In class, the children were given a “worksheet”. I don’t understand all that is involved in assessing children to create the appropriate curriculum to teach them all ‘together’. The more contact I have with teachers, the more I learn it requires expertise. I’m only an onlooker. I am looking to increase my son’s chances to develop enough skills through education to make it in the world independently, with a lifetime disability.
I will do whatever I have to, in order to assure he has not just adequate but the best education possible. This is the best gift I can give him. I will not be there forever. An education will last his whole life.
The worksheet was this:
His input looks pretty good but I can see where he was getting distracted on his 4’s and 5’s. You see the part I set to highlight in the sunshine at the bottom? It’s his favorite: an equation. The ABA tutor let me know that Toots read the instruction on his own and wrote the equation without prompting. The other kids in class, apparently, left it blank.
Now, Toots loves his equations. Not for what they stand for necessarily, but, more for their “cuss” value. He “cusses” equations. His favorite “cuss” equation lately, is the one above. I hear it 2 to 3 times a day, on average.
Looking at this paper, it’s impressive. For the instruction on the worksheet, not only did he know the answer but he read and understood the “number sentence”, using a plus sign as instructed. Proud of his work, his ABA tutor prompted my son to go share it with his new teacher. He did. Rather than look at the paper, she absently said, “Good job! You finished? Put it in the basket.”
It came home that day. As you can see, it is unmarked. Unacknowledged.
How many moments like this will be lost in the sea of 28? How many day to day teaching opportunities will blend to invisibility? A teacher can only respond to one person at a time. If one distracts, the other 27 suffer. A request to use the bathroom, go to the nurse, spilled paint… all require attention. The ability to review, individualize the learning experience, is sorely limited.
Praise that should serve to encourage academic growth evaporates into thin air. Accomplishments meet silence. The excitement and eagerness to learn through the opportunity to share that learning, and be acknowledged, is lost.
355 minutes of school per day.
40 minutes of lunch
15 minutes of recess
5 minutes to settle in and 5 minutes to clean up and finish for the day.
Without other distractions (bathroom breaks), that leaves about 290 minutes of school per day.
28 kids. That’s 10 .3 minutes per day per student if each student received only individual attention for the entire day. Realistically, individual attention per student per day will be a minute. So, how long will it take for this teacher to learn how to teach my son? The child who is different from all the rest.
She may be skilled in reading children’s faces, behaviors, feelings and learn from words and actions. This will not happen with my child. He may smile. She might think it’s because she just read that funny part in the story to the group. But he will be a million miles away, playing PacMan in his mind.
She may devote 15 minutes to talking about trains and he’s looking intense. She may read that as deep interest in her topic. The reality will be that he’s ready to scream, but suppressing because he hates trains, but knows better than to tell her to quit talking.
In fact, there was a message in his worksheet. He’s cussing. While she was so busily believing he was quietly ‘blending in’, he was shouting to be heard, screaming that he’s done this writing exercise that he did at the very beginning of kindergarten. He’s bored.
Yes, it’s just the beginning of the year and I have to give her a chance and some time, I know. And I will. I just wonder how much time it will take. And the effect of the passing of such precious time on my son. She will leave an imprint on my son’s life as his first educator. What will that be?
A white paper from the International Center for Leadership in Education, put forth these thoughts on cultivating academic achievement:
“The one-on-one relationship between student and teacher is the critical element that can lead to increased student motivation and higher levels of engagement in academics and school life.”
“It is primarily the teacher’s responsibility to engage the students, as opposed to the teacher expecting students to come to class naturally and automatically engaged.”
“Each student brings a unique set of characteristics to the classroom: different background knowledge, a unique learning style, a variety of interests, and varied parental support and expectations. To anticipate that each student will learn in the same way, at the same speed, and using the same material is an unrealistic expectation.
Some teachers fall into the false assumption that the student is responsible when he or she fails to demonstrate adequate achievement. But often it is the lack of personalizing learning that is the source of failure. There are many individual practices and strategies that contribute to overall personalization. As a start, teachers can create a more engaging classroom situation by getting to know their students and using examples during instruction that relate to students’ backgrounds, cultures, and prior experiences.”
When will that “getting to know” take place in such a large setting? Is that even realistic? How can she personalize if she doesn’t know each child, and where will she find the time to get to know all 28? When she does know them, the year will be over…
She is already operating under the mistaken assumption that my son is “just like the other kids.” That statement alone says to me: she is not paying attention or doesn’t understand high functioning autism; she highly values “normal”; in valuing “normal”, she is not comfortable, capable or trained to deal with “other than normal”, prejudice, bullying and acceptance.
At the grocery store, recently, we are in front of a male cashier who is joking and laughing with the woman in front of us. Then it’s our turn. As usual, Toots is talking to himself, smiling and walking around the check-out area. First, the cashier asks him how he is, tries to get his attention. Toots ignores him. Next, the cashier makes some funny faces in his direction, nonverbal communication – utter fail. He turns to me, and says, “Ah well, he’s in his own world. That’s okay – looks like a great place to be!” He said it in a kind way. I’d never seen nor met him before. He’d never met or seen Toots before but what he said was entirely true and dead-on. In 60 seconds of observation, he saw my child. His teacher has observed Toots for a total of 18 hours now but I don’t think she’s seen him at all.
You do the math.