Teaching kids with learning and behavioral difficulties is fun but can be very challenging. Of course you learn how to over the years but it’s still not just your average nine-to-five job.
This year I have, generally speaking, a very sweet group of kids. Sixteen boys and girls, with an IQ averaging between 65 and 80. Of course they are more than their IQ but it gives you an impression of what they are capable of.
Most have a history. Something has happened to them or they have a background of illness. None of them came to us unharmed, be it by their family background or by the school they came from. I don’t mean bodily harm necessarily, no physical abuse but some sort of abuse nonetheless.
They’ve been with us for some years now. I teach our grade 8, which is your grade 7 I think (they are eleven and twelve years old). Over the years they have learned some skills but for some the difficulties remain.
One of the boys in my class is Mervin. I have definitely a soft spot for him. I had him in my fifth grade class and remember how he was. ADHD to the core. Impossible to concentrate, impossible to keep his mouth shut, very impulsive, communication skills are almost zero, below average intelligence and sometimes quite aggressive. He hasn’t changed a lot.
I also remember how I had talks with his mom (no dad in sight) about what Mervin needed … help, most of all. Therapy. Mom ignored all warnings, stating he was a little lamb at home. Yeah, sure …
Finally I was able to get through to her – or so I thought – and we agreed she would seek advice at the Youth Help Program in our town. They have doctors, psychiatrists, counselors, therapists and it would be payed by her health insurance. I gave her all the necessary papers, the address …
She never went.
Mervin went on to sixth grade, seventh grade … mom never sought help. Every teacher tried again, our school counselor tried, our School Welfare tried … nothing. We were out of options …
Now he is in grade 8. Nothing has changed, other than that we now told her that if she chooses to ignore the help provided again we will call Child Protection Service and get them to take a look at the situation. To get them involved we need to have a complaint. In this case it will be “child abuse by neglect”.
I hate it that we have to take these drastic measures. But Mervin needs help now, before he leaves our school. This is his last year with us (he will move on to our version of Middle School) and there life will be tougher for him.
In the meantime I try to make this years as nice as possible for him. He is the only boy in my class who really, really is difficult to deal with. And he still needs to learn a lot. But somehow I will make it happen … he will leave school with nice memories.