Taking The Different Kids Out With The Trash

by Bill Brenner on December 21, 2011

Wherein the author laments the inability of educational institutions to embrace the different children.

Mood music:


As a problem kid in grades K-12, I’m all too aware of how good kids can get lost in an education system designed for only the so-called normal kids. I used to think this was just a Revere Public Schools thing. Now I see it for the universal scourge that it is.

I’ve written at length about my younger child’s struggles with ADHD and the hard lessons we’ve been learning along the way. But the more parents I talk to, the more I see that it’s not just our school that often fails to get it. I’ve talked to parents who send their kids to public schools, religious schools, special needs schools and it’s always the same complaints:

–The given school is clueless when it comes to dealing with children with learning disorders.

–A lot of parents who send their kids to private schools have their noses to the sky or their heads in their asses. This causes them to look at certain kids in the school as troublemakers instead of what they truly are: Good kids with learning disabilities. It’s not enough to approach the kid’s parents. They have to spread rumors throughout the school. Then that kid is labeled a troublemaker, making it even harder for the child to get a fair shake.

–When a school is made aware of a student’s special needs, the parents have to fight tooth and nail to get their kids what they need to succeed. The parent has to have meetings every other week with art teachers, gym teachers etc. to tell them what the school leadership should have told them — that a student has certain disorders that require a different approach. Since the ancillary teachers don’t get the message, the kid is dismissed as stupid or misbehaved — and they get marked down unfairly.

To be fair, it’s not like this everywhere. I know many teachers who go way above and beyond to teach ALL their students. I know of private schools that specialize in helping the different kids. Of course, you have to take out another mortgage on your house to send them there, but that’s another story in itself.

I also know full well that when we parents bring children into the world, the challenges that come with our bundles of joy are the things we signed up for. God gives us children to nurture and we don’t get to request what that child will be like. Every child is precious, no matter the challenges.

I also know being a teacher can be hell these days. They are forced to teach to test-driven mandates like MCAS and No Child Left Behind, laws that focus more on keeping up with raw test scores than helping ALL kids reach their full potential regardless of their academic aptitude.

School districts really have it backwards because of these stupid mandates. When the economy tanks and the state and federal funding dries up, the first programs to get cut are music and art — the very subjects teachers have the best chance of using to get through to the different kids.

I’m not going to tell you that the education system has gone down the tubes. These problems have always been there. But it never gets better.

Someone has to speak up for the different kids.

And so I have.

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