Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where do you stand?

Here's the story but I am not going to say which side I fall on.  I will when all the verdicts are in.

My daughter is in the gifted program at school.  There are 350 fourth graders of which 22 are in this program.  Over the years the parents of gifted students and the gifted teacher here have banded together to keep these students in the same class.  In fact, most of them started together in the same preschool I teach at now.

Last year things hit a boiling point, however, and the closeness became a problem when Mean Girl Syndrome hit.  Some of the gifted girls started bullying each other and were understandably miserable.  Last year, when this was all going on, E was not a part of this.  Even though I had written on her entry forms that she was in the gifted program, somehow her records never made it to the new school.  She attended the gifted program but was not truly considered "part" of the program.  Her class last year held 16 of the lowest performing students in third grade and 3 students similar to E who had also not been earmarked yet.  Her teacher, however, was exceptional and although E struggled with having no friends, her teacher more than made up for that.

This year is different.  E's fourth grade teacher is brand new to this school.  She is an older woman who has taught for many years but is currently in school to receive her masters.  She is absent at least 2 of every 10 days.  Since she is new and the gifted kid's parents complained about last year, the gifted kids were split up into two classes, one being hers.  Essentially she was given this gift of 11 high performing, love learning kind of kids, but she also got 3 on-level kids and 3 of the worst discipline problem kids.  This has created a situation.

The 3 discipline problem kids have been allowed to take over the classroom and create an environment almost impossible to learn in.  Several parents have talked to the teacher. The teacher's response was to say she would never allow HER children to attend this school and she's never even heard of kids as bad as the kids she is dealing with.  This prompted the parents to go to the principal who has made several visits to the classroom.

So here is what I would like your opinion on:

Bullying is a problem in this classroom.  The teacher showed "Chrissa Stands Strong" to the students, an American Girl movie on bullying.  After the showing, the girl in the classroom who is the most disruptive to the class stood up and told the whole class that her parents were both drug dealers and are now in jail so she lives with her grandmother.  She then went on to tell the class that she had to take a pill everyday to help her control her anger.

Question:  Was it appropriate to show this film and allow this child to make this admission? 

Feel free to answer however you would like.  I know exactly where I fall on this issue, I would just like to know how you feel.


Chrysalis said...

I haven't seen the film, so I can't really speak to it's appropriateness. However, I think that using any kind of media that gets the message across that bullying is wrong is completely appropriate.

Bear in mind that the disruptive kids I am used to are court involved, so when you say the girl is disruptive, I'm not sure my frame of reference is the same as yours.

That said, the admission the girl made, well, the teacher can't really "prevent" her from making the statements. What she CAN do is promote an appropriate reaction from the class and foster some genuine conversation around the issues. She also can take the child aside and talk to her, as an admission like that provides a huge clue as to where her acting out behavior is coming from. It would have been a good time for the teacher to get a handle on one of the problems in the class.

That's my .02, given the details provided.

Did I win? LOL!

Jean said...

Well -- I have no kids, and I had to read what this American Girl movie was, but it seems to me that's it's on par with the age group, and that it might have made the worst offender see herself as an offender. She also exposed herself as someone who is very troubled and needs to be watched carefully.

That being said -- I do know when I am struggling with something, keeping it in only makes it worse. This child told the truth and maybe it can help her cope. IF the class all pulls together and doesn't turn on her like rabid pirahna.

But as many times as I've heard the stories of Little Joey losing his hair to cancer and all the kids shave their heads, too... I do know way more often the pirahnas win.

So, the question is -- how does effect E? That's where the answer lies. If E can be better served by going to another classroom, I would move heaven and earth to get her moved. BUT -- and given that it's nearing a holiday break (i assume) I might want to wait and see if things improve.

Which means I'm waffling. I'm no help whatsoever. Anyhow -- the biggest thing is how is E effected. What does SHE want to do?

Jocelyn said...

Bad attention for acting out is still attention gained?

The movie must have helped this girl recognize what was happening to her young, fragile self. It's nice to see that moment of maturity in a girl who looks like she's going to have a hard row to hoe in this life.

You never know when or what a kid is going to say. It is a shocking admission to hear and I would understand if the teacher was unable to stop her before she revealed her entire story. I was taken pretty aback just by reading it. I'm sure it was one of those magnified, slow-motion moments.

I do think it's pretty awesome that the girl felt comfortable enough to tell that story and admit to and how it is affecting her.

Bullying does need to be discussed where it happens - at schools, among peers.

Is the girl telling the truth?

Green said...

What did you expect the teacher to do? Cut the child off when she started to talk about her life? Either the girl was trying to share and explain why she was being so badly-behaved, or, she was trying to excuse her past behavior on her life circumstances.

Whichever one it was, a good teacher could take that information and use it as a jumping-off point to talk about proper behavior and how anger can control anyone, even adults, and what can be done to help people calm down when they're angry, etc.

So yeah, I think it's fine. The only shitty thing is it sounds like you live in a poorer area, and American Girl dolls are hella expensive and maybe showing the movie would stir the pot of little girls wanting expensive dolls right before Christmas.

FreeDragon said...

I had to think for a while before I could put words into how I feel. I think the main problem is the teacher doesn't have control of her classroom. That is not good for any student and all of them will surfer. I also feel that she doesn't care so the situation will not improve. I would try to move E to another class.

Pudge450 said...

To the commentor who says the teacher does not have control of the classroom:

My Grandson is in a class with an unbelievably mouthy, unruly, disruptive, disrespectful, insulting, crying, fit-throwing,(I could go on and on) child from a family who is upper middle class, educated, involved, (I could go on and on). The teacher is prevented from taking normal disciplinary actions because he has a "diagnosis". Nobody knows what the diagnosis is, but he is on a special "education plan". He bullies the other kids, insults them and the teacher and cries numerous times each day.

My daughter has had a meeting with the teacher, who couldn't comment on the situation, but said she had never dealt with anything like this.

In the mean time, the other students, who are clueless about the facts of this situation just see an incredibly bad child, who is not disciplined and bullies the teacher and everyone else.

Sometimes things are not as they seem. I don't even know what I would like to see happen in this case. I wish my Grandson did not have to be involved in this drama.

I am sure the teacher can't wait for this school year to be over.