Everything I Know I Learned in Pre-K

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 30 2012

This sinking feeling

It is difficult for me to write on a regular basis for any number of reasons. As a teacher at a year-round, extended day (6:30am-6:00pm) school, and a part-time Master’s student, I have very little time for the things I need to get done, let alone the things I want to get done. On top of that, the sheer exhaustion of my days can be somewhat overwhelming. Think what you want, but teaching Pre-k is the single most excruciating, exhausting and exciting thing I’ve ever done.
However, recently the thing that has kept me from updating has beenthe fact that I’m pretty sure I’ve become one of those teachers… The success, tenor and excitedness factor of my days all rest in one student. When I realize in the morning that he may not be, or will not be, coming, I literally jump for joy. Other teachers pass me by, crossing their fingers in my direction, or saying something like “we won’t say his name, just in case.” But they don’t get it, he’s not in their class. And when I have to pass students to other teachers in order to stay in ratio, no one will take him.
While many of my students will likely be assessed with special needs when they arrive at school in the fall, he is the only student I have at the moment who has an IEP. Not that I’ve seen it or anything, but I know it exists. For a month he was coming to my class full time, but then about a month ago, he began going to a special needs school in the mornings and coming by school bus to my school at 11:30 just in time for lunch and **shudder** nap time. Given the chance to guess, I would assume that in addition to the obvious diagnosis of ADHD, he has likely been categorized with an Emotional Disturbance. He is violent and destructive, with no remorse. I have other students with hyperactivity or attention deficits, but it’s a whole other thing to be malicious. The structure of my classroom has had to change because it is difficult to put something on the wall that he won’t rip down. He tears down other students’ artwork, carries it to them, and rips it into little pieces in front of their eyes. When asked how he would feel if someone did the same to him, he’ll rip up his own art, just to prove he doesn’t care. He has threatened the lives of two of my students, one by saying he will bring a gun and shoot him, and the other by saying he will bash her head in. He is the oldest student in my class, but is academically and behaviorally the farthest behind.
What makes the situation all the worse is that he weighs over 100 lbs. In fact, he is probably closer to being between 120 and 130. As a matter of discipline, this is a huge problem. Part of what I am trying to teach my kids is that there are consequences to their actions. Prior to his arrival in my class, students did not argue when they were reprimanded or sent to the “blue chair,” instead they calmly accepted the consequences of their actions, and waited to be allowed to rejoin the group (which happens once they indicate they have calmed down and are ready to follow our class’s norms). With the worst offenders, and those who refused (a rare but plausible reaction), my co-teacher and I were able to either lead them to the chair or lift them and place them in the chair. However, because neither my co-teacher or myself is able to move this particular student, there is very little we can do to get him to move into time out. None of the incentives we have tried have worked, and even when he seems attracted by an incentive, its appeal wears away quickly. Because our other students have seen that he does not have consequences to his actions, they are now less willing to accept consequences for their own. Thinking as a 4-year-old, this is completely understandable and rational, however, as teachers, this is incredibly frustrating and counter-productive.
I am at my wits end with him, and am ashamed of the joy I feel when he does not come to school. I want to be a teacher who is able to include all students, and until this particular student, I thought I was. I had dealt with all of the behavioral issues in my class, and found a way to incentivize and reward students for their efforts both academically and socially/emotionally. I now find myself less certain that all children want to and can learn. I see him as a lost cause most days. This is NOT the teacher I want to be, but I don’t know how to change it.

5 Responses

  1. T

    If your school is witholding his IEP from you, they are breaking the law. They are legally obligated to provide his IEP to any teachers who work with him.

    I know the type of situation you are in, and I am so sorry you have to go through this. Just know that not every year will be like this. You’ll have difficult students, but not students this difficult every year.

    • Just to clarify, my school is not withholding the IEP, but rather, none of us (my director included) seem to be able to get our hands on it. I do not work for the DOE, and my school does not provide social services or SPED services, and so the evaluation was done at the behest of his mother by an outside organization. I do not know who conducted the evaluation or developed the IEP, and neither does my director. We have asked his mother repeatedly, and she has agreed to provide it, but it has not entered into our hands as of yet.

      • T

        That’s so bizarre and shouldn’t have happened on so many levels and yet…I’m not even a little surprised. Sad how used to bureaucracy we can become…

  2. simplewords

    Ouch. wow. sorry.

  3. Ms. Math

    I had a few kids that i was very happy to have suspended when they sexually harassed me. I felt guilty for not caring about their education. But at some point we are humans and don’t want to be treated horribly. I think it is okay not to want to help students who are truly awful. It’s normal. Don’t feel too guilty, and get him out of your class if he is keeping others from learning.

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