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I Have Failed My Son

Friday, June 06, 2014

Today was a really bad day for my son.
Actually, it's been a bad week. More honestly, it's been a bad school year.

Matthew had a "Book It" pizza party after school. I picked up my daughter at 3, then we came back for him at 4. When I walked to the door of the school to get Matthew, his teacher came storming over. She claimed he stood up in class and said "I hate Ms. B-----". Matthew tried to object and she turned to him and said, "I was excited to get you at the beginning of the year, but you've been nothing but disrespectful. I'm so disappointed in you," and, before I could get a word in (frankly I was stunned for a few seconds), she stormed back into the building.

Now, it's true that Matthew despises this woman. If I were a better parent I'd have insisted on a classroom change after the 1st month of school. She is sugary-sweet to parents, but she yells at and threatens the kids, and took away recess an average of 3 days per week, including indoor recess on bad weather days, all year. I did bring this to both her and the principal, but she said she never yells, and the principal backed her, though I and other parents had witnessed it. I was told if I went to the school board they'd also be presented with evidence that Matthew is a disruptive child, and threatened a Special Ed classroom. He does have mild autism, but he's consistently getting A's and a few B's. As for recess, I was told it's a privilege, not a right.

Long story short, Matthew was already exhibiting anxiety, depression, and self-punishing behaviors. He's been in therapy for over a year. He used to go every other week...now it's every week. We, his daddy, therapist, and I, tried our best to teach him to cope, to "play the game", thinking surviving this year would actually help him in the long run...we expect him to go to college and get a good job, but in ANY job you may well have to deal with a-hole bosses and coworkers. (Sorry. I'm so freaking angry!)

He did well for a long time. No trouble for months. No self-punishment or negative talk. He would come home from school and share how awful Ms. B----- was that day, how she screamed, or threatened him or other students, how she refused to answer questions (she'd say, "if you can't sit and listen, you can just go ask Mr. C---- [principal]!" I can honestly say that I technically homeschooled him on at least a third of his lessons!), took away recess, or lied. Lied to the Special Ed coordinator about interactions/incidents, to me on the phone, and in meetings.

How do I know she lies? Well, the quirky thing about Matthew's autism is that HE can't quite "get" lying. He may omit things, but owns up to that quickly. He has tried to lie, but he can't handle the cognitive dissonance and admits to it in very few minutes. (Plus, he makes NO eye contact, flaps his hand, squirms, and jumps. It's pretty darn obvious!) so, he tells me what really happens at school, and I allow him to freely express how he feels about Ms. B----- to me, at home. The problem is, sometimes with all this honesty and trouble filtering, he sometimes says things to "friends" at school. Sometimes that gets back to her (and it didn't help when she "accidentally" read his journal, in the Special Ed office, a floor upstairs, during her free period, on a day the coordinator was off).

I taught him to tell me everything. We have a deal that if he talks with me about his days, I won't punish him unless it was severe; any punishment at school for anxious or frustrated outbursts was it. The one exception was when he got angry with a boy, squeezed him, and picked him up. It was a Friday; he spent the night in his room, except for dinner and shower, and lost Wii and playing with his neighborhood friend for the weekend. He understood that he was lucky not to have been suspended, and that this was SEVERE. I have also encouraged him to journal, both good and bad, at home, and got the Special Ed coordinator to allow him to keep a journal in her office for when he felt he couldn't contain his frustrations.

This week, the last week of school, has been BAD. For Matthew and all of her her students. (I'm friendly with other moms of kids in his class...we've been sharing annoyed text messages). She's been giving them busy work on top of busy work. She doesn't even check it...makes sure it's completed then tosses it!

Monday he had his "Olympics" (field day). I got a call from the Special Ed coordinator...he was in her office, writing a "think sheet" for hiding under the benches. He was supposedly angry that he lost a race. Ms. B------ told her this. I could hear Matthew in the background trying to say that wasn't what happened, but the coordinator told him write the sheet and go to class. I told her she should listen to HIS side. She told me to talk to him then we could speak at the bowling field trip on Tuesday.

I talked to him. Yes, he hid. I said that was what he was in trouble for, and they were right to discipline him FOR THAT. However, he didn't hide because he lost a race. He hid because another boy, known troublemaker, who teases him on the bus, who HAS been suspended several times, was behind Matthew in the race. Next thing Matthew knew, the boy's hands were around his ankle. Matthew fell, and the boy pushed himself to his feet USING MY SON'S BACK for leverage! Matthew tried to tell Ms. B-----, who said she was sure it was an accident, to leave her alone, and to quit being a poor sport! Heck, I would've hidden, too!

The teacher took Tuesday off. I talked to the coordinator after the bowling party. I told her what Matthew had said. She said she was sure he felt that he was being ignored, but why would Ms. B----- lie?? An impasse.

Another day of yelling and busy work with no recess Wednesday. Today, Thursday, was the "hate" incident. I asked Matthew if he did it...did he stand up and announce to the class that he HATES Ms. B-----?? NO! He said she was in the hall. He told his desk partners (they sit in pods of 4) that he couldn't wait until 1:05 Friday and hoped he never had to see Ms. B----- again. A little girl from another "pod" heard him, ran to the hall, and said "Matthew J. said he hates you!" She came in and yelled that she couldn't stand him, either! Without asking what happened. Without allowing him to defend himself, to explain. THEN, he said, he stood up and said, "I don't think anyone in this class trusts me, including the teacher!", to which she yelled, "You're right! I DON'T trust you!"

My husband is driving the kids into school tomorrow. Well, definitely Lizzie. We are giving Matthew the option to stay home. He doesn't deserve yet another day of bullying from HIS TEACHER. If I were a good parent, I'd have pulled him long ago!! DH will get his pencil box and report card if Matthew decides to stay home.

Why is DH going without me? Because I can't stop crying. AND, I can't promise I'll keep my temper. I get upset, furious if my kiddos are involved, and can't not cry, yell, and spew insults. Not productive AT ALL. On the other hand, DH gets quiet, firm, and direct. Plus, they don't take mothers seriously. It's a "boy's club", backward town. He may get our point across simply by virtue of being a man.

I can't even sort my feelings. I'm angry. Upset. Defeated. Hurt for my son. Disgusted with her and the school. Furious with myself for not acting drastically in the past (pulling him from the classroom), but instead hoping this will help him. I guess I though if she was nasty to the class as a whole, it sucked, but was a social learning opportunity. Now that she's directing her anger at Matthew, I HATE MYSELF!!

Yes, if she had been consistently singling him out throughout the year I'd have acted. I feel like the stupid frog in a pot slowly brought to a boil; I didn't realize the criticality of the situation until it was too d@#n late!

Of course, I'll be writing a letter to the school board. I'll copy the teacher, principal, Special Ed coordinator, and Matthew's therapist. This little I can do. I can write much better than I can speak simply because I have time to edit the nonsense accusations and center on the facts.

Still, I'm kicking myself. I. SHOULD. HAVE. PULLED. HIM. This was a little boy who lived school. Now, he hates it. I wish it would be appropriate to homeschool him, but he needs the social aspect of education. However, if next fall is anything like this year, I'll have to do it.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    OH Nikki you are not the problem you are a wonderful Mother - this woman is the problem. This woman should not be a teacher. Teachers are special people and this is a special kind of person that should NEVER be allowed around a child. You are a much better person for controlling your anger than most people could be in this type of situation. I hate that this has made your son hate school because this woman had no right to have that kind of power over the lives of that many young kids that that school the principal and school board should be ashamed of themselves.

    Remember you WERE always, HAVE always and WILL always be there for him.

    Beth emoticon you are emoticon
    2604 days ago
    Oh, Nikki, I wish I'd seen this earlier!!! That woman should NOT be around children. Period. I'm SO sorry you've gone through this. And you know what...pulling him might have caused other issues. What I do know about you is that you're 100% there for your kiddos and THAT is what will get them through. I've been pretty much EXACTLY where you are - I just texted you - and I'll also tell you that Connor is in GREAT shape at this point. So many of us can echo that story. And there is NOTHING to apologize to teachers about - I'm a teacher and I'm beyond disgusted by that woman. She absolutely is abusive and in completely the wrong field. Your poor, darling Matthew. But he WILL be fine - he's got you and your DH and his amazing sister and so much love. That will see him through. Grrrrrrrrrrrr..... And yes, I'd echo onecalmmom, too - ... I'll share the whole Con story with you either via phone or sparkmail - whatever you prefer.
    2604 days ago
    Oh sweetie! You are a fantastic mom! This teacher is majorly messed up!! She doesn't seem to know much about teaching children. The principal and the school qre also failing your son. But you are not! You have trusted the school and the teacher to have his best interests at heart. I'm sorry they have let your family down.

    The teacher should never make things about her and her feelings. It's okay to call a student on poor behavior, but not in anger. It should be done out of love and concern for the student. And taking away recess is counter productive for many students. They need that time to decompress so that they can focus in class again. My own son has some issues and would struggle in a traditional school setting. He needs time to move around in between every academic subject.

    I have taught many kids (including children with autism, aspergers, depression, dyslexia, and a whole host of other issues). I have also dealt with very disrespectful kids (including several this year). I always let the kids know I love them and care about them even when their behavior needs changing. If a student says something rude, I generally respond with something positive. If my feelings are really hurt, I walk away for a moment and come back to it when I can respond appropriately.

    You have done your best to work with the school and to support your son. We can't protect our kids from everything and I'm so sorry this has been such a rough school year! I hope the school be respectful and will listen to your concerns. Hopefully, next year will be a better experience!
    2604 days ago
  • MARYBETH4884
    Our children touch our hearts so closely! Be glad you gave such an honest and gifted child! You'll know what to be on the lookout for next fall!relax this summer and foster his joy of learning in fun and adventurous ways, bring up any concerns at any meeting you have before next year or right after the year begins. New teachers can make a world of difference! Good luck to you both!
    2604 days ago
    You're not a bad mom. Trust me, you aren't even close. A BAD mom wouldn't care. Wouldn't cry. Wouldn't hate herself for not pulling him out of class. Listen, from the bottom of my heart I know exactly how you feel. I had a very similar experience with my son. He wasn't autistic and didn't have behavior problems but he was a 'different' kid. His 2nd grade teacher who adored him, warned me that teacher were either going to love him or hate him. His 4th grade teacher hated him. The thing you've done right that never occurred to me is that you've created an atmosphere where he tells you everything that happens. I didn't. I didn't know I had to. I worked full time and stupidly thought if there was a problem he'd tell me. I missed the signs. My kids who loved school started to get sick a lot. Dragged himself out of bed instead of getting up excited to go to school. I didn't realize there was a problem until the Spring teacher's conference. This teacher told me what a problem he was and all the punishment she'd given him. One example is he didn't keep his desk clean so she dumped it out in the middle of class to make him an example, made him sit on the floor until recess, and made him miss recess so he could clean it up.

    Nikki, I was stunned and didn't say a word. I came home and sat James down and asked him about every incident and asked why he didn't tell me. He said he knew I would make a big deal about it and get the teacher in trouble and then she'd take it out on him.

    I did take it to the principal who listened and stood by her teacher. I had a long, very calm talk with his teacher and said she understood my side and would re-think her treatment of James. James said it was fine after that when I asked, but years later told me it got worse.

    I still beat myself up over not pulling him out of public schools and homeschooling him. The reality was we have our own business and it wouldn't have survived without me. In a movie made for TV situation we would have shut down the business, swept floor and cleaned houses at night instead to protect our child, but this is the real world. I prayed the next year his teacher would love his precocious ways.

    I still feel guilty about it. My 35 year old son has told me to get over it. I believed it set him up to be bullied the rest of his years at school, he says if it hadn't happened then, it would have happened later because he was just different than other kids.

    Today, my son is a college graduate and works for the FAA as an Air Traffic Controller. He is happily married and has a 14 month old son. They are working on a second child. He is happy, well adjusted, and one of the most grounded human beings on the planet.

    Listen, I came from a nightmare of a childhood with a mentally unbalance mother and came to motherhood with no skill set or any idea what makes a good mother. I did so many things tragically wrong. But I did love him.

    So, I know you're not a bad mother. You've done everything in your power to protect your son. Unfortunately there are times when all we can do is love them and make sure they know that we believe them and the world is just hard and unfair at times.

    Nikki, take good care of yourself. Mothering is the toughest job on earth. All you can do is take care of yourself and love your son.

    emoticon Pat
    2604 days ago
    You are a great mom. I know how you are feeling when it comes to these situations. My 11 yr old, who has speech articulation errors, got taunted and teased by not just one bully but 2 and the down fall they live 2 and 4 houses from us. It got to the point one of the bullies hit my son 13 times on the school bus and the school did NOTHING other then tell me they will look into it. So I stepped up. After 2 1/2 years of my son being bullied I switched his school and put him in a charter school. OMG bless my sons heart. His grades never went below A's at his old school and they even stayed up at the charter school. The school I moved him to had a zero policy on bully and the teachers worked as a team, unit of 1. He was so much happier. I really should have listened to him sooner. But I too did not take it on 100 percent. His sister still attends the old school and when the teachers ask me how Ethan is and why I pulled him I do not hesitate and say the school sucks when it comes to Bullies and sides with the bullies instead of the victims. I am on top alert with Bethanee and she holds her ground and will tell the student where to go (so really a good thing) But she will not hesitate when it comes to someone messing with her.

    I know the above is a little different then what you put. But I wanted to let you know being a mother/parent, is not 100 percent right. We learn as we go and each child is different. YOU are a great mother with a wonderful boy. Mistake or no mistake WE are learning right along with them. To bad they do not come with manuals. So with that keep your head up and know what to do when this situation arises again. ((Hugs))
    2604 days ago
    You are a great mom. I feel so bad for both you and your son. It's so easy to second-guess our decisions and as mothers we feel so much pain when our children are hurting, but you made the best decision you could in the beginning of the year. I'm glad your husband is going today. I have been where you are (crying, hurting over your child) and understand why you need to step back, and sometimes we need to let our husbands handle things.

    I find it so frustrating that no one is listening, but your son knows you and your husband are listening to him. That means the world to him. With your love and support, he will get past this teacher and her issues. Fortunately the year is just about over. Do you know anything about the teachers for next year? Can you find out who would be the best fit for your child and make sure he gets in that class? At least that way, you both can enjoy the summer and not worry about next year. Plus, you will know that you have taken action to improve things.

    Hoping the next few days go will for all of you. emoticon

    2604 days ago
  • MAZZIE973
    I feel I need to add that this particular teacher is younger. She taught 5 years in middle school, jumping each year between 5th-8th grades, doing 5th twice. This was her 1st year in elementary with 3rd graders. Next year she'll be teaching 2nd grade. She's not yet found her "niche".
    I apologize to teachers for my post. So many of you go above and beyond. That had been our experience prior to this year with Matthew. Lizzie has had exemplary teachers all along, as had Matthew prior to this year.
    2604 days ago
  • LUCYLU22
    I agree with M... I think you're a fantastic mom! I think that even if the teacher was SOO darn frustrated with this year and her students... she has no business taking her frustrations out in the classroom. I wonder if she is like this every year, or if this was a new occurrence. It seems that if she was like this to most of the students in your son's class... she is probably like this all the time which then signifies to me that it's time to hang it up. Time to move on.

    emoticon to you and your son! You really couldn't have known that this was going to be an unfortunate situation, as mom's it would be really nice to know the future, but we truly haven't mastered that (and it's not something anyone can). We must just keep our kids in our hearts, and do the best that we can. I truly believe that is what you did, so take heart that you did what you thought was best!
    2604 days ago
  • no profile photo CD13961612
    I gather from your post that there's no other school your son can go to?
    I don't think you failed. I think you reasoned with the knowledge you had and throught it would be okay to try. Now it's becoming clear that it's not working. DO NOT HATE YOURSELF!
    It's the teacher that should be ashamed and angry with herself, not you, I think.
    I hope you can calm down and stop blaming youself and just do what is necessary to improve the situation now. You did not fail!
    I can tell from the way you write about it all that your son has a respectful mother and that is what matters most.
    I feel that just that one comment that you witnessed, about 'I was excited, ut you've been nothing but...' is WAY WAY WAY crossing the line for any adult who works with kids. It is a shaming comment, manipulative and judgmental. That person should not be working with children!
    2605 days ago
  • no profile photo CD12024980
    You are a fantastic mum and you have done your best - the teacher has failed, (big time) the principle has failed, and even the special ed co-ordinator has failed - but you have not failed. Hind-sight gives us 20:20 vision and you could not possibly forsee that all these people in Matthews life would conspire to protect themselves at the cost of a child, and any person who would expect that to happen needs to take a long hard look at themself.

    If I can help in anyway just let me know, and as I said you are a FANTASTIC mum.

    2605 days ago
    I'm so sorry you & your son are going through this! Know that you are in my thoughts & prayers!

    2605 days ago
    You need to have a discussion with the principal and school board. As far as social interaction, get in touch with homeschooling groups in your area. You just might find he'll thrive. You have to remember, your his only advocate.
    2605 days ago
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