Heartbreak Today

Well, we’re another day down. Today my board said “2welve.” It took the kids a minute to get it, but when I told them to just read it out loud, they got it right away. So the paper chains were adjusted, lots of heartfelt messages were shared and the day began. It became a day of support for other classes’ work. The history classes had assigned something hard, so I helped them with that. And then the makeup assignments happened.  But that’s not what I want to write about.

This afternoon I attended a meeting to discuss the results of special education testing that have just been finished on one of my students. This guy came up on our radar last year when his incomprehensible writing came to our notice. A colleague and I, both ELD teachers, asked that he be tested because something was clearly not right with him. We provided copies of his writing and evidence that most of his work is copied from other students. A parent meeting was held, but nothing came of it. No testing, that is.

After a couple of months of waiting and watching him, testing was declined because his grades were all C or B. Again we said that he had those grades because he is a really competent copier and he chooses smart kids to copy. Again and again we were denied.  This year he was placed in my ELD class, and one day I sat down to speak with him privately. I asked him to tell me about reading. He told me quietly that he can’t  read, that he just copies. He said tests are hard for him because he can’t really copy in them.  Again I went to the school psych and asked for a meeting with his parents with the goal of having him tested for Special Education services.  By the time this meeting was called, it was April of 8th grade. We originally asked for a meeting in September of 7th grade. We have asked intermittently that he be tested ever since, until this meeting in April finally occurred. This time they agreed to test him, because he admitted in the meeting to being unable to read.

Unsurprisingly, he showed significant problems with short and longterm memory, something that causes severe learning problems. He will begin high school in Special Day Classes.  I think they will work well with him.  The thing that makes me sick and sad about this is that he has lost two years of opportunity for receiving the help he needs. He is a nice boy, a very good student, and we have failed him.

As a teacher of English Learners, it is so frustrating to not be listened to, over and over again. I rarely suggest testing for a student, but when I do it is because something other than language is going on. On every occasion but one ( and I know there is something odd going on with that one), I have been right and the student has gone straight to Special Education classes. I say this not to say “Neener,neener, I told you so.” I say it because as a person who has worked with English Learners exclusively for 25 years, I do know some things about them. It is my job to know. The same goes for any teacher of English Language Development. We know our students and we can tell the difference between a student who has language learning issues and one who has something else in the way. Again, it is our job to notice.

So when our instinct is ignored and our students are left without the help they really need, it hurts. This boy who could have been helped all through middle school now must start high school so far behind. It’s not right and it’s not fair.

I may instigate a conversation about this before I leave in a week or so.  For the students who will be coming, those who my colleagues will notice needing something extra. We as ELD teachers deserve to be treated as trustworthy, intelligent, educated professionals who have something of value to add to the conversation. I understand that the testing takes a long time, but we don’t request it because we don’t want the students in our classes. We ask because we can see that a student needs something more, that they are not thriving in their current educational placement. We are all here for the same reason. We just have different vantage points, all of which should be honored.

Whew. Rant over, I think. Deep breath. You are retiring in eleven days…


4 thoughts on “Heartbreak Today

  1. dogtrax says:

    Hard to know how to respond … we too sometimes feel the organizational resistance to getting things moving along for some students … one way to look at it: they will get some help now, thanks to you, and hopefully, that will make a difference.

    • lynnjake says:

      You’re right, Kevin. I’m glad he’ll be helped next year, at least. Apparently they don’t test for Special Ed in high school, so we got him in just under the wire. Thank goodness for that, at least!

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