Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You're Welcome

As a preface to this story you need to understand that I work at a large sub-urban public high school. I do not work for this school, I work for a public educational agency who rents space in public schools so that our students may be educated in the least restrictive environment while still receiving the benefits of a highly specialized educational program. Our host school is, on a whole, very welcoming. This story is a one time occurrence and not at all illustrative of how things are for us in this building or in the community there.

Today I took a student of mine into the teacher's dining room for a treat. Several plates of cookies, packages of donuts and a cake have been in and out of the fridge in there since last week when the PTO had a recognition day for the staff.

The teacher's dining room was full, which wasn't unexpected since it was nearly noon, but I hadn't realized it would be because I had never been in there at that time before. My student didn't seemed phased by the crowd which was basically a very full table of women that I recognized as mostly paraprofessionals, another smaller grouping of female teachers and two male teachers at the furthest table.

While we were in there I turned my back to get some paper towels because there were no plates or anything on the table with all of the food. In the 90 seconds I had my back turned I heard someone snap, "Don't touch!". When I turned back around my student didn't have anything in his hands or mouth and wasn't touching anything so I proceeded to cut two pieces of cake and didn't say anything.

At that moment one of the women at the crowded table said, "He shouldn't be in here! You can't bring students in here!" Horrified someone would talk about another person right in front of them I ignored her and put one hand on my students back protectively out of instinct. The woman next to her took up her case, "This is the teacher's room! We don't bring our students in here! (and she implied our special students by how she looked at my student)". The first women finished, "He's grabbing at food!" That much I doubted, if this student grabbed at food it would be in his mouth.

I gently guided my student out of the room and back to the classroom fuming. Smiling to myself when he did, indeed, grab a donut on the way out, thinking, "serves them right!" Once back in the room I steamed for a minute and explained what happened to a woman who works in my room. Then I returned to the teacher's dining room.

Once I arrived I was shaking and my palms were sweating. I walked over to these two women and I said, "In the future if you have something to say about one of my students you will say it when he or she is not present. You will not speak about people with disabilities like that in front of them."

"Sorry." The instigator said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

"He was standing right there and he could hear you." I said.

"I said I was sorry, you don't have to go on and on!" she said.

At that I gave up. Obviously this woman was not going to be swayed. Besides I had students back in my room who were much more deserving of my attention than she was.

Back in the room I set one student up with an independent vocational task and sat down to assist the same student I had taken to the teachers room with a sorting task box. Then there was a knock on the door. It was one of the female teachers who was sitting at the second, smaller table of women. She spoke to my student and said she was sorry they talked about him in front of him and then she whispered to me, "Thank you for coming back and standing up to them. It made me sick that they did that to him. Thank you."


  1. That rude woman was an arse. Good for you.

  2. Wow, that story make my blood boil; brings back some memories of hearing para's talking about the kids in my son's preschool class *in front of them*.

    Thank you for going back to make it clear their behavior and treatment was unacceptable. But even more, thank you for modeling for your student how to *not* engage with them in the moment. That's an important skill that we *all* need to know.

  3. You know it didn't even occur to me to engage at the moment. My instinct was to protect my student, to get him away from them. If he were a more verbal student I think I would have tried to model some self-advocacy or I would have had him do some role plays back in the room of what to say to them, but he is a less verbal student and my role in that moment was to be his advocate and protector more than his teacher.

  4. Kate, thank you for standing up for other people's feelings and letting others publicly know that what and how what was said was wrong. I only wonder how much this person and others like her teaching all of our children can be so disrespectful and hurtful. It is part of the core reason why evrything seems to be crumbling down around us.

  5. Yesterday (the day after this story happened) I ran into the first woman again (who turns out to be a lunch aid who is rumored to be a friend of the principal whose job is to yell at students all day about hall passes). It was around the same time in the day, but I had on my coat and my backpack and was headed out of the building. The woman said to me, "Running away are you?"

    "No," I said (considering glaring at her), "I am going to first aid and CPR class."

    "Well I guess you need to with your population," she replied.

    Now what the hell is that supposed to mean? Shouldn't all civil servants have a duty to possess basic first aid and CPR skills? Any teacher? For that matter any responsible citizens? I earned my first aid and CPR cards for the first time in Girl Scouts when I was fourteen and I didn't work with any population then. Some of my students have swallowing disorders, but they aren't any more likely to need most other forms of first aid. In ten years I have done the Heimlich Maneuver once and applied a few band-aids. Seizures are fairly commonplace, but other than that I would say that my "population" doesn't need first aid/CPR any more than any other.

    Some people.

  6. That's scary that a person like that is a friend of the principal. "your population" I'm sitting here with my mouth open - this story just gets worse and worse.

  7. Aarrrrrrgh! Is all I can say. Aarrrrrrgh!

  8. CC you have me curious. Which part makes you say Aarrgh! The fact that the ladies a big mouth jerks? The woman who didn't stand up for my kid instead waiting for me to do it. The fact that the woman is a friend of the principal? The use of the term "your population"?

    (For a minute I thought you were the parent of the student in the story - who I have told about the event and the post and who regularly reads this blog. I even quieried your IP address but you are about 2,999 miles too far way to be the parent of the student. I have a great friend in Vancouver though.)

  9. I have to say that I'm not at all suprised about the 'students in the teachers lounge part' I learned very early on in my teaching (I teach a similar population) that if I tried to take my student in to use the staff lounge for any reason, to have them practice buying a pop, or to do a life skills lesson using a real kitchen, that it was a major no no. NO students are ever allowed in the teachers lounge. But the treatment of the student is inexcusable. I hope that I would have done something similar if faced with this situation.

  10. A little update - the teacher who came to my room and thanked me came back, but I wasn't there. She then she caught me in the hall and told me that she had brought what had happened to the administration. So let it be known that acts of courageous activism breed acts of courageous activism!


Comments and respectful discussion are welcome and encouraged! No advertisements or spamming.

Contact Me at:

Contact Me at:

Visit our advertisers:

Fujitsu Computer Systems Corporation SpinLife.com, LLC Try Nick Jr. Boost FREE for 7 Days LabelDaddy.com ... Label the things you love !! Build-A-Bear HearthSong - Toys Outlet