THAT child plus THAT teacher equals disaster

[twitter]Amy Murray has touched the hearts of millions this week with her letter about THAT child. It’s a wonderful essay that pierces the veil of secrecy of the classroom where teachers are sworn to not discuss the personal situations of other students with parents. It’s a small glimpse inside an empathetic heart that is working to help all children navigate their educational journey.

It’s a story about how THAT child, the one we parents often complain about, the one who has issues we could never really understand. It’s a story that, until you walk a mile in that teacher’s shoes, that’s parent’s shoes, THAT child’s shoes, you can never understand. So I walked a mile, and gained some understanding.

I’ve loved the attention Amy has received for her work. Her essay has been republished in The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail asked her to expand on her ideas, and local media have shone a spotlight on her work as well.

Amy was Zacharie’s kindergarten teacher and I have never met a more innovative, more loving, more passionate educator. Even after we left the private school and entered the public system, I continued to correspond with her about Zacharie’s struggles in his new school. I also spoke to his new school’s principal, and his new teacher but was constantly assured that ‘everything’s fine’ and ‘he’s at level.’ Still, my gut said something was wrong, so I talked to Amy. SHE was the one who, halfway through the school year, gave me a stack of 5 dozen books to help jumpstart his literacy. SHE was the reason, that when my gut had enough of the disinterest the teacher was showing my son, I decided to leave the public system.

Read her essay and you’ll not only get insight into the different personalities, issues, and abilities each child brings to the classroom, but you’ll also get insight into the different personalities, issues, and effort each teacher brings to the classroom. Amy is a step above, there is no doubt.

Formal Uniform FTW

When THAT Child Is In A Class With THAT Teacher

There were 3 “that kids” in Zacharie’s class last year. At least 3. Sean. Sally. Tommy. Maybe more. Jessie, the teacher, had no idea how to handle them. (not real names).

The disruptive children would be sent to the principal’s office if not daily, at least weekly. I learned from another parent that some kids were told to sit in a corner with their desk facing a wall, their back to the classroom.

The names of THOSE children would come back to us often. Tommy did something on the playground, Sally screamed in class, Sean boasted and bullied and refused to pay attention. My gut knew Zacharie was not keeping up with where he should be, I knew there were problems in the classroom, but Jessie refused to discuss it.

It’s as Amy said, they can’t. Parents just have to trust the teacher has a handle, has support, and is working to a more positive classroom environment. Except it never happened. Our concerns would be waved away by Jessie with an “I can’t comment on other kids,” or “he’s doing fine.” And so the frustration of THAT child multiplied by the inability of THAT teacher meant everything went downhill.

Toss in the lack of resources in the public system, and well, you can see how Amy can rise above and create a loving environment. In an independent school, she’s supported by her administration. She can ask for help without fighting red tape. A public school teacher is faced with budget cuts, unionized job descriptions, and no incentive to rise above and make things better. So things get worse. When THAT child gets put in a classroom with THAT teacher, everyone suffers.

When we went for an assessment to try to get back in to the independent school, they said Zacharie was 6-8 months behind his peers. “He’s at level,” Jessie had said. He wasn’t even close.

This year, my son is THAT child. The one who is behind the rest of the class. The one who needs special attention to try and catch up. The one who has emotional outbursts when he realizes he’s behind and can’t keep up with the class. Instead of being in a public system with THAT teacher that shrugs things off and can’t cope, he’s in the independent school where he is getting the attention and caring he needs. The teacher is communicating with us almost daily and we’re working as a team on strategies to help him fit in.

And guess what? He’s catching up.

I love that Amy opened the door and exposed what teachers go through with THAT child in their classroom. I am so lucky to have my kids back in a school where there are more teachers like her who are equipped to make the situation better.

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