Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Looooong day.

Most of the teachers who read this are probably on summer vacation, or darn close at this point.

Well, I am in the 'summer,' but I'm not on vacation yet. Those of you who are- this will be one of those posts that makes you go, "Ahhhhh," and cherish the fact that you're reading this from a beach chair out in the sun or whatever.

I have a blessedly small class of 7 children for summer school, and 1 was absent today. Six kids- easy day, right?

Not when one of your students forgets to take her medicine. I understand that it happens, especially when the responsibility for taking it lies completely in the hands of an 8-year-old, but this is not a child for whom medicine just kind of helps.

Most days, the early morning is rough until about 9:30, when suddenly she is much more relaxed and her demeanor softens. Some days, it feels like a different student is in the classroom at 10:00. She is extremely bright and pleasant. She works hard and generally listens to direction. Her work is neat and precise, because she wants to do well and loves to please her teachers.

I take special care to give her extra attention and responsibilites in the morning, and while it's not always easy, we usually make it to 9:30 and then the day improves drastically. It is believed that this is when her medicine kicks in, and I think it truly makes it easier for her to behave.

Well, today 9:30 never seemed to come. Her erratic behavior continued, then escalated. By the afternoon, she was singing in the hallway, flipping her body over her desk to do a headstand, buzzing her lips like she was playing a brass instrument, and throwing her belongings around the room. At one point, I called her mom and she claimed she was leaving. Walked right out the door. I let her spend a few minutes working in the back of another classroom, but as soon as she came back in ours, she was off the walls again and threw a ball of paper at another student. After whining and crying on the floor (her, not me, though I considered it), I escorted her to the office. On the way, she tried to run away. By the end of the day, we'd tried positive motivation and praise, a private teacher-student talk, time-out, discipline writing, calling home, removal from the room, a write-up, and going to the office. I'm not even sure what else was left.

Late in the day, I found out the probable culprit- no medicine today.

I don't advocate medicine in most cases. A lot of the time, it's better for students to be taught skills that help them learn to use a disorder like ADHD as an advantage (and handle when it's not). There are a few students, though, who are truly missing out on vital learning because of a disorder that is out of control. These students need some sort of treatment, whether it be medicine or diet or therapy of some kind.

This is a student who refuses to do work, consistently makes noise to purposely distract everyone else, climbs or crawls on anything in the room, and sticks things in her mouth like a toddler. But given treatment, she is a model student who always volunteers an answer because she loves learning.

Yes, her medicine makes my job a billion times easier. Yes, her medicine makes the classroom a much better learning environment for the other students. But that's not why I believe it is good for her right now.

I believe that the medicine is good for her because it allows HER to do her job at all. Without it, she would hardly spend time in a classroom, much less learn anything while she was there. She might be a social outcast. She might hate math, because it is so hard for her. She might never get a chance to feel smart. She might never learn the social behaviors expected of her in the real world. She would get behind in school, for sure.

There are downsides to medicating, too. I think some of the effect of this girl's medicine is placebo. She has her medicine, so she believes she can behave and she does. When she doesn't have her medicine, it's harder to behave and she doesn't believe she can do it, so she doesn't. It's sad that she believes the medicine is what makes her good.

I don't know if she'll need this medicine forever, but I do know that if I only saw her on days like the first day of school and today, it would be a pity. She is not an exhausting or frustrating child- she is sweet and lovable- and I'm glad that her medicine allows that personality to come out, and allows her to learn so much.

Anyway... time to go home, relax, and pretend I'm on summer vacation for a few hours. It was a loooong day.


The Creative Lady said...

I totally understand your post. Not the best way to spend summer vacation but hopefully, you will get some rest. I worked summer school last year and vowed to never do it again! If a student did learn during the 10 months of regular session, I have no desire to be a part of trying to squeeze it in 4 weeks! Now, let me get back to my beach-y stuff. ;-) Great post though!

Not Quite Grown Up... said...

Huh. The way you describe your student pretty closely mirrors a child I had in my class this year (who was never medicated, but did have the diagnosis). Being a fairly new teacher, I don't know what is normal. I came to think this student's behaviors were a "normal" challange. A teaching coach would come in and tell me I shouldn't have to deal with behaviors like that every day, that my administrators should do something more to help me, but I didn't really believe her. I thought she was just trying to make me feel better. Seriously, though, what you describe - the singing, the noises, the flipping the body over the desk, throwing things, putting things in the mouth, occasional fits under the desks - that is exactly my student. Next year, in the future, hopefully I will know to better advocate for myself and my student. When students behave like that, not only is it frustrating for the teacher - it is also detrimental to the student (he/she cannot learn) and the rest of the class (they can't learn either if they are distracted and having things thrown at them).

Good luck with the rest of summer school.