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Miles to Go—What if the Teacher is Wrong?

teacherDear Readers,

What better month than August for me to take a vacation and host a guest writer! At a recent writer’s conference, I lunched with a professional television writer who recently contracted with an agent for an historical fiction novel. As we spoke of my writing passions, she told me a story about her mother who works with special needs children. I asked my new writing friend if she would be willing to pen this article, especially for you. She agreed, as long as she could remain anonymous to protect her mother’s identity.

Please read to the end for the eye-popping conclusion.

What if the Teacher is Wrong? by an anonymous guest writer

Summer is winding down and with that comes the joyous relief of school. Parents everywhere revel in the thought of their child being kept busy for six hours a day, all under the watchful care of professionals who are trained to provide a nurturing, caring environment.

Sadly, this is not always the case.

My mother works as an Educational Assistant in the special education department of an elementary school. Over the past twenty-six years she has remained at the same school, the same classroom, and at even the same desk.

Two years ago, a new teacher took over the room. This teacher was brought in from the preschool department and was thought to be able to handle the demands of older children with special needs.

Immediately there were problems.

Previously, the students enjoyed a steady schedule of lessons, which included reading and math. Within the first few months, the teacher decided to discontinue these lessons in favor of activities such as Play-dough, coloring, and block puzzles. In essence, she was re-creating her preschool environment in a classroom of seven to ten-year-olds.

To their credit, my mother and the other Educational Assistant in the room objected. In response, the teacher explained the work had been too challenging for the students and they would be better served to work on simpler tasks. But shortchanging the student’s education was the first indication of further problems.

It all began with the phrase, “Your brain is broken.”

My mother watched in astonishment as the teacher whispered the destructive words into a child’s ear.

It was too much. My mother immediately went to the principal and voiced her concerns of both the whispered words, and what had been happening in the classroom. The conversation resulted in a quick observational visit, a lecture to the teacher regarding proper disciplining, and a reminder that the student’s education was mandated by the state. In other words, teach what is required.

That was two years ago. Since then, the teacher remains in the same position even though she has been reported by my mother, and many others, to the principal for such things as…

* Intentionally escalating a student’s behavior to get the child sent home. The teacher actually admitted to riling up a student so much that his behavior became out of control, and he had to be suspended for the day.

* Bringing a stack of diapers into class and taunting a child who had wet his pants the previous day. Keep in mind; she did this in front of the other students.

*Continuing to do absolutely NO reading or math work…except when the principal came by for an observational visit.

*Showing outright favoritism to specific students. For eight straight months the teacher wouldn’t allow three certain students to be at the front of the line, visit the library, or attend special events during the school day. What my mother found to be most amazing was how the teacher would revel in the student’s discomfort, and ultimately, sadness.

I would like to stress here that in my mother’s opinion, the three students had done little, if anything, to deserve such treatment.

Also, during one class party the three “offending” students were made to watch as the “prized students” received pizza and ice-cream. My mother was instructed to take the “offending” students to the lunchroom and allow them to bring back a cheese sandwich, and nothing more. (A happy note here: to my mother’s great pleasure the cafeteria happened to be serving pizza that day, and she cheerfully took all three students to the lunchroom. Each had pizza.)

Parents, you better sit back for what comes next.

My mother was not the only one who noticed, and objected to, the teacher’s behavior. Many more, including the speech therapist, the other Educational Assistant who worked in the room, and another teacher in a nearby room, registered official complaints.

The principal of the school was notified, the district superintendent of special education was notified, the union leader for educational assistants was notified, all to no avail.

Ultimately my mother decided, after twenty-six years of teaching in the same classroom, it was time for a transfer. She couldn’t handle seeing these kids treated so badly, their education shortchanged, and nothing being done to change the situation. Currently, my mother is awaiting assignment to a new classroom.

What happened to these children is an outrage. The very people who are supposed to protect and prepare them for the world have shortchanged them; all for “union” rules, seniority, and a downright unwillingness to do their job.

The point of this story?

Throughout the past two years, NOT ONE PARENT EVER COMPLAINED.

Parents, ask your children what happened at school that day. Become a room parent. Volunteer in your child’s classroom. Attend conferences. Become involved.

The previous story outlines one specific teacher, one specific school district, and fifteen unfortunate children. But it could be happening anywhere.


I thank my special writing friend for her care in drafting this article for you parents. It’s a shocking encouragement, isn’t it? Take heart—a parent warned is a parent equipped! This is the final article of a three part series of guest writers in the field of special needs. I will return next month with a humorous look at sibling rivalry in a special needs family. Till then, I’m praying for you, Marianne Miles

Marianne Miles is a free lance writer intent on bringing comfort to mom’s of special needs kids. As she and her husband raised their children, including a son with special needs, Marianne developed a passion to support hurting mothers. Her message revolves around the love and provision of God, even in times of trial. Marianne has worked as a volunteer in the public schools, home school mom, and a teacher in a private school. She writes on the subjects of family and education in the form of devotionals, magazine articles, and poetry. Marianne welcomes reader’s comments and publisher’s questions at Marianne_Miles@yahoo.com.