Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Adam, or a Treatise on the Public School System

So, I'm probably not cut out for public schools. I can't stand the bureaucracy and the limitations. I hate seeing children come into Kindergarten full of enthusiasm and questions, only to have that squelched down by rules and regulations.

This is not to say that there are not some incredible public school teachers. I have the priviledge of bouncing around from class to class and witnessing the high points of many lessons, and the truly remarkable interactions between a great teacher and her students.

It's just that I also see the children who fall through the cracks---the Kindergartener who is already labeled as a troublemaker, but is really suffering from ADHD. Until the highest need children are sorted, he won't even get a glimpse of the school psychologist. It will be two months before he's seen, and then another month of meetings and paperwork if the parents will even entertain the idea that something is wrong with their child. Leave in another month for doctor's visits, and it's already spring. Most of his first year in school will be spent going to or coming from the office, or being taught how to sit still in his seat and follow along with the class. He'll miss out on a vital first year, but his parents won't hold him back. He'll go through the school system always a year behind, forever trying to catch up. Funds are so short that we won't see him in the tutoring room until it's way to late for a simple fix.

It makes me sad to see these kids. It's like they're falling through a sieve, and you can only catch so many. How do you choose between the sweet but troubled little boy who can somehow scrape by for now and the child with autism? Do you choose the boy who is walking in no man's land of uncontainable impulses whose diagnosis will take months, or serve the boy with the severe, easily diagnosed problem?

The boy with autism has a fierce parental advocate, the other has reluctant parents. Guess who'll be served first?

It shouldn't be that way. Every child deserves a decent education, but they're not getting it. It's not that we don't try; it's just that the problem is so big that we don't see a way out from it. It all feels so insurmountable sometimes. All you can do is offer a little hope here and there, a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

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