12 September 2011

What the...?

My son has always struggled with the unpredictable. Unfortunately, relief teachers naturally fall into that basket, so he tends to carry anxiety when he is confronted with a relief teacher. These are days he often struggles to achieve anything, as he spends most of his energy trying to manage his feelings and concerns.

One of the strategies he has come up with is to introduce himself to the new teacher and ask them if they know about Aspergers. If they respond in a warm and open way, and are honest about how much or little they might know, a helpful dialogue ensues and then the day tends to run pretty smoothly. These teachers, who took a moment to have a friendly interaction at the beginning of the day, are the ones who stand a chance of getting some productivity out of him.

On the other hand, sometimes there are the bad eggs. There are the arrogant ones, who seem to need to tell him that they know more than he does about himself, what he is thinking, and what he is able to cope with. There are the teachers who throw out the behaviour management plan left for them and set themselves up to fail. They try to control his every movement and his every thought. They waste their energy on futile disciplinary measures instead of care and patience. At the end of the day my boy is exhausted and teary because he has spent all his energy trying to appease the beast, so to speak. He has learned nothing, except how harsh the world can be at times.

In short, these people fail at teaching.

And there are those who are just plain, no-holds-barred, downright utterly rude and mean-spirited. Recently my son introduced himself to a male relief teacher and asked if he knew about Aspergers. This man, confoundedly, replied with, "Yes I do, and you don't have it."


When I was told this story, I was of course absolutely livid. But the first word that came out of my mouth was, "Why?" And every time I think about his choice of response, the same question comes to mind. It's unfathomable to me. I mean, really, why would a teacher preempt any chance of a positive teaching relationship and set themselves up to have a day full of failure? Why? It seems the very definition of insanity.

One morning about a week later, I witnessed my son attempt to engage with the same teacher, greeting him buoyantly. The reply? A curt and deflating, "Hello, whoever you are." And away this man walked, seemingly oblivious to the effect of his dismissiveness.


On another occasion some years ago, my son (aged 7 at the time), asked a teacher for a moment of her time, as he had a question for her. She paused in front of him. He started with "Uhm," and then a brief pause, as he tried to gather his thoughts into a properly formulated question. She then abruptly cut him off, said, "I don't listen to people who say uhm," and walked away. He of course burst into tears, unsure of what he must have done wrong. He never did get to ask whatever it was he wanted to know.


I don't understand why adults think it's perfectly okay to default to being rude to people under the age of 21. The contempt I so often see directed at children and young people simply astounds me. Adults are supposed to know how to behave. Adults who work with children are supposed to be setting an example for those children. Kids are the ones who are supposed to be allowed to get things wrong. Adults should by default be holding themselves to a higher standard, because they ought to know better.

And to those people who behave in such a way, or who feel the above is at all familiar, I feel the need to request that you think about how you would answer the following:
- Why do you choose to be so hateful towards children and young people?
- If you despise them so much, do you really think you're in the right career?
- What did that young person ever do to you, to deserve such terrible treatment?
- Do you really think you are so superior to children? Why?
- If you were talking to a fellow adult, would you speak to them in the same tone, or use the same words?
- How do you justify to yourself such rudeness to children?
- Why do you hold children to a standard of behaviour that you are clearly unable to achieve for yourself?

And finally...
- Why waste energy on such negative interactions? If you just chose to smile and show an interest in the person before you, (yes, children are people too!), you might even have a better day than you expected.

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