I Won’t Give Up

We’ve had quite a week. G has had a rocky time of it in PE. He’s got motor issues, he’s at least one full year younger than his classmates, he’s competitive to the extreme and when he’s frustrated, he still struggles not to react by hitting. You couldn’t put together a more combustible combination. The school OT attends PE with him once a week to help him in all these areas. She also attends with kids on IEP’s the first year of Intermediate school because the gym teacher there is, “Old School.” Apparently he’s been in this position for several decades and can be rough on the kids he doesn’t understand. So she attends with the student in an effort to smooth the way.

The first trimester, G hit kids so often that a contract/reward system was implemented. When G had 10 recorded classes without hitting, he earned a trip to the ice cream store with a friend and the school psychologist, on school time. Big reward for a big undertaking. But by the end of the first trimester, he’d earned his trip! Second trimester started out wonderfully – G was participating to the best of his ability and his outbursts were greatly diminished. When he did get frustrated, his meltdowns were verbal in nature. Not great in the context of a typical 4th grader, but outstanding for G! On the weekly reflection sheets his class fills out on Friday’s, G consistently wrote that he planned to work the following week on his behavior in PE. He was highly motivated and we were getting nothing but good reports.

Then last week while at work, I got a call from the OT letting me know she’d be late for her time with my student. Because she needed to stay with my son, who was recovering from a rather severe meltdown. She’d been with him at PE where the activity was Dodgeball. (told you, this gym teacher is old school) G couldn’t follow the strategy and stood in the front of the group. He got hit, got frustrated and sat down where he was instead of moving off the floor. Another boy didn’t realize he was already out and hit him again. That was it for G, he went completely off and started screaming. When the OT stepped in, he started screaming at her and said rude things. But – and here’s the big thing – he never hit. Never even tried to hit, never faked hitting, just screamed and yelled. So the OT and I celebrated, as well we should!

Then report cards came. G failed PE. In a trimester where he made so much progress. DH and I were stunned, G was disappointed, but overall my attitude was to blow it off because it’s just PE and it’s just 4th grade. Honestly, my attitude didn’t change until our trimester conference with his classroom teacher. The kids write out a script and run the show. When G ran down his list and got to what he was most proud of, he said, “Well, I wrote that I was most proud of my work in PE, but that was before I got my grades.” On the way home, he asked if 0’s exist for report cards. When I said no, he made a remark about not needing to try hard to keep from getting lower grades in PE.

That started a slow burn in me. I went home and wrote a very polite and proactive email to the OT and school psychologist, letting them know to watch out for G the next week, as it seemed he’d given up trying to behave in PE. In our discussions, it became clear the grade was assigned because of the one bad day rather than the trimester as a whole. They were both shocked and not shocked that the teacher had reacted to G’s screaming meltdown so drastically. Somehow, the idea that this was typical for the teacher made it even worse for me. I went to bed very irritated. I woke up at 3am feeling mad and was awake for an hour until I could calm down and fall asleep again. When I woke up at 6, I was just plain furious.

I met with the school psychologist and vented about how angry I was. I’m never combative, I’m always willing to discuss and negotiate, to work together to achieve a particular goal. Not this time. We wrote up language for G’s IEP to prevent this from happening again. I told her that was good, but not enough. I was calling the principal to demand the grades be changed. On my way home, left a message requesting an appointment with the principal to discuss a problem with the gym teacher. This is big, because we’re a small-town, ‘I’ll just pop-in’ kind of system. But I didn’t want to risk being blown off. The admin assistant and the principal took this very seriously.

By the time I got to the school to talk to the principal, the psychologist had already talked to him. He was very attentive, went over my concerns, gave me an initial agreement and asked for time to talk with the PE teacher. When I asked for the grades to be changed, he told me he couldn’t promise anything because he didn’t have the authority to question teacher’s evaluations. But the next morning at drop off, he pulled me aside to let me know that he had spoken with the teacher and G’s grades would be revised by the end of the day!

They didn’t go up much, but it was enough for G to feel he’d made progress instead of failing. And that was all I wanted. G is proud of himself again. He’s motivated to keep trying. Isn’t that all we want of our kids? A new system, that is still being determined, will be put in place where G will know that 0-4ish outbursts (of any kind) in a trimester is a 1 (A) for sportsmanship, 4ish to 8ish is a 2, etc. And G’s skill development grade will be determined by observing him for two weeks as a baseline first, instead of comparing him to older, neuro-typical peers.

I feel as if I fought a dragon and won! I know we’re so lucky to be in such a wonderfully supportive school system. This was one icky teacher in a system of great ones, with a principal who truly puts the student first. Still, on the way home from school, I put this song on my ipod on a continuous loop. It’s supposed to be a love song, but to me it’s become an anthem for fighting for our kids.

Published in: on March 2, 2012 at 6:58 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Yay! I’m so glad he was given a break on the PE grade. I’m so impressed with how well G held it together and was determined not to hit. You are doing a great job advocating for him. And it is soooooo frustrating to come up against a teacher who just doesn’t get it! Ughhh. I’m going through something similar now.

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