Dude Dad vs Teacher Round 5

Found a spelling test of Walters in his bag.  Teacher wrote on it, “Not one right, how sad.  Surely you can do something about this.”

Guess who’s taking Walter to school tomorrow.  This will not happen, but I can relate.

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12 Responses to Dude Dad vs Teacher Round 5

  1. Sarah says:

    That’s a mean comment to any child, let alone one who’s going through all the issues Walter is dealing with. Shaming a child never helps them to be more successful. I somehow think you may never get through to this teacher. Any chance he can just change classrooms for the last couple of months?

    • thedudedad says:

      There’s a better chance my foot will break off in her ass. We’re bringing the social workers and therapist in this week. We’re turning up the heat. I want to be very vocal these last two months. Hopefully they’ll know I’m not fucking around for next year.

  2. I know you don’t know me from Adam…I feel led to give you my perspective from my experience..as a preparation for what you are in for..I mentioned before I have a daughter, but aside from that I also work with families who have adopted children with attachment issues, like Walter. One of the biggest mistakes we make as their parents is in the area of school.. I experienced the school system for two years before I pulled my girl and am homeschooling her because of many of the issues you are talking about. I am not suggesting you homeschool, though it is always an option when you adopt little walter, but instead I am hopefully imparting wisdom I have gained not just in my family but in EVERY family I have worked with and their school and their teachers. It’s universal. First I want to reitterate how impressed I am that you are so intuned with what your son needs and what is most important. You get it, you are right about it and they are dead wrong. The note on your son’s paper after everything you have tried to do to educate his teacher about his needs, would result in little Walter never going back to her class if it were me….but like I said..before homeschooling is not always what is best for these kids. It’s infuriating to say the least. My point…as I know I am rambling and can be very long winded (sorry)…is that you will likely continue to experience these difficulties for the entire time he is in school, once in a while you will get a teacher who will side with you, but it isn’t often that happens and then the next year they have a different one. The teachers are not educated about emotionally disturbed children who have attachment issues. They think they know more than you about what your child needs, afterall they have been teaching for years, they don’t realize that teaching your child will have to be completely different if they want him to succeed…and what that will look like will often be too lenient, or too harsh. But, it will rarely be the same as the others. They don’t realize nor will they ever believe you, that you are doing what is best for him. And sadly what happens to parents is they get soooo caught up in trying to get the teachers/principals to understand and accomodate, that they are more stressed out and frustrated. When raising these children parents are tattered with exhaustion, and that’s without ever dealing with school as you are aware and have expressed.. when you add the extra stress of a teacher who will not listen and accomodate and will blatently go against you, to it, you are left with little to give as parents to our children. And we need every ounce of energy and empathy we can get to help our little guys. The school will suck you dry. They will not change for you, they will not accomodate your son. My advice would be to tell the teacher that no negative comments are acceptable EVER. If she doesn’t have anything nice to say she should not say anything at all. There should NEVER be any comments written on his papers at all EVER. It’s better if he gets all of his positive feed back from you anyway. And then, I would leave what happens at school at school. And I would repair damage at home where he is safe. I know that you think that once he is adopted or it is looking positive in that direction that he will get better in school…in some ways he might, but mostly he won’t. Clearly you have been able to see that he is CAPABLE of doing the work, and that he is just NOT doing it. He is SMART enough. And people will tell you he has a learning disorder or ADHD or whatever, and that is why he is not able to keep up with the others. And some of it is true, but moreso, it is emotionally driven. Him not doing school is not about academics, it’s about feeling safe and unafraid. And that could take years to resolve, so you are dead on saying that it is more important to work on his ability to feel safe and bond with you, than his education. Education should ALWAYS come last with these kids. Healing first. And it sounds like you have an awesome therapist wich is crucial…and surely even he can telll you that until Walter feels safe (which could take years) he will likely never do what he is capable of in school. Pemanency or adoption will not facilitate this, you and they (the children) think it will, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t take away the fear. Only for a short time, sometimes only a day. But, the fear could take years to heal. I’m not telling you this to stomp on your hope, I’m telling you so that you can prepare yourselves for the future, no one tells you any of this. But, when you know it’s not going to happen like you imagine it will or how it makes sense it will, you can in my opinion wrap your brain around the best way to handle it and get Walter and you and your wife through it. Again I think you are doing an amazing job you are an awesome father and advocate for Walter. :o)

    • thedudedad says:

      Wow thank you for that. Very good advice. Thank you for taking the time to say this. I needed to hear it and yeah I hear this is a long road but I’m stubborn. We’ll get through this one way or another.

    • Allison says:

      What she just said! This is my experience, too. We’re four years in and our kids are still dealing with feeling unsafe–every stinkin’ day. I, too, have pulled my middle-schoolers out of traditional school and school them at home through an on-line academy. I can forward you some information, directed at educators, that explains the inner world of a child with attachment issues and tells the teacher how to be helpful and how to modify his/her expectations of the ways the child will respond to traditional methods of behavior modification.

      As I think I’ve mentioned before, most of the approaches that “work” with my youngest, now a second-grader who can barely read and can’t spell to save his life, are approaches typically used with kids on the autism spectrum. Those include helping him with fundamental emotional regulation, sensory deficits, basic safety and security, reading social cues, etc. Did you see reading, writing, or ‘rithmatic in that list? To the extent that he gets those, too, it’s gravy. Because the school is helping meet those other needs, through OT, counseling (by someone who “gets it), resource room time and sensory room time, AND through having a great teacher who really understands him and does all of the little things that help him feel safe in school, he’s learning a lot of the academics, too. As I started with, though, we’re four years in and safety and security are an every single day issue.

      I love what I see you doing for Walter. You are so on the right track and your attunement with Walter is the one thing that you can’t really teach someone. You can show someone how to take actions that enable them to become attuned, but it’s like leading a horse to water. You are doing all of the right things.

      Your methods for dealing with others may get more finely honed. Along those lines, I would offer you some information that I, even as a professional advocate, have found helpful when it comes to being a parent advocate for my children. (Advocating for my kids is really different from advocating for others because THOSE ARE MY KIDS YOU ARE MESSING WITH!!)

      There is a “handbook” for parent advocates on the website for the Nigliazzo Advocacy Center for Attachment Disorders under family resources (or something like that). It contains suggestions for ways to be the most effective in advocating for your kids, including practices that put you in a position to pursue higher-level remedies for your child, if necessary. When I went from incensed parent to checking off the boxes for all of the things I would need to do to take the issue to court (if it became necessary), things got a lot better for my kids. In fairness, after we got past the first-grade teacher, who must have gone to the same school as Walter’s teacher, and got a good IEP in place, things have gone well and we’ve been able to have a good working relationship with the school. It’s that coldly professional and absolutely determined attitude that strikes fear/respect into the hearts of those school teachers and administrators who aren’t inclined to help our son thrive in ways that he can respond positively to.

      I know that your blog is a way to vent what our kids would call “BIG feelings.” I get those feelings, too. Not letting off steam doesn’t work. But when it comes time to deal with the systems in which my kids are stuck, be they CPS, the mental-health system, or the school system, I have to put on my hardhat and go to work with all of the objectivity of a professional representing someone else’s kids and all of the tenacity of a mother lion protecting her cubs. We will be unsticking our youngest from the school system in the fall, and would have done so sooner (because it is currently feasible for us) had he not had such a great teacher this year.

      Abiding with you!

      • thedudedad says:

        TY for this. I know I need to be less emotional when dealing with the school. It’s just extremely frustrating when I feel I’m being clear as i can be. being dismissed so easily does not help either. Think I’m going to delete the manifesto I wrote to the principal and check some of the resources you sited. Thanks so much ladies. I really appreciate your advice and support.

  3. Allison says:

    Another thing that I wanted to mention: With my son, we live in the “already” and the “not yet.” We and the therapist agree that our son’s inability to read and spell is directly related to his issues with memory. His issues with memory are directly related to the amount of trauma he has been through. He has a lot of trouble “going inside” of himself because “inside” is filled with traumatic memories and scary feelings. So he lives as much on the outside as he can.

    Reading and spelling (which grows out of reading) are very internal activities. We read and use our inner eye to “see” what we are reading about. We also use our memory to remember words we’ve seen before and recall them for use each time we see them. When kids are anxious and stressed, their limbic systems (emotional part of the brain) override the cortex (the home of memory).

    For my son, that means that “going inside” to “see” what he’s reading about and to access his memory of previously learned words also accesses his terrifying memories. That ratchets up his anxiety and stress, which, in turn, shuts off the part of his brain that does the remembering. Even the fear of remembering is enough to shut him down. So we view reading as a “not yet” skill.

    He can “already” remember a lot of his math facts because we can work with math a lot more on the outside and there are relatively few facts (compared with a whole language full of words) and they are not typically very emotionally charged. We are also at “already” with science, which fascinates him, music, and a lot of social studies. He has a lot of trouble with writing, which is related to reading and to some other trauma issues specific to his dominant hand. When my son resolves his trauma, he will learn to read–probably very quickly. He is very bright and capable. Right now, we just have bigger fish to fry.

    • thedudedad says:

      WOW! great post. Thank you for the insight. I know me yelling and cursing are not going to net results. I’m a creature of logic and this all seems pretty straight forward to me but you are right. I need to check myself and advocate. Yelling and cursing might feel good to me but it’s not the best way to meet goals. I’m honestly asking myself whether I should broach this topic with the principal at all or just wait it out and start fresh next year.

      Thank you again for all of the support and perspective everyone!

      • Allison says:

        It is all logical, but we start from a place of understanding the world as our kids see it (or at least being a guest often enough that we get a feel for what it must be like in there).

        The education system is, first and formost, a crowd-control system. Before they can educate, they have to manage a horde of children, who, given their druthers, would just go their own ways. So the school’s first approach is to “manage” kids’ behavior. For most kids with normal lives, that works out okay.

        It’s when a child isn’t motivated by the things that motivate most kids that the system doesn’t compensate well. And for every child like Walter, there have been twenty kids in his teacher’s classes over the years whose parents just weren’t willing or able to make the effort necessary to provide appropriate discipline and parenting. It’s hard to convince people who have “seen it all” that you have something they haven’t seen before.

        I’m not trying to defend the system. It’s just that as an advocate, the more thoroughly I understand my opponent’s position and reasoning, the more effectively I can advocate for my child–asking for what we need, while recognizing the difficulty others are having understanding why we need it. One of the things from the Nigliazzo materials that helped me focus my efforts better was the suggestion that I present every issue from the perspective of the way my child experiences it. It is a lot easier to line up allies–for people to want to help my child–when they realize how much he is suffering on the inside. Far easier than it is to convince them that I have a better way of managing his behavior. The focus has to come off of the behavior (because really, who’s going to convince a veteran teacher that she doesn’t know EVERYTHING about managing behavior) and get put on helping my child feel safer, more secure, and able to function more normally.

        I still think you are doing a great job and I admire your firey spirit. If Walter is anything like any of my kids, this is likely to be a long-term war. I have to think long term so that I don’t expend everything I’ve got while there are battles yet to come. If I can work out a peace treaty without ever even having to have an actual battle, so much the better. I can use that extra energy to love my husband and parent my kids! 🙂

      • thedudedad says:

        We just found out we can send him to a school closer to our home next year. Good news, fresh start. Bad news, fresh start.

  4. Allison says:

    I start each year with a letter to the teacher explaining our child’s situation and issues. I approach it from the assumption that the teacher wants to understand my child and is willing to go along with the things that are known to be helpful. I stress the need for all of us to be on the same page when it comes to handling things and let them know that one of the big features of an attachment disorder is the child’s need to try to triangulate the adults in his life because it makes him feel in control. I point out that this is such an unhealthy thing for him that we and the teacher will need to go out of our ways to communicate so well that our child will not be able to use this coping mechanism and will have to learn other, healthier ways to interact. I attach the info for educators to the letter, then hand it to the teacher on “meet the teacher” night, or sooner if I have the opportunity. Since we have a mental-health team for our kids, we arrange a meeting of the team with the teacher so that the teacher can get a full grasp of what we are working with and why. This takes away some of the “crazy parent” worries that some have had.

    I realize that Walter may not have a full-blown attachment disorder, but he sounds like he has some issues. Getting our teachers on board so that we had only our kids’ demons to wrestle with has made a big difference in our kids’ home and school life. Our kids’ illnesses sit on the sidelines and laugh whenever they can get all of the people who care about our kids fighting with one another. And our kids lose every time.

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