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Archive for September, 2015

Dear Mama,

I’ve been your child’s teacher for a quite a while now. He has been at this school since he was small and the staff knows him well, for all the wrong reasons it seems, mostly.

We have talked, day in and day out, about his behavior. About how impulsive he is, how disrespectful, how unfocused he is. He gets sent back from special classes because he doesn’t listen and because of his incessant talking.  His card gets flipped constantly for disturbing the class. He is, in fact, a difficult child. We agree on that, you and me. There is no question about it.

“What can I do?’ you plead with me day after day and I, with a heavy heart, really don’t know what to tell you. I manage to say that every day is a new start, that we will try again and hope for a better day, that I will praise him for his good choices and remain calm during his bad choices that make me want to scream with frustration or anger over his blatant disrespect and disregard for anyone’s feeling but his own, but, honestly, I don’t know how to fix this.

I’ve been teaching for several years, and even though I know each child has an individual personality, I also know what children his age are typically like. They’re able, for the most part, to follow directions, to control the urge to bolt out of their seats and to not have stomping fits almost every day. They’re generally able to learn from their mistakes and are able to understand why they received a negative consequence. Your child can parrot back all of the rhetoric, but can’t put it into practice. He’s not able to see that he is responsible for his own actions, blaming his poor choices on others, sometimes to a ridiculous extent.

I know, in my heart, that here is something amiss with this child that I cannot change, not even with the most patient of teaching skills. This child needs something more, professional help, and I try and hint that to you in ways that will keep our relationship from falling apart, that will keep me from being perfectly blunt because I see the pain in your eyes every single day and I don’t want to be the one to twist that knife. I’m also not sure what I’m legally allowed to suggest to you, other than perhaps you should take him to see his pediatrician and describe what’s been going on for years. Please don’t keep asking me for a diagnosis, I can’t give you one. All I can do is gently try to make you see that his behaviour will soon be beyond anything we can help him with at school.

I know this isn’t what you planned on. I’m a mother, too. I know the joy of learning that you’ll be bringing a new life into the world, of dreaming what that child will be like: beautiful, intelligent, perfect in every way. Your plans were no doubt like my own. Your baby would excel in school, be the perfect combination of nature and nurture, win the love and admiration of everyone who met him. Spending countless hours with the teacher and the principal conferring about that sweet baby’s bad behavior is not something that was on your list of hopes, I know. All new parents soon realize that parenting is not easy and that the little prenatal angel that they had envisioned is capable of being stubborn and naughty at times, but I don’t think it enters any new parent’s mind that their child would need professional intervention down the road. I know that hurts, I know that’s hard to digest and nothing I say is going to make it go down any easier.

I haven’t had to go through that with my own kids and I’m not going to pretend that I know what your pain is like. I don’t. I don’t know what life is like at home behind closed doors. I don’t know what caused him to be this way. I can guess, I can speculate, (and, honestly, I do think about it on those days when he’s giving me a run for my money), but that fact is that I just don’t know. That’s not my area of expertise, nor is it my business. My business is educating my classroom full of children, all of them, teaching them what they need to know, giving them hugs when they’re feeling sad, listening to their problems, doing my best to help them be happy and secure with themselves and, believe me, I try my best. But I’m realizing that I can’t give your child the kind of help he really, truly, needs.

Please don’t be discouraged. Please don’t feel ashamed. I know that those feelings are hard to avoid, you tell me almost every time we talk. But I see determination in your face, too. I know that you love him, he is your precious child and the most important thing in the world to you, as he should be. He’s lucky to have you. I’ve seen similar situations where the parent is not so involved and the child knows it, but you tell him and show him that he is loved, no matter what and that is what touches me the most. I am convinced that you will get him the help he needs to be successful. Don’t give up on him, he needs you.

Whatever you decide to do, we’ll make the best of it, together. I know you have a rough road, but you were chosen to be his mama for a reason. I admire your strength.

Sincerely,

The Teacher

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I’ve been struggling a lot lately with my mind. Depression sucks and with everything I have going on lately, it’s choosing to rear its ugly head. I won’t go into excruciating detail, but feelings of failure, uselessness, and hopelessness have been creeping in whenever it seems I have a free minute, telling me that I’m worthless, not thin enough, ugly, undereducated, not taken seriously, my dreams are stupid and I’ll never attain them. I hate feeling this way; it’s unproductive and I am trying to do everything I can to combat it. Fortunately, I don’t have depression to the point where I can’t function. I still wake up every day, go to work and do a good job, go to rehearsal, I interact with everyone normally. In fact, unless you know me very, very well, you’d never guess I had depression. I’m good at covering, at looking happy, but in my head, there’s a war going on.

I haven’t written in weeks, the will to do it has been absent, but, finally, the fog is starting to lift a bit and I’m feeling inspired again. I’m picking myself up off the floor, ready to try again. I owe that to my family and, as my therapist tells me, I owe it to myself.

Driving home from work one day this past week, I had an idea: The Joy Project. I’ve written before about counting my blessings, but this project will be focusing on finding one thing every day that brings me joy, something like the Thankfulness Project that is popular on Facebook every November. I won’t be posting these joys daily, unless it’s something really exceptional, because I know that would be tiresome to read on a newsfeed every day, but it’s a new strategy for me to try and stave off the bad feelings, or at least help when they come creeping around.

Let me be clear, depression is a condition. It’s not feeling sorry for oneself, it’s not just ordinary sadness. It’s a chemical reality that affects millions of people to different degrees, from just occasional bouts to chronic, debilitating periods of blackness. Mine is manageable, albeit chronic, and I was probably genetically programmed for it from the start. A traumatic childhood probably amplified the effects, but that’s just a guess.

Since this is my blog, I get my own soapbox and while I’m on it, I just want to say that there is a dangerous movement out in the Christian evangelical world that any kind of mental illness, including depression, can be “cured” if the sufferer prays hard enough. Oh. My. Gosh. That idea is not even close to being okay. If I could pray depression away, it would have been gone long ago. I cannot think of a more damaging thing to tell someone who is depressed than it’s their own fault because they didn’t pray hard enough. Complete and utter bull poo. Does that mean I don’t believe in miracles, or that God can work in someone’s life? Absolutely not. I just believe a miracle is a miracle for a reason, it’s rare. No, I don’t have depression because of a lack of faith or for not trying hard enough. I have a chronic condition that will probably never be cured completely, but with hard work (and prayer), I will be able to manage it better over time. There done with that. Back to the happy stuff.

I’ve been finding things to be joyful about for the past few days. Marty Man waited up for me (twice!) while I was at a late rehearsal this week and he didn’t have to. My director told me that I did a good job as his assistant. We got a nice card in the mail from our choir director. Youngest Child needed some snuggle time. Today’s joy? Tap Club. I’m a beginning tap dancer with a very patient teacher and I wasn’t able to go to class all summer. We started up again last Saturday and when I got to class today, I felt amazing. I’m not very good, but you would never know it from the people there. Most of them are a million times better than me, they’ve been dancing since they were small, but somehow, I never feel like a complete idiot in that class. The atmosphere is warm, literally and figuratively, and I love it. They accept me, missteps and all. Today, Tap Club brought me joy.

I’ll probably check in here from time to time with how it’s going. I think that the more we talk about things like depression, as a society, the less the stigma will be. It’s my hope that people who are struggling realize that it’s okay to seek help and to get treatment, whether medicinal, therapeutic, or both. In the meantime, I’m going to write my joys down in a little book and keep it with me, do something proactive to ad to my strategies. Please feel free to tell me what brings you joy, especially if you suffer with depression as well. Let’s help each other.

Until next time.

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