Originally published November 2014
Amy Murray’s open letter to parents about THAT kid in the classroom has gone viral—originally a blog post, her commentary is now making the rounds nationally, including the OpEd page at the Washington Post.
The premise is this—that teachers are confronted by well-intentioned parents about the kid in the classroom that is the giant time suck. That is the bully. That is disruptive. While not laid out in detail, my guess is the question posed most often is this: “Are you aware of what THAT kid is doing and what you you doing to address it?”
And given the comments on WaPo’s site, I’m sure there’s a healthy dose of “I’m sure THAT kid’s parents are not doing a damn thing” served up with it.
Well, I’m THAT kid’s mom. And my question to those parents is this—why don’t you ask me about it?
The teacher can’t tell you what you need to know about my kid, but I’d be glad to. I’d rather my child was discussed with me instead of behind my back. In fact, I’d guess that most parents of THAT kid are desperate to get anyone to understand that:
- Their kid has been in some kind of therapy since they were in preschool.
- Despite every behavior management plan they’ve tried, they’re now faced with a decision to try medication, rife with physical, social and emotional consequences, along with judgmental condemnations, too.
- They spend hours trying to pre-teach concepts to their kid so his or her academic challenges don’t hold a class back.
- They welcome placement in alternative classrooms where kids may be more understanding of their kid’s challenges, but fear they are lowering expectations.
- Just because their child has a lower IQ doesn’t mean they don’t experience hurt feelings when they are left out off the birthday party invite list. Or shunned on Facebook. Or ignored in the cafeteria.
- The diagnosis of (insert disorder here) is devastating to hear. Those parents love their child as much as you love yours. And news like that takes time to process.
- Their calendars aren’t just filled with the day-to-day of work and after-school activities but also with doctors’ appointments, counselor visits, intakes, school meetings and meds checks, which means they are probably stressed out and in need of time to decompress, but honestly can’t find time.
- They spend hours upon hours sorting through red tape to get services for their child.
- They lose sleep wondering who will love their child if something should happen and he or she loses both parents.
- Negative reaction to their child is also directed, unfairly, at the child’s brothers and sisters.
- THAT kid is, yes, misunderstood. It’s possible, you know, that you just don’t get it.
- One diagnosis often turns into another one. And another one. And that changing diagnoses mean changing IEPs. And more meetings with more tissue boxes.
I hate that damn tissue box. For parents, it’s like a warning beacon signaling more crushing news. That they’re about to hear about another “incident.” Something they will not just feel awful for their kid about, but that, because they are human, is most likely mortifying and embarrassing. Another sign they are somehow failing as a parent.
Here’s the thing—in most cases, the parents, grandparents, foster parents, teachers and adult mentors of THAT kid are working their asses off not just to prevent future instances that distract or harm those around them, but also to raise the child into a young, capable and self-sufficient adult. And those people are no less immune to feelings of helplessness, embarrassment, anger and frustration than you. But they are rising to a challenge, God willing, you will never have to face. These are people deserving of support, not silence.
These aren’t the kinds of kids—kids with imperceptible cognitive impairments, kids with social language disorders and emotional issues—that people rally around, with fundraisers and Facebook pages. These are the kids that are talked about in low whispers. The kids that are shunned. And their parents know it. So rather than berate a teacher, why not try to befriend a parent? Because I know from experience, the parent could probably really use one.