Thursday, November 17, 2011

Root Cause

Today, I had an average day, capped off by a really crappy round of test scores from the seemingly 1029494th district assessment my kids have taken. I don't want to get into it - there are flaws in the test, many of the items are too difficult in my opinion, I have kids with attention issues and great academic need, it's supposed to take 45 minutes and takes 90, yada yada. It's not a valuable use of your time to hear my rant on the subject. And I'm really tired of talking about it.

The reason I'm telling you about the negative end to the day is to put into perspective one valuable, meaningful moment I had with a student today.

This boy in my class is a freakin' darling. He is bright, polite, kind to others, careful in his work (and if you're a teacher you know how rare that is!), and just all around a stand-up kid. Lately, however, he's been really struggling with his behavior. Talking all the time, making noises, unable to control his body when he moves from place to place, even repeating what I say in a funny voice and getting into issues with other kids at his table. He always apologizes profusely, promises to change his choices, and then 5 minutes later is making mouth noises again.

I like this kid. A lot. The thing is, there's only so much I can take. Today, I decided some info needed to go home. I wrote his mom a long note describing how fantastic her kid is but that he's been really struggling. I sat down with him so he could read the note over with me, to make sure he agreed with everything I'd said and wouldn't be blindsided when he got home.

What ended up coming out from him was that his parents haven't been getting along, and his dad is "staying with his friend" for a while. I'm not sure exactly what's up, but it sounds like his dad "made a mistake" (his words) and his mom is worried about paying the bills by herself.

And all I could think was, I'd be a basket case too, kid.

It put his behavior change so clearly into perspective for me, and I let him know that. And here's what else I told him: it's normal for stress or problems in your life to affect your behavior at school.

Um, hi. Can I please take some of my own medicine?

I myself have encountered a great deal of change in the past few months - the new marriage and 900 mile move alone are plenty. On top of it, I don't get to see my husband nearly enough and don't really like being alone. Add the stress of helping start up a new school with a very different and much needier population than I had at my last pie-in-the-sky land school and you have a whole heaping pile of homesick plopped into an already anxiety-filled brain. Much as I consciously attempt to put that aside while teaching, I know that it has seeped in, and I have not been my best self as of late.

Wow. The guilt of knowing that is as crushing as the relief of admitting it is cathartic.

I keep trying to think of a concise way to end this post, but it keeps morphing into another long, tangential essay. Here's my final attempt:

All I know to do at this point is keep on truckin'. Try to find the upsides, take care of business the best I can, and try to release control and accept that this is where I am supposed to be right now. And remember that, just like me, my kids are probably crazy for a reason.