Asking for a Culture of Kindness in Our Schools

by Christine D.

20151113_152926This morning as I brought my daughter into school, I saw a boy pulled aside by the teacher supervising the arrivals. He had been pushing the smaller children on the way through the door, it seemed, and was being spoken to in no uncertain terms. Another parent nodded in approval and said that he had also been pushing on the bus. He was in big trouble.

I didn’t see whether he was pushing in thoughtlessness or exuberance or out of a desire to hurt the smaller children, but I think the last is the least likely. Obviously, moving him to the side was a good way to resolve the issue for the moment. Speaking sternly to him about it was probably seen as the best way to ensure he might think twice about doing it again tomorrow.

I walked my daughter down to her classroom. When I came back up the corridor, the same teacher was just finishing off a diatribe to the same boy. I heard her end brusquely with “And there’s no need for crying. Now go to class. Go on.”

The boy shuffled slowly away from her and towards me, being passed by faster, happier children, his face a mask of misery. He wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his coat. He looked utterly downtrodden. My heart broke for him: I wanted to hug him and tell him it would be okay, that he’d remember to be gentle with the smaller children tomorrow and that school isn’t a place where people just yell at you and assume you’re being bad on purpose. He didn’t know me, though, so all I did was touch his shoulder as I passed.

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Why I Left PGCPS and Learned to Love Home Schooling

by Katy C.

homeschoolLast August, I withdrew my son from Prince George’s County Public Schools and began to home school him. This was a big step on many levels, impacting not only the environment of my child’s day-to-day life, but also my expectations for his future, our goals for his learning, and the financial security of my family. So why did I do this? From my perspective I had very little choice; it has turned out to be a very good decision.

My son’s elementary school treated him as a behavior problem that could not be solved. His behavior became more of a problem the more he struggled with his environment. He spent most of every day struggling with feeling overwhelmed. The school viewed him as extremely defiant and disorderly, but in fact he felt unsafe, overwhelmed, and incapable of learning. The message that he received from school is that he was a failure at learning and conforming. He became angry; his teachers became frustrated.

My son entered kindergarten in PGCPS with a recent diagnosis of a neurological processing issue. Although I brought the issue to the teacher’s attention before the first day of school, I waited until the end of kindergarten for a 504 plan.

The next year, things went downhill in terms of his behavior and learning. The school conducted a battery of tests, with some prompting from me subsequent to external visits to multiple doctors. The testing returned a wide variety of issues, including learning disabilities, sensory issues, processing problems, ADHD, and giftedness. After all of this, my son received an IEP in the last week of April his first grade year. He began to receive some supports for reading and behavior.

Great! Right?

I had some objections to the school’s approach, and I was told, “Don’t worry, let us try this. If it doesn’t work then we will adjust it.” So I trusted the school. I waited. When I got the notice for the next IEP meeting, the stated purpose was to review progress. That sounded right to me.

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