Sunday, July 17, 2011



We get used to being treated certain ways in certain situations and maybe we come to expect it every time.

Or, maybe it was just happening again.  A problem with a teacher at school.  A problem with a teacher understanding my son.

I have already talked about how he was doing a lot better with school since starting on ADHD medication.  He was able to pay more attention, get more work done, and was so proud of all of the A’s that he was getting. 

After the first month or so in treatment when he was refusing to cooperate in school or in any other way, he actually started trying to do his school work.  But, he could not get along with the teacher.  They clashed all of the time. 

When he was released to Day Treatment he said that if she didn’t change how she acted toward him, he WASN’T going to go back to school.  He even wished he could be switched to the class with the older boys, just to have a chance at a better student/teacher relationship, but that wasn’t able to be done. 

He said that during the first few months in the program when his cooperation level was so low, he understood why she was exasperated with him.  He thought that now that his attitude had changed and he was trying so much harder, she didn’t really have a reason to be impatient with him anymore.  But, she was short with him, wouldn’t listen to him, would cut him off in the middle of a sentence, was unwilling to listen to his questions, and acted like she couldn’t stand him.

And so during his first few weeks at home, he had quite a few days where he was too “sick” to go to school.  For the most part, though, he did not give us the hard time that we thought he would, even when the teacher/student relationship did not improve with “Mrs. Smith”.

I may have suspected that he was just trying NOT to get along with her, but this problem seemed almost exactly like all of the other teacher problems that we have had with him at school for years.

On the day that we admitted him, during our interview with her, we explained how our son struggled with school, had a hard time completing work as quickly as expected, and that teachers would become impatient with him—acting like they thought he was just lazy and unmotivated.  The more they thought he was being lazy, the more he would just quit trying.  She promised us that it would not be like that in the school program there.

And yet, most of the time, it seemed exactly that way.

The sad thing was that if my son hadn’t gotten anything else out of rehab up to this point, he did seem to have gotten a desire to improve in school.  He was still so happy with all of the A’s that he was getting and credits that he was earning.

I knew that his success at school depended a lot on how things were going at home, but when our home situation improved after his re-instatement, the school situation continued to be a struggle.

After his re-instatement, “Mrs. Smith” began to point out more and more wrong things that he was doing as if she were out to get him.  Was she upset that he had not been expelled?

I was worried that if this feeling of being disliked continued and that if she always seemed to be angry with him for not understanding the material and needing help and more time on assignments, then the old cycle of “why bother trying?” was going to start with him again.

Many, many times his daily target sheets stated that he “didn’t complete homework”.  It seemed like an all or nothing kind of expectation with her.  Not one question or math problem could be left undone, even if he didn’t understand it and wanted to get help with it the next day.  This constituted the statement “didn’t complete homework,” which didn’t make any sense to me.  When he did complete every problem—if there were any wrong, then she still would comment that he didn’t complete his homework or that he did sloppy work. 

I wished that she would realize that she could get more cooperation and motivation out of him if she would be patient, understanding, and helpful.

Seriously.  In a rehab school class that consists of 8-10 boys with emotional and behavior problems, why isn’t the teacher patient, understanding, and helpful?  That is what the boys need and that is what the parents probably expect.  I really think that kids who have to be in rehab, kids who hate every minute of it, and kids who feel like they are never going to forgive their parents for putting them in rehab, deserve a teacher who will make school the best it can be while they have to be there.

I am proud of my son for persevering though.  He would say that he was “done trying with her”, but then his sponsor would encourage him and he would do his homework as best as he could.  Thank goodness for his sponsor.  I am glad he has someone else in his life who can give him advice about school and life in general, especially when it is someone that he has a lot of admiration for. 

I had to walk a fine line of offering help and encouragement, while not lecturing and trying to force him to do his homework as I have done in the past.  I had to stay detached and make sure that feelings and emotions didn’t get involved.  That was hard for me.  I was used to getting into homework wars with him.  I also was used to getting very upset when I felt he was being treated unfairly by teachers. 

His therapist helped us see that trying to make him do his homework, fighting with him about school, and even insisting on helping him when he doesn’t want our help—are all things that we cannot do anymore.  We can let him know what the expectations are.  We can offer to listen to him.  We can help if he asks us to.  But, we can’t force him to learn.  And, we can’t make teachers understand him.  The only thing we can do is give them as much information as possible about him that could help--and hope for the best.

I wish we had known years ago that we should not make school such an issue in our relationship.

We keep learning things that we wish we had known years ago. 

It makes me wonder what kind of difference it might have made in the direction his life went.

Hindsight doesn’t help that much now.

I just hope that what we are learning helps him in school in the future.

Not that I am looking forward to school in the future.

I think school is most likely one of the most dangerous places on earth for a recovering teenage addict.

The new school year is going to be here before I know it.

I can honestly say that it terrifies me.

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