY might be feeling bad and confused about their own behavior. You're not doing them a favor by letting them hurt people around them and alienating themselves and scaring all the other children.
posted by xarnop at 3:00 PM on November 15, 2014 [25 favorites]


Aya Hirano, my comment posted after yours and seems like a response but I hadn't previewed. It's just a similar line of thinking...

Oh, I hadn't even read it as a response. But thanks! Italicized quotes have conditioned me.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:01 PM on November 15, 2014


Teachers provide a vital service to society that cannot be replaced. They are, as I said, literally responsible for the very continuation of our society. Without teachers, we wouldn't have these computers we're typing on. We wouldn't have doctors. We wouldn't have plumbers or advertisers or movie stars or any of the things we take for granted every second of every day. They are in many ways the actual foundation and bedrock on which society is built and yet at every turn, we slash funding for special instructors and programs and extend their hours and make their jobs harder and harder and harder. We don't just require them to teach arithmetic; teachers stand in loco parentis and are expected to function as counselors, disciplinarians, role models, nurses, and in many cases have to stock their own classrooms out of their own pockets--or feed their students, for crying out loud. The stuff that teacher has to do and deal with is so far outside the purview of education you can't even see it with a telescope. And yet, day after day, this is what teachers must do.

Which leads right back to the actual subject of this article: I feel sorry for these kids. As Eyebrows said, they get pigeonholed. And so many of the comments here have completely missed the entire point of this article: THAT kid has problems. THAT kid may have developmental deficits or illness or seriously fucked up home situations or all three. THAT kid needs love and care and attention to give them the space they need--the space all kids need--to achieve their potential. Instead, we close our eyes to the problem and just label them as THAT kid and starve educational districts of the funding they need to actually address the issues these children have, especially instructors specially trained to be able to give the specific kind of attention that these kids need.

Instead, we have people like this teacher, who has to worry about these kids and has to give them what they need on a totally ad hoc basis. This teacher? This is what is meant when people say 'hero.' When we fail to provide the necessary resources--that is, when we fail at basic compassion--we are doing all kids a disservice. THAT kid isn't getting good quality education because they're being sent to the principal's office all the time. The other kids aren't getting good quality education because of disruption.

The solution is more. More compassion. More special instructors. More training for the teachers we currently have. More directed programs for kids with issues--specialized depending on what the issues are: neurological, social, whatever. More education for the more advantaged kids on how to be understanding and supportive.

There was a kid in my grade 5 class who'd had a terrible home life--had to move here from Florida to the only part of the family that would even consider taking him in. Due to sheer luck, my teacher was a hell of a person, took this kid under his wing, and over the course of the school year shaped him into a pretty great kid. I've completely lost track of him, but I shudder to think what might have happened if Sir (we all called the teacher that) hadn't been on hand. Us kids certainly weren't all that supportive! He was never bullied, but it's hard at the best of times for the New Kid to integrate into social groups that in our case, had been pretty well established years before. Every kid needs a supportive school environment in which they can excel. For most kids, the one-size-fits-all approach more or less works. For kids with impairments of whatever sort, that approach needs to be tailored and more attention given. There's just no way around it; the only other choice is to say "Well, we'll just throw THAT kid under the bus, and the other kids are going to have their education impaired as well."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:03 PM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Aya Hiranom, you posted while I was writing and my comment isn't a response to yours, though I think the comments complement each other well.
posted by looli at 3:05 PM on November 15, 2014


You're not doing them a favor by letting them hurt people around them and alienating themselves and scaring all the other children.

If anyone in this thread has recommended "let them keep hurting others" I must have missed it. Not even the article in the OP seems to recommend it, with its talk of timeouts and being sent to "help out" in the office. My daughter's teachers, at least, immediately intervene and separate her from the class when she acts this way, and it's had an impact on reducing this behavior. Unless you mean to say that you mean utter segregation from other children, in which case, I would have to disagree that this is a one-size-fits-all solution for some or even most kids in this situation.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:07 PM on November 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


I, none the less, still have ripped pants.
posted by cccorlew at 7:50 PM on November 15 [1 favorite +] [!]


Ok, and? When people ask for understanding, they're not asking for permission to let THAT KID punch your grandson in the face whenever he wants. Every child, (yes-even yours ) will get to the point where their emotions are exhausted, their logic is limited, and they lash out. By breaking their brother's toy, or throwing things, or screaming "I hate you". THAT KID is dealing with things (autism, tactile defensiveness, anxiety, etc) that take up a huge portion of their resources every day, and it's something that YOUR KID doesn't have draining on their meter. You, as an adult, taking this into consideration in responding (and hopefully teaching YOUR KID a valuable lesson about empathy and boundaries) is what we're talking about when we ask for "understanding".

I really, really do not understand the "how much should the village have to put up with", "what about my normal kid" "the parent's are just lazy/degenerates" etc responses. My heart goes out to Eyebrows Mcgee and all the other parents who are fighting this battle.
posted by FirstMateKate at 3:11 PM on November 15, 2014 [10 favorites]


I sense a disconnect in the comments on this post. The difficult truth is, whatever the reasons, "that kid" is often a bully. The people who righteously demand that BULLYING MUST STOP AND IT MUST STOP NOW are the same ones who, as soon as the bully is cast as a victim, expect educators to go to extraordinary lengths to accommodate the bully's behavior. Lavishing attention on children who's behavior hurts others can easily backfire and reinforce the behavior.

The allocation of resources in public schools is, sadly, mostly a zero-sum game. The author of the article assures us that she spends a great deal of time thinking about and working with "that kid". But this is precisely what parents of high achieving children object to -- that the squeaky wheel gets all the grease. My mother aptly described this as "do well, but don't do too well". The message from the school district to my parents was, "We have kids with real problems! How dare you expect that we teach your son algebra? In sixth grade??!!"
posted by tom_r at 3:14 PM on November 15, 2014 [11 favorites]


The difficult truth is, whatever the reasons, "that kid" is often a bully.

To be honest, I don't have a problem with a bully, no matter if they have a neurological disability or not, being pulled from the class for the safety of the other children. But that child is entitled to an education, and the problem is how to fund it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:18 PM on November 15, 2014 [9 favorites]


The difficult truth is, whatever the reasons, "that kid" is often a bully. The people who righteously demand that BULLYING MUST STOP AND IT MUST STOP NOW are the same ones who, as soon as the bully is cast as a victim, expect educators to go to extraordinary lengths to accommodate the bully's behavior.

Which is going to provide the better long-term solution for everyone: addressing the causes of behaviour, or punishment?

Nobody here is even suggesting that bullying behaviour must be accommodated.

But this is precisely what parents of high achieving children object to -- that the squeaky wheel gets all the grease.

So children with problems should just be... what? Left behind? Too bad you have a neurological deficit that makes you act out, your education is now functionally over?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:19 PM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just wanted to add: my observation of other parents, now that I'm a parent, and I see them in schools and grocery stores and kids parties etc -- I think most parents are really pretty decent. I kind of expected that as a parent, I would be much more down on other parents than I turned out to be. I actually overestimated my own judgey-ness. Based on previous experience with my judgey-ness. I don't know if that's universally true or what -- but most of the time I see parents as genuinely doing the best they can.

I can affirm this, and I think that a big part of it for me (and this was true of getting married, as well) is that close intimate relationships with others who depend on you so significantly is like a big spotlight on your soul that takes immediately all theory into practice and shows you how far short you are of any ideal you imagined yourself capable of. I am much more sympathetic to most parents now in practice, mainly because I'm not nearly as impressed with my own parenting skills as I thought I would be. Being a parent is really hard, and I think more of other people trying to navigate that same path.

For any issues that have come up behaviorally, though (and there are some, as we do foster care that comes with a whole truck load of emotional baggage at times), it has been clear for us that healing comes through the context of real relationships in which people are embraced, not shamed. I'm not sure how to balance this well with concern about the well-being of others at times, and I think that an honest discussion about this can take place. But it should happen by asking how we can embrace, not pigeonhole with a stereotype or exclude, as we consider options. My concern is that most solutions from an observing, fearful parent perspective are pushed forward with an attitude of non-engagement of people as people, and simply problems to be solved or shuffled away.

That being said, my main concern with this article is that honest community engagement rarely is seen as possible, as the status quo (assuming things are being done right in the first place) is to "just trust us that we are doing something." The problem, it seems, is that 1) we don't know if that's actually happening, and to what degree; and 2) more transparency might allow for community sympathy; not in a condescending way, but one that allows us to reach out in informed ways to children as individuals to be loved and known, and not simply problems to be solved. Privacy is important, but I'm not sure to what extent it creates another layer that buffers opportunities for true healing.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:23 PM on November 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


tom_r: " The author of the article assures us that she spends a great deal of time thinking about and working with "that kid". But this is precisely what parents of high achieving children object to -- that the squeaky wheel gets all the grease. My mother aptly described this as "do well, but don't do too well". The message from the school district to my parents was, "We have kids with real problems! How dare you expect that we teach your son algebra? In sixth grade??!!""

It may shock you and your preconceptions to find out that I AM the parent of a high-achieving child. My son is not just the smartest kid in his grade, but the smartest kid in the entire elementary school, and the school would like us to consider skipping him 2-3 grades. We all agree it'd be a nightmare socially, but some of the school staff feel he's already being so excessively excluded for being "weird" that it won't really matter much if he's with kids twice his size and sophistication and doesn't have an opportunity for normal social interaction, since he's already being very effectively denied that.

Also this article is about FIVE-YEAR-OLDS. If you think your five-year-old has never shoved another kid, you are delusional. But let's make sure to pathologize different rates of development as early as possible! Your kindergartener can't sit still and follow directions for six solid hours? LET'S DIAGNOSE HIM WITH SOMETHING.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:24 PM on November 15, 2014 [25 favorites]


Maybe it's because I'm neither a parent nor a teacher, but I don't know who THAT kid is. The description in the article seems to cover a long list of disparate behavior, but maybe I don't understand the dynamic between parents and teachers.

It would seem to me that in communicating with parents concerned about what's happening in their child's classroom, a teacher might react differently to fears about a child who is "always hitting, maybe even biting other children" and distress over one who always wants to hold the teacher's hand in the hallway.

Is there really such a singular THAT kid, the quintessential troublemaker? I'm kind of uncomfortable seeing that label, which strikes me as dehumanzing and unhelpful to the sort of compassion for individual children Miss Nifght On seems to want to evoke.
posted by layceepee at 3:25 PM on November 15, 2014


I sense a disconnect in the comments on this post. The difficult truth is, whatever the reasons, "that kid" is often a bully.
I call bullshit. A bully is someone who uses emotional or physical violence to get their way. That is not the same as an autistic kid stealing a ball because no one will play with him and he doesn't know how to process the rejection

Lavishing attention on children who's behavior hurts others can easily backfire and reinforce the behavior.
School systems working to instill behaviors in special needs kids that help them deal with their emotions is not "lavishing attention". School systems working with special needs kids to make sure they're learning the material is not "lavishing attention". School systems providing support to these children so that they're at least moderately on the same playing field as every other child is not "lavishing attention" .
posted by FirstMateKate at 3:26 PM on November 15, 2014 [11 favorites]


If there's an ongoing violent situation of "when she acts this way" that means these are ongoing incidences of kids having violence taken out on them in the name of tolerance. I think that sends a bad message to kids about how their safety is being prioritized. I don't think there is a one sized fits all to variance in behavior or kids needing differing amount of classroom time- but we also need to get realistic that if our classrooms have too many kids per teacher than some of the kids are missing out on getting their needs met. They are being failed because we are choosing to refuse to provide adequate resources and to make education child centered rather than bureaucracy/test passing centered.

But yeah I do mean a separate environment. I went to weirdo school and it was awesome, one on one literature class! It's not like that has to mean the end of things or that kids who take a break from the general classroom environment can't integrate as they develop the ability to regulate themselves and interact safely- and that those opportunities for social learning can't be developed in ways that are safer than a general classroom can provide couldn't be arranged. Personally I think montessori and waldorf and other alternative and self paced teaching methods would help a LOT of kids as well as lower ratios of teacher to kid and heavier emphasis of family wellness and support (through community services beyond teachers who should not be bearing the brunt of how society fails parents and their children).

We need to all put as much pressure as we can on developing stronger funding and support for kids who learn or socialize differently to have an education system and social environment that is meeting their needs and helping them grow in a way that is safe for everyone. And also to get more honest about the fact that economic instability and lack of resources for families to have afternoons and summers off if needed for their particular children, and access to health and emotional wellness building activities and therapeutic services needs to be there for people of any income.
posted by xarnop at 3:26 PM on November 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


If there's an ongoing violent situation of "when she acts this way" that means these are ongoing incidences of kids having violence taken out on them in the name of tolerance. I think that sends a bad message to kids about how their safety is being prioritized.

Again, the approach the teachers have been taking of intervening if something happens has reduced the behavior, as it continues to do.

But yeah I do mean a separate environment. I went to weirdo school and it was awesome, one on one literature class!

I'm happy you had such a great experience being segregated. But this is pretty much the worst possible solution for an autistic child. Especially if she is put into a kind of catch-all setting for children of varying levels of aggression. Her education is not just the three R's but also learning how to socialize. Again, in case you missed it, she cannot really talk. When she gets picked on, when she gets physically attacked, the only way any of the staff can know is if they see it happening. Elsewise they just see her crying, and only have the other kid's word for it.

I appreciate your well-intended language about pumping up the social system, and fully agree with that. But no, I don't think utter segregation is the One Solution here.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:35 PM on November 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


A bully is someone who uses emotional or physical violence to get their way.

If a kid is wailing on my kid in the normal course, I'm absolutely not going to give a flying fuck about their motivation.
posted by jpe at 3:38 PM on November 15, 2014 [23 favorites]


There are several overlapping needs here: teachers often aren't equipped to handle so many diverse needs, including multiple individual education plans in one classroom; kids with special needs who don't necessarily fit in well with other kids--and vice versa--and all kids who are entitled to know that their safety matters. I understand and respect the parents of "that kid" because I know how hard they've have to fight to their children's education. I have friends who have fought for months to get the bare minimum the state obligates the districts to provide and that the districts often drag their heels for months before implementing IEP's. But other kids shouldn't have to deal with being bitten in the face or hounded by a kid, whatever the problem.

Based on some of the stories relayed here, I don't buy the argument that the situation is the same as every kid occasionally having a bad day. A kid getting bitten on the face is still bitten, regardless of whether the other kid has a problem or is just mean.

I used to believe that full integration/immersion might be a good idea but truly wonder if everyone really benefits from it.
posted by etaoin at 3:47 PM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is there really such a singular THAT kid, the quintessential troublemaker?

No, there isn't, and that's why this discussion is perhaps so frustrating and fruitless. Making (massive) generalizations (e.g all parents of trouble-makers are degenerates or dominating) about what are usually very specific cases (there's a huge difference between the boy who pees off the top of the playground to the bully who steals to the kid with anger-management issues who can't control her punches and kicks, etc.) doesn't work. /my2c
posted by mrgrimm at 3:52 PM on November 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


I was that kid to some degree. I wasn't violent, never attacked anyone or anything, but I did have serious behavioral problems that were very disruptive. I don't think my teachers knew what to do about me -- academically I was ahead of the rest of the class but behaviorally and socially I was far behind. After a number of complaints from teachers and parents of other children and unheeded recommendations for psychological evaluation (the cult-like religious environment in which I grew up did not, at the time, believe in psychology), I was taken out of the public school system and placed in a private school that sat comfortably within my family's religious beliefs -- it even still had a corporal punishment policy, which I would find myself on the wrong end of on nearly a daily basis.

I think some compassionate teachers with a desire to help could have benefited me greatly. After 8th grade I ended up back in the public school system. I wasn't any better socially, but I was certainly no longer disruptive. My high school biology teacher was very concerned about me -- I had never come across that before and didn't really know how to react. It was her concern that made me realize that I was living in an abusive environment. I wish I had come across that sort of concern earlier.

Still, parents not in a cult would've probably been even more helpful. But it would have also made things somewhat easier to have known earlier that it wasn't my fault, I think.

At any rate, I'm still not very good socially, nor am I all that great at functioning on a day to day basis in society, but I keep it together semi-passably. I think I have some as yet undiagnosed issue.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 4:02 PM on November 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


If That Kid is being specifically complained about to the teacher by other parents, why can't the teacher who wrote this article tell them a couple of the nice things That Kid does? She specifically says she won't, but I don't really see that she can't at least try and adjust the parents' perspective on a child they currently only see as The Monster That Hurts My Child.

Other than that, it's often near-impossible to get people to care about the emotional state of a bully, even as they intellectually know that there is usually something that is causing such behaviour. The conversation can get mired in the difficulties of childhood, with only a thin layer of the 'we need more good teachers and we need more resources' that is the necessary answer.
It reminds me of the airplane rage threads, to be honest, where people can get pushed into a frothing rage about whether other passengers recline their seat or not, when if there was a reasonable amount of room provided this would become a non-issue for all but the most raging of arseholes.
posted by gadge emeritus at 4:05 PM on November 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Most parents kinda don't care if the kid is a good kid or a bad kid--most parents (reasonably) have a huge, huge bias towards their own kid being, first, safe, and second, being able to acquire the skills that they need from school. Other kids aren't even in the same universe.

Ultimately, emotional and behavioral disabilities require accommodation and in cases where other kids are being hurt on a regular basis, those disabilities are not, IMO, being adequately accommodated. That's not the kid's fault, but the other parents are right and reasonable to be upset and complain and ultimately to have some resentment towards the situation.

Convincing people not to get upset that their kid is scared, hurt, upset...pretty much impossible. It's not a sign that there's something wrong with the parents or the kid who is scared, hurt, upset. Stating that the kid being hurt needs to learn tolerance is just really silly. No, kids--especially girls--do not need to learn to tolerate being hurt. What needs to happen for everyone's sake is that the child whose behavior is aggressive needs much, much closer supervision. This will keep her from being an outcast and it will keep the other kids from having to deal with being hurt.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:11 PM on November 15, 2014 [27 favorites]


I also see people conflating weird behavior with violent, aggressive behavior. I absolutely do think kids need to learn to tolerate quite a lot of weird behavior, as do their parents. I don't think kids ever need to learn to tolerate being hurt. There's a really big difference there.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:13 PM on November 15, 2014 [42 favorites]


Kids who do violence to other kids are, in most cases, hurting from all kinds of inner wounds. So are adults who do violence to other adults (or kids). But the safety of those who are suffering violence is always the first priority. If immersion/integration means one kid has a 50/50 chance at a more normal education, and the other thirty kids have a 75% chance of becoming victims of violence, then it will not happen, and all the well-meaning bleating in the world will merely discredit the speaker.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:24 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


The difficult truth is, whatever the reasons, "that kid" is often a bully. The people who righteously demand that BULLYING MUST STOP AND IT MUST STOP NOW are the same ones who, as soon as the bully is cast as a victim, expect educators to go to extraordinary lengths to accommodate the bully's behavior.

Maybe it's because you can change the behavior once you understand what drives it. For example, last year my son's behavior was simply awful - hitting teachers, trying to stab them with pencil's, screaming - just ... awful. I felt anger, shame, frustration, resentment, embarrassment both for my kid and because of him. I didn't know what to do other than to keep going and hope that a system of rewards and consequences would eventually mold his behavior into something more "normal".

It was draining to the point that I hit maximum "I can't" and stopped doing homework with my son. Not as a " let's see what happens" sort of thing but more of a sense that "everything's hopeless so why try?" A few days into this funk I get yet another call about his behavior, but this time is about how wonderfully he's doing, a complete 180 from his behavior of the previous weeks. Long story short, my kid learns better and is better behaved if he doesn't have homework. Yes, something as simple as homework was causing him to flip out and become aggressive & defiant in the classroom. He's not perfect by any means but he is 10,000% better than before.

We owe it to these kids to at least try. At the end of the day, some of them are simply unsuited for a regular classroom but it shouldn't be SOP to treat them as if being in a special day class is a foregone conclusion.
posted by echolalia67 at 4:40 PM on November 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


The allocation of resources in public schools is, sadly, mostly a zero-sum game.

I couldn't disagree more. When a child with behavioral challenges gets appropriate support, the classroom doesn't get disrupted, and everyone wins. Like the story above about the kid who needed a one-on-one aide but didn't get one - if that aide had been there all day, like everyone knew needed to happen, the other kid wouldn't have been getting attacked all the time.

But maybe you meant that we under-fund education so much that we end up having fights over whether to isolate one kid in order to protect the others because the schools don't have enough resources to actually give that kid the support that he or she needs. In that case, I couldn't agree more.
posted by heisenberg at 4:51 PM on November 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


If any of you thoughtful parents of kids that are That Kid, who let's say we call Silas, have any recommendations for those of us parents with a kid in a classroom with him ( or her) do you have any advice for how we can coach our kids to manage these situations usefully?

-Little Llama is scared of Silas. He's asking to be let ahead of her in the lunch line, and she lets him. He really hates being last (who doesn't, Silas?) She doesn't mind, she says, and so she lets him. But I'm not sure she's so great with being last, in fact I don't believe her: all the cookies are gone. I'm worried she's going along to get along, and I don't want her to do that--put her needs last.

My personal trick, which is this bullshit adult trick, is when someone tries to get me to do something I don't want to do I say 'No thank you!' very chirpily. 'What's your phone number so we can offer you future products and promotions?' 'No thank you!'

I don't know if she can rock that in the first grade lunch line.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:06 PM on November 15, 2014


but most of the time I see parents as genuinely doing the best they can.

I don't have kids, but over the last ten or fifteen years my attitude has swung from noticing all the bad parents to noticing how most people are trying their best, and also recognizing how I probably couldn't do any better in most situations. Parenting is hard, and for all our talk of "family values" and so on as a culture we do an appalling job of providing families with the support and resources they need to be successful.

I also think schools have really changed from when I and many of us commenting here were students. Back then bullying was A-ok (sometimes deliberately abetted and encouraged by teachers, in my experience), but anyone who wasn't neurotypical was separated out from the mainstream classes. So a skinny little twerpy nerd like me had a brutal time in middle school, but a lot of the That Kid stories here just didn't exist because those kids were sent somewhere else. Even just in the time between me and my youngest sibling those things changed considerably (and largely for the better), and things have changed even more since then.

It turned out his home life was a complete nightmare of abuse and neglect

With hindsight it is clear that all of the kids who bullied me had terrible home lives, but I didn't see that at the time and I'm not sure knowing it would have helped at all. They were aggressive and violent because of their bad situations, but the actual problem from my point of view was that they were given free rein to act violently by a school system that at that time tolerated such behavior. The modern trend towards clamping down on bullying strikes me as fantastic, and hopefully sooner rather than later the schools will have better tools for dealing with That Kid problems that are different from the tools for dealing with bullies.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:54 PM on November 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


Do you know if your daughter's in an Inclusion (mainstreaming) classroom? Do you know if Silas is receiving special ed services? Hopefully he is, in which case they should have a treatment plan in place to address this issue. Unfortunately, it might be one of those situations where everyone knows that Silas is "different" but no one has gotten around to doing anything about it. Those situations break my heart.

As a "THAT kid" mom it makes me feel bad that they are putting your daughter in that position. She's six and the last thing she should be learning at her age is how to be a "people pleaser" to keep conflict at bay. I also know a lot of kids on the ASD spectrum have a hard time with not being first or with being the last one in line. It's a very frustrating issue to work with and one that further alienates Silas from his peers.

I would suggest to his teacher that they let Silas have a 5 second head start to the lunch line as a reward for good behavior. As for your daughter, you might have a role-playing rehearsal of how to set boundaries in a calm & assertive way. Let the teacher know about her anxiety and advise her to be ready for Silas to have a meltdown when your daughter says no to him.
posted by echolalia67 at 5:57 PM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, or Silas can be "lunch leader" or whatever. Or there can be some kind of rotating "Last One Out Shuts Off The Lights" chore thing that, funny thing, Silas is never assigned to.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:07 PM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


The way we deal with the myriad Silas' in our lives - the occasional, the constant, the intermittent - is to emphasise our own values to our kid. So in the lunch line example because it doesn't matter to her, fine. But when it does matter we teach her ways to deal with that. Because in real life there are always points where you can compromise and it isn't a bad thing - making a stand based on principle better have a good principle behind it, in other words. In our house, in our family, empathy is really important. Partially because me and the kid are painfully empathic with each other so we cannot ignore the way our emotions affect each other and the household, but also because it does make things easier all around.

So with the habitual Silas' in her class (one of whom has changed schools, both of whom have horrifying family stories that got aired in the first term 'my family report') we emphasise empathy and we emphasise safety. So we have made a deliberate choice not to give a shit about 'tattling' because punishing that can lead to some nasty situations, which means she is comfortable talking to me and to the teacher about things that happen. Having empathy with the kid who disrupts the class, kicks your friends, shouts, things like that, has been hard for her but we work on it. And it has worked, slowly, and she is helping the Silas be friends with people. I mean, it helps that she is beginning to understand things like 'I have lived with mummy and daddy my whole life and our house is safe' when compared to Silas' 'the police sometimes take you away from your home', so she is beginning to understand the way that some things come easy to her are harder for other kids. And that the teachers are on board with it as well.

But yeah, we emphasise mindfulness as well I guess. It is important for Silas to not be last but is that important to her or is she just being caught up in this idea? Is 'last' actually a problem? And if it is, why is it a problem and are there ways of solving it (including talking to the teacher or a parent)? It's not about people pleasing because it's internalised to her own views - there are things that are super important to her and we work out how to assert boundaries for those things (special toys, bodily integrity, manners, kindness) but not this rigidity and conformity that masquerades as consistency or boundary setting.

Fairness is great but I think it will look a little different to 'everyone gets the same thing'. Even with kindy kids, and pre-schoolers.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:48 PM on November 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


Echolalia67 has it. Teachers don't really have anywhere to refer these kids to, because special needs child services are not equipped to deal with the problem in a holistic way without private funding. Even the profoundly disabled suffer because of the lack of referral support until they are 18, when the state takes over, usually through services encouraging either employment or independent living or both. It is such a shame that children are being mainstreamed without accurate support. Children who are both autistic or otherwise disabled and have mental health problems fare even worse, most states require a threshold akin to breaking the law to access programs for kids in this spectrum.
posted by parmanparman at 7:23 PM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I am a first-year teacher. I have 31 students in my classroom. Off the top of my head, there is one student who stands out as "THAT KID" -- she has persecutorial delusions and will often begin bellowing in the middle of class that so-and-so is "talking bad about [me]" when so-and-so has been sitting quietly, working on his math problems for the past 25 minutes. She can be defiant, disrespectful, disruptive, angry, self-destructive, and I love her. In a good moment, she is intuitive, a beacon of sunshine, incredibly hard-working, and funny. Her parents, for whatever reason, will not, WILL NOT take her to see a therapist. When she bites or hits herself in class, there's not always a ton I can do to stop her and I'm left thinking, "Well, at least she's not distracting the rest of the class."

I have 30 other students in my classroom. 5 of them have other (under- to un-managed) behavioral or emotional problems. We have a social worker (not a licensed psychologist) who comes to school 5 times a month. The nurse is in once a week. There are 580+ children at my school. The specialists can see almost none of them in the time they're there.

That leaves 24 other kids in my class who aren't in some way disturbed, who also deserve my time and energy, and whom, every day, every hour, I fail because I'm putting out fires with the kids who need me more immediately and who aren't receiving services elsewhere. Some kids have untreated PTSD; some kids have ADHD and their moms sell their Adderall on the street.

Of those 24 children who don't have an official diagnosis, five of them are doing math at least two grade levels below where they should be. At least 6 others are reading at least two grade levels below where they should be. None of these students have any identified learning disability, so they don't receive any extra help. It's up to me to intervene. I teach 3 subjects. I can tell you -- THAT single KID is not the problem. The 54% of my class that requires assistance outside of which I am qualified to provide -- medication, intensive therapy, social work, housing, etc. -- are THOSE KIDS. Your child may come home with a story about one or the other of them, but they're not the problem. THOSE KIDS aren't detracting from your student's learning experience. The system, and I, are failing your student. Don't blame THOSE KIDS, please. They're doing all they can.
posted by coppermoss at 7:43 PM on November 15, 2014 [41 favorites]


> Half of them are the kids of uncaring degenerates, and half of them are the kids of focused-like-a-laser parents who demand that the system coddles their utterly impossible child at the expense of every other student

Well, you're the expert. Can you tell me which type of parent I am?
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:56 PM on November 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


Just a gut feeling and may be horribly off base, but I also believe that the rise of the nessacary two income family contributes to the failure of THOSE kids. I do think a dedicated parent, be it mom or dad, can go a long way to ease and lift up those kids. Public school is a valuable institution, but I believe (just like colleges) schools are expected to do so much than teach nowadays, and often do so with one hand tied behind their back and on a shoestring budget per kid.
posted by edgeways at 8:02 PM on November 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


It occurred to me I have a That Kid in my church religious ed class (middle school) but her mom is engaged, (and non neurotypical herself) and she is obviously working on her issues with anger/impulse control. And I only "teach" 45 min. every few weeks, so there's no real burden there on me. (And I really like her; she's funny and very smart). But I can see how a class with her in it, plus lots of other kids, some with their own disabilities, for hours and hours a week, would be a bigger burden than most teachers could take.

And that's such a damn shame. She really is a great kid. She just needs a lot of individual attention to help her learn to manage herself. Why don't we care enough about our kids to fund what they need? Our media is filled with OH NO DANGER TO YOUR CHILD stories, but when it comes to the things that actually help them, suddenly a giant chunk of the electorate is filled with resentment at the very idea. This shit is so important and yet we consistently refuse to dedicate resources to it. It's maddening.
posted by emjaybee at 8:12 PM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I guess I should emphasis that my THAT kid is disruptive, but not aggressive (or not any more aggressive than any other five-year-old, they're all little wildlings). I sort-of feel like I'm betraying other moms by admitting that, but if we're going to go into specifics I guess it's important.

"The way we deal with the myriad Silas' in our lives - the occasional, the constant, the intermittent - is to emphasise our own values to our kid"


One of the things that always shocks my conscience in conversations about schools is how ready parents are to throw away all of their own values when it comes to their kids and school, as in "we'll teach her about empathy and kindness later, right now we've got to get that kid out of our class" or "white flight is bad but we're going to do it anyway because it's OUR KID on the line." Those kids are definitely receiving a moral education, but I doubt it's the one the parents are meaning to give them. I mean, this is where wall street bankers come from, guys, parents who didn't say "let's try to understand what's up with Silas and think about how we can be kind to him" but instead go for, "Don't worry, we'll get Silas out of your class or remove you from school, you're too important to have to be around weirdos."

"Just a gut feeling and may be horribly off base, but I also believe that the rise of the nessacary two income family contributes to the failure of THOSE kids. I do think a dedicated parent, be it mom or dad, can go a long way to ease and lift up those kids. "


I can't remember if I said above (this is an emotional topic!), we've delayed my return to work because managing my son's neurological development issues is a full-time job right now (actually, it's approximately a half-time job, but the hours are really unpredictable, which makes it hard to find a second stable half-time job, ya know?), with doctors and therapists and school meetings and on and on and on. I don't know how families where both parents work manage it; I definitely don't know how single-parent families manage it.

We're on our third round in three years of doctors and diagnoses, because he can't get services without specific diagnoses, even if it's clear that he needs them. Right now we're filling out paperwork for a comprehensive assessment for his neurological issue with some pediatric specialists, and the assessment will cost in excess of $4500, the paperwork warns us. We don't know how much of that insurance will cover -- some of it, but not all. We're pretty sure that after this round of assessment, we will have to go to Chicago anyway to see a SUPER-specialized specialist, which will cost us another several thousand, two days off work, six hours in a car round-trip, and insurance almost definitely won't pay.

We can scrounge that up. If we can't, my parents will pay it, no question. If we were really in a spot, although we are not a money-lending sort of family, I know that my aunts and uncles or my siblings would freely lend me the money I needed to get my son to the right doctors.

I don't know how people do this when they don't have an at-home parent and the spare money to pay for all this special doctor stuff. I can't really even imagine. It's hard enough for us, and I have super-special inside-baseball knowledge of school special ed procedures!

--

my more meta comment on the situation as a whole is, a lot of this problem wouldn't be a problem if kindergarteners were at school to learn to socialize and play and behave like humans rather than wild animals ... these days they do so much learning, so much drill on concepts, there's so much structure. In a couple more years the neurological deficits that make my son disruptive will start to resolve, or sublimate into more socially acceptable expressions, and he'll be able to be in a classroom without being such a difficult student. But despite the wide variation among five-year-olds in skills and readiness and development, there isn't any room in the system for boys (mostly boys) who are developing those skills slowly. By age 10, most of these kindergarten "problem children" even out with their peers. But the problem is that they're so alienated from school starting in kindergarten that by second grade a lot of them have decided, "I'm bad at school, I hate it, I'm always in trouble, I'm not even going to try." And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: these boys who act up are the boys who drop out.

Sometimes I just want to scream, "Hey, maybe if we let them spend more time making mudpies and less time drilling phonics, when they're 5 and 6 and not really developmentally ready for a classroom, we wouldn't have all these problem children in kindergarten!"

Now I'm going to admit the bit I'm most ashamed of: I'm secretly grateful that he scores off the charts on all his assessments, not because I'm proud to have a brainiac kid, but because I'm pretty sure he gets more attention because they want to keep his scores in the school and they work harder at accommodating him because he's the top-scoring standardized tester in the whole school. And then I feel guilty that he gets more attention paid to him because he's a little Einstein and like I'm taking advantage of a corrupt system.

Okay and now I just have to say this part because I'm still mad and incredulous about this conversation. Once of the people on his "team," a counselor, I think doesn't really like my kid. (Most of his teachers and administrators adore him, except his math teacher and this counselor). She is absolutely determined to get him labeled autistic and asks me about it every time I see her, and I have made it clear to her that we have had him screened for ASD several times (as I have a close relative who's autistic so it's always on top of our minds) and he is NOT AUTISTIC (if he was, that would be fine, and we'd actually know how to deal with that a bit better as our family has experience with it). So I had to meet with her last week or the week before to fill out some paperwork and she got on the autism thing again and told me, "It's just that he reads so well. We never see that except in kids who are autistic."

FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU lady. Remember, kids, don't get too good at reading or your school counselor will decide it's pathological!

(And I mean, he is a good reader compared to the average for his age, but he comes from a very bookish family, I hardly think it's abnormal that he reads well for his age or that it's indicative that he's some sort of savant. It's not like he sprung full alphabetized from a book-less household; every adult he knows constantly has a book to hand and most of them are lawyers or in corporate communications so they all read all day at work, too.)

This story does not relate to my main point, I'm just still mad.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:08 PM on November 15, 2014 [26 favorites]


"It's just that he reads so well. We never see that except in kids who are autistic."

Eyebrows, you just made the point I wanted to make about the self-appointed labelers who know more jargon than common sense and who have too much power to scare the pants off parents and pigeonhole their kids. They are not teachers; they're meddlers and need to be diverted out of positions where they can do that kind of damage.
posted by Anitanola at 10:03 PM on November 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


I was that kid. My conclusion? fuck that, kids suck. no kids, absolutely the right choice. I would be an epochally terrible parent.
posted by mwhybark at 10:28 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


[One comment deleted. Hi, moderator here: The "bad teachers" discussion doesn't belong in this thread, please do not continue to bring it in here. Also, don't use the edit function to add content to your comments; it's for typos only, and if you need to add something you can just make a second comment. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:32 PM on November 15, 2014


I am the parent of a child who is being bullied. In kindergarten. She is bright beyond her years, and coping somewhat well, but reacting by sometimes trying to push other kids around. A parent of a child in her class sent a letter in to the teacher saying that her child hated to go to school because my child was there. It broke my heart. Obviously because my child is bullying other children, but also because that is how another parent in my child's community chose to deal with this problem--anonymously, and in secret. I am choosing to deal with my child's bully by teaching my daughter that she is responsible for her own behaviour, and that she decides how she will behave. I cant stop her bully. I don't know her pain, or why she is choosing to be cruel to my daughter. I know that if it isn't her, and it isn't now, it will happen some day. I can't eliminate these things from my child's life much as I'd like to. I am choosing to be compassionate and recognize that there are many reasons why this may be happening, and that my daughter's teachers and day care providers are doing the best that they can to stop this. Things are better than they were in September but some days are better than others. My thoughts? Life is hard, being a kid can be impossible. Encourage love and forgiveness. Nobody wants to believe that their child is the reason another child hates their day, but it happens, and we should give children the chance to make it better, not instinctively remove them from the situation.
posted by Go Banana at 11:41 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I sense a disconnect in the comments on this post. The difficult truth is, whatever the reasons, "that kid" is often a bully.
My experience, for what it's worth, was that That Kid was very often a target of bullies. And because That Kid was genuinely difficult, teachers sometimes blamed the victim rather than the bullies, even though the bullies usually had a lot more control over their actions.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:41 AM on November 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


I've spent my entire professional career as an educator to those kids. They spit, they bite, they throw things, they push other kids down, they push other kids down a flight of stairs, they cyberbully on social media, they choke kids, they punch teachers, etc.

I've spent over 20 years working with those kids.

Yes, they all have moments when they're kind and they are watering the plants and they are writing short stories, but as a professional, the moment a kid interferes with another child's safety and right to learn, the school needs to step in, fast.

What works is having a dedicated space with dedicated staff that takes these kids and gets them assessed and then, provides them the individualized support they need to succeed. Without this level of special support, it doesn't happen and you know what? It doesn't matter that at times these kids are wonderful because other times they're just f*cking dangerous and they need to be removed from the general education milieu, where they can be assessed and provided the services they need.

In my 20+ years of experience, there is one big reason why it doesn't happen.

It's not a lack of funding or a lack of proper planning, it's FEAR OF LAWSUITS because of FAPE and LRE.

All students are entitled by law to a free appropriate education in the least restrictive environment (commonly known as mainstreaming) and many districts are terrified to place students in separate classrooms for fear of lawsuits. And they're terrified to pull kids from the LRE without reams of documentation to justify the move.

Putting this burden of documentation on the shoulders of overworked classroom teachers is a recipe for disaster. For the kids, for the educators, for the community.

I've been fortunate enough to be part of a district that recognized this 15 years ago and we created separate classrooms. We have classrooms for kids with behavioral issues who get intensive support and testing until we can get them into the most suitable setting; for kids with emotional disabilities, kids with low-functioning spectrum disorder, language-based disabilities, hearing impairments, etc. We have over 10 separate classes for all of these kids, where they get specialized support, behavioral programs as needed, intensive therapies, a LOT of positive reinforcement and we build close relationships with caregivers.

I've also consulted with schools where no less than 20 "behavioral" students have 1:1 aides working next to them so they can stay in the gen ed classroom. Imagine that cost: 20 full-time staff salaries because the admins won't create a separate class.

It's not a hard problem to solve but it takes administrators who are willing to go out on a limb and create separate classes for kids who can't function within a general education setting.

Yes, "those" kids have moments where they are dandy. But as soon as their behavior interferes with other kids' right to learn, schools have an obligation to remove those kids from the gen ed setting and get them help without fear of being sued.

**Ask MOST special ed teachers and we'll tell you that full immersion serves nobody and it's a recipe for disaster.
posted by kinetic at 6:56 AM on November 16, 2014 [22 favorites]


We have classrooms for kids with behavioral issues who get intensive support and testing until we can get them into the most suitable setting; for kids with emotional disabilities, kids with low-functioning spectrum disorder, language-based disabilities, hearing impairments, etc. We have over 10 separate classes for all of these kids, where they get specialized support, behavioral programs as needed, intensive therapies, a LOT of positive reinforcement and we build close relationships with caregivers.

When I am boss of the world this will be every school.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:03 AM on November 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


kinetic, thank you so much for that.

I think it's a shame that the author lumped in "The one who is always hitting shoving pinching scratching maybe even biting other children" with "The one who always has to hold my hand in the hallway. The one who has a special spot at the carpet, and sometimes sits on a chair rather than the floor" because I think there are very thoughtful and important conversations that can and should happen about this but they are two very different conversations that are not well-served by trying to merge them, or have them both simultaneously.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:07 AM on November 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


All students are entitled by law to a free appropriate education in the least restrictive environment (commonly known as mainstreaming) and many districts are terrified to place students in separate classrooms for fear of lawsuits. And they're terrified to pull kids from the LRE without reams of documentation to justify the move.

one thing about the initial conference i had with my kid's teacher, social worker and school psychologist that really struck me is that when autism was suggested as something we should look at, they were very relieved that i didn't respond with "WHAT?! NOT MY KID!"

i guess they get a lot of that, and then, of course, there's all sorts of conflicts from that

come to think of it, my ex never really accepted it ... but that's another story
posted by pyramid termite at 7:07 AM on November 16, 2014


Yep. After years of unsuccessful "inclusion" I've moved my kid into a private school specifically for kids with challenging behaviors. An entire school full of "THOSE kids", with small classes and teachers and counselors who actually know how to help them, and are willing and able to help them. It's just about the best thing ever. I understand the ideal of inclusion but for us it just never worked.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:30 AM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I knew of of 'those kids', He was an enormous pain in the ass. When we were in elementary school he'd squeeze girls' breasts and yell 'honk honk', then run away. My sister was nice to him and danced with him once at a church mixer, so he decided she wanted to date him. He called me up and asked me 'how I get her horny'. When I demurred he insisted, "You don't know how to get your sister horny!?!?" I hung up. But he didn't give up.

So one afternoon when me, my dad and my great-uncle Nick and a couple of our neighbors were out in the driveway, we'd been testing the compression on a '64 Impala I was thinking I wanted to buy. Smoking, drinking beer, etc... Dumbass pulls up in his 'tricked out' Plymouth Duster. I dunno what my great-uncle Nick said to the dude, but he pulled out quietly and we never heard from him again.
posted by Pudhoho at 7:34 AM on November 16, 2014


> I think it's a shame that the author lumped in "The one who is always hitting shoving pinching scratching maybe even biting other children" with "The one who always has to hold my hand in the hallway. The one who has a special spot at the carpet, and sometimes sits on a chair rather than the floor"

I believe the point was that they're often the same kid.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:45 AM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


That teacher shows a great deal of compassion and a firm grasp of the realities of teaching. Her message of taking a moment to reflect that problem kids may be facing a myriad of troubles is lost on the compassion-challenged.

Teaching every child, including the kids with disabilities of all sorts and the incredible range of parenting and cultural backgrounds is not easy and it's not cheap. But I certainly think every child should get a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). And every child should get breakfast and lunh for free or reduced price if needed. Not all problems go away if you throw cash at them, but money goes a long way towards quality in education, especially for difficult kids.

Sometimes, THAT kid has parents who are assholes and/or incompetent. I find that to be true of most bullies I've observed. Just as there are many ways to be THAT kid, there's a shitton of ways for parents to be assholes.

There are teachers who aren't great, there's a ton of school administrations that suck. In every field, including medicine, plumbing, law, masonry, programming, construction, engineering, etc., there are plenty of people with only adequate skills. Medicine is notorious for protecting dangerous doctors. Lawyers won't sue other lawyers. It's your child's education, you want it to be perfect, and even great teachers sometimes aren't a great match for every child.
posted by theora55 at 9:47 AM on November 16, 2014


> I've also consulted with schools where no less than 20 "behavioral" students have 1:1 aides working next to them so they can stay in the gen ed classroom. Imagine that cost: 20 full-time staff salaries because the admins won't create a separate class

Inclusion is often overrated, sure. But I think it's great that there are 20 one-on-one aides at that school. For some children, that's what they need. Some kids do better in a behavioral special ed classroom, but some do worse.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:48 AM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wonder how much of the resentment of teachers and their pay is driven by remembering THAT teacher.
posted by theora55 at 9:50 AM on November 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


I believe the point was that they're often the same kid.

I read it as a composite of different children, but if that's incorrect let me re-phrase my original comment:

I think it's a shame that the author lumped behaviors like "hitting shoving pinching scratching maybe even biting other children" with needs like "hold[ing] my hand in the hallway. [having] a special spot at the carpet, and sometimes [sitting] on a chair rather than the floor"
posted by Room 641-A at 10:07 AM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


...as equivalent.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:09 AM on November 16, 2014


Maybe they're not equivalent, but they're related. I'm thinking of the preschoolers I worked with, in particular. They might start out needing to sit on a chair instead of the carpet -- this was definitely a thing -- and if that need wasn't met, the frustration would often lead to aggressive behavior. It's easiest and least upsetting to see it with preschoolers, but not everyone outgrows that at the same age.

So, if a parent is mad that THAT kid is getting special attention (e.g. sitting on a chair, not being expected to participate in circle time, getting to listen to music on an iPod during class), they should consider that maybe a much larger thing is being prevented, and that that's the thing the teacher can't freely discuss.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:49 AM on November 16, 2014


The corpse in the library: "So, if a parent is mad that THAT kid is getting special attention (e.g. sitting on a chair, not being expected to participate in circle time, getting to listen to music on an iPod during class)"

My kid is one who sat on a chair during circle time in pre-K. His neurological issue comes with weak core muscles, so he would slump to the side and lean on someone next to him to feel more comfortable. This is cute when it's a 4-year-old doing it to an adult, but when it's a 4-year-old doing it to another 4-year-old, "I have a weak core due to a neurological condition" is indistinguishable from "I am leaning on you repeatedly on purpose JUST TO MAKE YOU CRAZY." So the kid sitting next to him would get mad, shove him off, and someone would end up in tears. If he sat in a chair, or next to the teacher so he could lean, PROBLEM SOLVED. (And meanwhile, his occupational therapist had him doing what I call "preschool pilates" to build up those muscles so he could sit up stronger and not always slump on the guy next to him. Now he can manage about 20 minutes of floor time before he starts looking for people to lean against.)

He also always gets the same spot at the coloring table because they've put the rough side of velcro underneath the table so that when he gets agitated during writing/coloring time, he can run his fingers on the velcro to calm down (which is apparently a thing they do with a lot of kids!). Some of the kids complain that he ALWAYS gets that spot, which ISN'T FAIR (and it totally isn't if you're five!), but it's just where the velcro lives.

Some of these things are so incredibly trivial but there are adults who feel the need to police everyone else's life/parenting/teaching; and there are parents who are incapable of understanding that their five-year-old's report of unfairness or wrongdoing at school may not be 100% accurate and unbiased. The parents willing to go to battle over which kid gets which spot at the coloring table! It boggles my mind.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:04 PM on November 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


A lot of the disagreement and offensive-taking in this thread comes from people conflating different situations. It's a classic case of equivocation. At this point, it seems like the only way to participate in this thread is to participate in that equivocation, but while that could lead to a fight, it won't lead to clarity. We're lettings ourselves be trolled, basically. So let's see if some formal rigor helps....

Let "B" be the predicate "bully" and "TK" be the predicate "THAT kid."
There are bullies. ∃xB(x)
THAT kid is sometimes one of them. ∃x[B(x) & TK(x)]

This is not the same as saying all "THAT kids" are bullies or that only "THAT kids" are bullies. That's silly and actually is offensive: ∀x(TK(x) → B(x) v ∀x[~TK(x) → ~B(x)]

In fact ∃x[B(x) & TK(x)] allows for the possibility that THAT kid could bully THAT other kid, or a non-THAT kid could bully THAT kid.

The only way this would matter is if one thinks that that THAT kid is never a bully: that by virtue of being THAT kid, THAT kid cannot be a bully. ∀x(TK(x) → ~B(x)]

Frankly, that seems to ultimately be the implication we are supposed to draw from the FPP article. I doubt it, though.

If you believe ∀x(TK(x) → ~B(x)], I look forward to seeing you prove it. I think one possible way to that proof is to deny that there are bullies at all: perhaps there are only kids and THAT kids, and any apparent bullying behavior, even "hitting shoving pinching scratching maybe even biting other children" is just THAT kid-ism misunderstood, not bullying. ~∃xyB(xy) & ∃xTK(x) & ∃y~TK(y)

But of course some people seem to think that some non-THAT kids are bullies, but that THAT kid is never a bully. Thus they believe both ∀x(TK(x) → ~B(x)] and ∃x[~B(x) & TK(x)] & ∃y[B(y) & ~TK(y)]

To my mind, the article just sustains both ∃xB(x) and ∃x[B(x) & TK(x)]. To that, we should add for clarity and compassion: ∃y[~B(y) & TK(y)]

QED, really. Let's focus on ∃xB(x) and stop getting so mad at each other.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:09 PM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Some kids do better in a behavioral special ed classroom, but some do worse.

What I see more often than not is a kid is labelled behavioral and they get a 1:1 aide, and then they stay in the class.

Any and all underlying causes for their behaviors are not uncovered, their real issues remain unaddressed, and instead they stay in the gen ed class with no real educational support.

What I see as far more successful is this: when a kid begins a downward spiral, they get assessed and receive appropriate services.

The kid who's hitting might have language processing issues, they may have any number of learning disabilities, they may be on the autism spectrum. But there are special educators and teams of people who can assess and work with these kids and give them support so they're not just labelled behavioral problems and given an aide.

When kids are properly assessed and placed in a learning situation that addresses their needs, both educational and emotional, they can be a lot more successful than if all that happens is they're kept in the gen ed class with an aide.

Over the years I've worked with kids who thrive in a supported gen ed class and those kids are always receiving other support services. The situation I spoke of previously is when instead of getting evaluated and appropriately supported, an aide is just thrown at the kid and the underlying issues are never addressed.

The aides are there for damage control.
posted by kinetic at 2:40 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it's a shame that the author lumped behaviors like "hitting shoving pinching scratching maybe even biting other children" with needs like "hold[ing] my hand in the hallway. [having] a special spot at the carpet, and sometimes [sitting] on a chair rather than the floor".

Huh. Why do you suppose the author did that?
posted by feral_goldfish at 4:26 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes, "those" kids have moments where they are dandy. But as soon as their behavior interferes with other kids' right to learn, schools have an obligation to remove those kids from the gen ed setting

If that were the policy, there would be no kids left in the gen ed setting.
posted by feral_goldfish at 4:31 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I interpreted "holding my hand in the hallway" as a preemptive to not bullying the other kids as they're on their way somewhere else: the auditorium, a bus for a field trip, outside for PE....

Eyebrows McGee, would your kid be able to keep a piece of velcro in his pocket?....or if not, maybe applied to the inside of his jacket?
posted by brujita at 5:25 PM on November 16, 2014


Typical classroom:
25-45 Students with 9 different learning styles. Depending on the area 5%-99% poverty rate. 3-8 students mainstreamed with spec ed needs. 2-8 students with varying psych needs. 30% English language learners.12% nomadic with poor scholastic support. Some students have three hits out of the categories. The teachers are aware of the situation. No one has time to lavish anything. What a ridiculous notion. Our teachers don't need one more iota of criticism, or hard talk especially from policy makers who create some of the inequities.
posted by Oyéah at 8:20 PM on November 16, 2014


If people think those '20 teachers aids' are full-time... or paid decent wages well... I just ... don't even. Huh.

(they generally aren't btw)
posted by edgeways at 9:04 PM on November 16, 2014


But as soon as their behavior interferes with other kids' right to learn, schools have an obligation to remove those kids from the gen ed setting

If that were the policy, there would be no kids left in the gen ed setting.


That is 100% NOT my experience. Most kids do not act out on a regular basis.

If people think those '20 teachers aids' are full-time... or paid decent wages well... I just ... don't even. Huh.

(they generally aren't btw)


In the many schools where I've consulted, the aides are paid anywhere from $15 to $30 hourly, work full-time and have full benefits. As they should. It's an incredibly difficult job.

But my point was more that instead of paying all these 1:1 aides, it's a far better idea to instead assess students and create classes where they receive specialized instruction for their needs, not keep them in the gen ed class, undiagnosed, using an aide for damage control.
posted by kinetic at 3:26 AM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


And it's even better than that to put the Individual in IEP. You frame it as if it's one or the other, but since we're just talking why not imagine that we have both: a behavioral special ed classroom that's used as needed, and enough aides that everyone who does best in mainstream, goes to mainstream.

One of my kids isn't in special ed, and I get that it sucks to have a distuptive kid as a classmate. Know what? It also sucks to be that disruptive kid. Nobody throws a chair because everything is fine and dandy.

Everyone suffers, in either the short or the long term, when children don't get the help they need.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:24 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it's a shame that the author lumped behaviors like "hitting shoving pinching scratching maybe even biting other children" with needs like "hold[ing] my hand in the hallway. [having] a special spot at the carpet, and sometimes [sitting] on a chair rather than the floor".
Huh. Why do you suppose the author did that?


I don't know for sure why they did that, but the question is out of context anyway because it's based only on the first half of my original sentence:
I think it's a shame that the author lumped in "The one who is always hitting shoving pinching scratching maybe even biting other children" with "The one who always has to hold my hand in the hallway. The one who has a special spot at the carpet, and sometimes sits on a chair rather than the floor" because I think there are very thoughtful and important conversations that can and should happen about this but they are two very different conversations that are not well-served by trying to merge them, or have them both simultaneously.
I stand by that. I do not think the original material is a good starting point for the conversation that is happening here. (I'm not saying it was a bad post, but the discussion about it was probably doomed from the start.)
posted by Room 641-A at 11:31 AM on November 17, 2014


Why do you suppose the author did that?

I don't know for sure why they did that...


Because it's what so many other people do. Even if THAT KID isn't actually dangerous, THAT KID is weird and therefore distracting their precious sprog or taking away valuable one-on-one attention that the teacher would otherwise be lavishing on said sprog. Either way, the other parents are "worried" about THAT KID.
posted by Etrigan at 11:45 AM on November 17, 2014


Wow, my last comment, which I made because my previous comment had been partially quoted and taken out of context has just been partially quoted and taken out of context!

I will leave the conversation to the people who are finding something productive in it.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:58 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


You said that you didn't know why these two separate things (aggressive and violent kids vs. kids who need special attention) were conflated in the original article. The author of the article says, in the second paragraph, "You’re worried that THAT child is detracting from your child’s learning experience. You’re worried that he takes up too much of my time and energy, and that your child won’t get his fair share."

That's why the author did it -- because other parents complain about both kinds of THAT KID as though they were the same issue. The two very different conversations you want to have are being conflated every day by millions of parents, and that's why the author wanted to conflate them too.
posted by Etrigan at 12:09 PM on November 17, 2014


"Even if THAT KID isn't actually dangerous, THAT KID is weird "

The other thing is that, again, this was written by a kindergarten teacher, so we are talking about five-year-olds, who are a group of people who at any moment may decide that biting is their preferred form of communication or may decide to pretend to be a fish for the entire day or may pee their pants because the toilet gurgled last week and now they're scared to use it. ALL OF THEM will at some point during their kindergarten year shove or slug another kid, out of anger or carelessness or curiosity. Most of them will do so several times. Because they are FIVE. And part of the problem is that humans are hyper-alert to people who are overtly weirdos (which is adaptive! and not necessarily bad!), so will see any violent behavior from a weird kid as confirmation that that kid is, in fact, dangerous. So frequently you have little Johnny, who has shoved other kids on the playground 10 times this year, whose parents come in for conferences and are like WHY IS DANGEROUS VIOLENT WEIRD KID TIMMY BEING MAINSTREAMED? And Timmy's only shoved people 8 times this year, but Timmy still wets his pants and covers his ears and screams when he's overwhelmed, so his incidences of normal 5-year-old violence are overinterpreted as abnormal violence rather than normal roughhousing/immaturity.

By second grade you start being able to see kids deliberately attacking other kids when you go over discipline reports, but with kindergarteners and first-graders it's very very difficult to look at these incidents and say THIS child is violent and THAT child was just reacting; THIS child is dangerous and THAT child is just immature.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:21 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


[This is a comment from an anonymous mefite.]
I'm glad that teachers honor privacy. Sometimes it doesn't happen in spite of the best intentions. Teaching is a social profession and it requires a depth of understanding of human nature and what to do when you have one or more kids who aren't capable of expressing how they feel in a constructive manner and you need to intervene and facilitate. I've been in the teacher's room grading and listening in on conversations to which I should not hear, but was grateful for because I knew what to expect when I had that particular kid in the next class and I could make the experience better for everyone.

And now a decade later I'm out of teaching and I have not one, but two THAT kids. One is cognitively delayed that I'm thrilled when she manages to shit on the toilet and wipe her ass and flush and wash her hands (spoiler: she manages two of those), but she is in a regular class and though she will not get the material, she is very well-loved by her classmates and the staff that work with her. They have built a truly wonderful, truly inclusive environment where everyone benefits from her presence.

Her younger sibling is THAT kid and he is on the opposite end of the spectrum. He is so smart, it is incredible to witness. He is also a powder keg of emotions that explodes several times a day. He is not currently in school because while his behaviours at home had been manageable and improving, those at school were getting worse. We had weekly meetings. We have consulted with a behaviorist. We have worked with the school every step of the way to make things better and to help create a similar environment for him that his sister has, but he is a different child with different needs and it looks like the least restrictive environment is likely not in this school after he blew up and nearly incapacitated his 1:1 aide. Out into a hospital, a switch of meds, talking to social workers, talking to psychologists, talking to crisis response, and now trying to find an appropriate place for him. And now when I look for the schools that are appropriate, one of the better schools had a horrible incident that I will keep mum on, but having sat on the grand jury for the case, they were not without their faults in the matter.

And in the wreckage of this situation, we're still meeting with the school and they've done their best and so have we and I have so much respect for how the matter has been handled and am impressed with how professional the group has been. And it's tragic because I'm looking at a mind in a boy that, with slightly different circumstances would be rocketing into the stratosphere, but instead explodes on the launch pad.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:43 PM on November 17, 2014


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