I Have Failed My Son
Friday, June 06, 2014
Today was a really bad day for my son.
Actually, it's been a bad week. More honestly, it's been a bad school year.
Matthew had a "Book It" pizza party after school. I picked up my daughter at 3, then we came back for him at 4. When I walked to the door of the school to get Matthew, his teacher came storming over. She claimed he stood up in class and said "I hate Ms. B-----". Matthew tried to object and she turned to him and said, "I was excited to get you at the beginning of the year, but you've been nothing but disrespectful. I'm so disappointed in you," and, before I could get a word in (frankly I was stunned for a few seconds), she stormed back into the building.
Now, it's true that Matthew despises this woman. If I were a better parent I'd have insisted on a classroom change after the 1st month of school. She is sugary-sweet to parents, but she yells at and threatens the kids, and took away recess an average of 3 days per week, including indoor recess on bad weather days, all year. I did bring this to both her and the principal, but she said she never yells, and the principal backed her, though I and other parents had witnessed it. I was told if I went to the school board they'd also be presented with evidence that Matthew is a disruptive child, and threatened a Special Ed classroom. He does have mild autism, but he's consistently getting A's and a few B's. As for recess, I was told it's a privilege, not a right.
Long story short, Matthew was already exhibiting anxiety, depression, and self-punishing behaviors. He's been in therapy for over a year. He used to go every other week...now it's every week. We, his daddy, therapist, and I, tried our best to teach him to cope, to "play the game", thinking surviving this year would actually help him in the long run...we expect him to go to college and get a good job, but in ANY job you may well have to deal with a-hole bosses and coworkers. (Sorry. I'm so freaking angry!)
He did well for a long time. No trouble for months. No self-punishment or negative talk. He would come home from school and share how awful Ms. B----- was that day, how she screamed, or threatened him or other students, how she refused to answer questions (she'd say, "if you can't sit and listen, you can just go ask Mr. C---- [principal]!" I can honestly say that I technically homeschooled him on at least a third of his lessons!), took away recess, or lied. Lied to the Special Ed coordinator about interactions/incidents, to me on the phone, and in meetings.
How do I know she lies? Well, the quirky thing about Matthew's autism is that HE can't quite "get" lying. He may omit things, but owns up to that quickly. He has tried to lie, but he can't handle the cognitive dissonance and admits to it in very few minutes. (Plus, he makes NO eye contact, flaps his hand, squirms, and jumps. It's pretty darn obvious!) so, he tells me what really happens at school, and I allow him to freely express how he feels about Ms. B----- to me, at home. The problem is, sometimes with all this honesty and trouble filtering, he sometimes says things to "friends" at school. Sometimes that gets back to her (and it didn't help when she "accidentally" read his journal, in the Special Ed office, a floor upstairs, during her free period, on a day the coordinator was off).
I taught him to tell me everything. We have a deal that if he talks with me about his days, I won't punish him unless it was severe; any punishment at school for anxious or frustrated outbursts was it. The one exception was when he got angry with a boy, squeezed him, and picked him up. It was a Friday; he spent the night in his room, except for dinner and shower, and lost Wii and playing with his neighborhood friend for the weekend. He understood that he was lucky not to have been suspended, and that this was SEVERE. I have also encouraged him to journal, both good and bad, at home, and got the Special Ed coordinator to allow him to keep a journal in her office for when he felt he couldn't contain his frustrations.
This week, the last week of school, has been BAD. For Matthew and all of her her students. (I'm friendly with other moms of kids in his class...we've been sharing annoyed text messages). She's been giving them busy work on top of busy work. She doesn't even check it...makes sure it's completed then tosses it!
Monday he had his "Olympics" (field day). I got a call from the Special Ed coordinator...he was in her office, writing a "think sheet" for hiding under the benches. He was supposedly angry that he lost a race. Ms. B------ told her this. I could hear Matthew in the background trying to say that wasn't what happened, but the coordinator told him write the sheet and go to class. I told her she should listen to HIS side. She told me to talk to him then we could speak at the bowling field trip on Tuesday.
I talked to him. Yes, he hid. I said that was what he was in trouble for, and they were right to discipline him FOR THAT. However, he didn't hide because he lost a race. He hid because another boy, known troublemaker, who teases him on the bus, who HAS been suspended several times, was behind Matthew in the race. Next thing Matthew knew, the boy's hands were around his ankle. Matthew fell, and the boy pushed himself to his feet USING MY SON'S BACK for leverage! Matthew tried to tell Ms. B-----, who said she was sure it was an accident, to leave her alone, and to quit being a poor sport! Heck, I would've hidden, too!
The teacher took Tuesday off. I talked to the coordinator after the bowling party. I told her what Matthew had said. She said she was sure he felt that he was being ignored, but why would Ms. B----- lie?? An impasse.
Another day of yelling and busy work with no recess Wednesday. Today, Thursday, was the "hate" incident. I asked Matthew if he did it...did he stand up and announce to the class that he HATES Ms. B-----?? NO! He said she was in the hall. He told his desk partners (they sit in pods of 4) that he couldn't wait until 1:05 Friday and hoped he never had to see Ms. B----- again. A little girl from another "pod" heard him, ran to the hall, and said "Matthew J. said he hates you!" She came in and yelled that she couldn't stand him, either! Without asking what happened. Without allowing him to defend himself, to explain. THEN, he said, he stood up and said, "I don't think anyone in this class trusts me, including the teacher!", to which she yelled, "You're right! I DON'T trust you!"
My husband is driving the kids into school tomorrow. Well, definitely Lizzie. We are giving Matthew the option to stay home. He doesn't deserve yet another day of bullying from HIS TEACHER. If I were a good parent, I'd have pulled him long ago!! DH will get his pencil box and report card if Matthew decides to stay home.
Why is DH going without me? Because I can't stop crying. AND, I can't promise I'll keep my temper. I get upset, furious if my kiddos are involved, and can't not cry, yell, and spew insults. Not productive AT ALL. On the other hand, DH gets quiet, firm, and direct. Plus, they don't take mothers seriously. It's a "boy's club", backward town. He may get our point across simply by virtue of being a man.
I can't even sort my feelings. I'm angry. Upset. Defeated. Hurt for my son. Disgusted with her and the school. Furious with myself for not acting drastically in the past (pulling him from the classroom), but instead hoping this will help him. I guess I though if she was nasty to the class as a whole, it sucked, but was a social learning opportunity. Now that she's directing her anger at Matthew, I HATE MYSELF!!
Yes, if she had been consistently singling him out throughout the year I'd have acted. I feel like the stupid frog in a pot slowly brought to a boil; I didn't realize the criticality of the situation until it was too d@#n late!
Of course, I'll be writing a letter to the school board. I'll copy the teacher, principal, Special Ed coordinator, and Matthew's therapist. This little I can do. I can write much better than I can speak simply because I have time to edit the nonsense accusations and center on the facts.
Still, I'm kicking myself. I. SHOULD. HAVE. PULLED. HIM. This was a little boy who lived school. Now, he hates it. I wish it would be appropriate to homeschool him, but he needs the social aspect of education. However, if next fall is anything like this year, I'll have to do it.