Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hello Rock?

Hello rock? This is the Hard  Place calling!

I stopped in to Genea's classroom today and went with her to her desk. Here is my problem (let's just get to it shall we?). I found her desk has been moved and she is now parked at the side of the teachers desk, and she faces the teacher when she is sitting. The other kids all sit at desks that are arranged in clusters of 4-6. It is not a large room, so Genea's desk is very close to a "cluster" but there is no denying that she is separated from the other students.

Why has she been separated from the other kids? The teacher gave me several reasons. First of all, Genea likes it there. She has an open invitation to return to a cluster at any time, but prefers to sit with the teacher. It improves her ability to focus and pay attention to her work and if she has questions, obviously the teacher is right there to answer.

So, what is my problem? Here are my logical, intellectual problems. I don't believe Genea needs that level of attention to be successful. I am concerned that once the door to that sort of one to one special treatment is opened, we will never be able to shut it. I think that isolating her from other students is the wrong thing to do. She does prefer isolation, she has had a lot of it in particular as part of the neglect she experienced with the first family that adopted her. I also do not believe we should be asking the emotionally disturbed 7 year old what she wants and accommodating it.

I understand the teacher has a distinct job to do and that is to teach my child to achieve the norms for second grade children in this country, and if specialized seating is helping her to learn than that's how it should be. I see my job as more global and I have to be concerned with her social development as well, which quite frankly is poor. She will be able to observe other children interacting from that spot but not practice participating.

What kind of parent objects to their child getting extra educational help? A boost directly from the teacher? (And really, if she were on an IEP, proximal seating would probably be checked off as a needed accommodation).

Me, I object because they did that to me.

For two years in elementary school I was isolated from the other students in my classes for 3rd and 4th
grade. My desk was in the back of the room and sort of barricaded by portable walls and shelving. One hundred years ago when I was in school, kids were not diagnosed with ADHD and for sure not girls. I don't have fond memories of the time period but I don't have bad memories either. Looking back however, I am horrified that it was allowed. You can believe that the deficit in my attention was massive (though I had not a molecule of hyperactivity  ), and continues in much more muted ways today. But I swore no kid of mine would ever be put in that sort of situation.

Then there are my vague feelings that this is not the right thing to do for Genea. Setting her up to attach, maybe developing a bond with a teacher she will leave at the end of the year, I can't pinpoint why really. Is this something minor that I am amplifying?

I don't know. Shouldn't I be happy that there is one more person looking out for my daughter? Someone else who adores her and gives her special attention? Would I be as bothered by this if it were Teena?

The Husband does not like it either, his reasoning is that the separation is stigmatizing which I absolutely agree with. Genea does not need another stamp on her flashing *different*.

So please, what do you all think? Am I missing something? I know my perspective is skewed off into all kinds of wonky directions because of my emotional reaction. I believe I may have actually turned purple while speaking to the teacher and I could feel my blood pressure going up! I've been shaky even writing this post.

Thoughts? Perspectives? Help?


  1. ask to have her moved back with a group.

  2. I have got NO clue. Wishing you luck figuring it out, though.

  3. So, I don't usually comment on this sort of stuff, cause, you know...what the hell do I know? But this reminded me of a post from another adoptive parent that I ready recently. Here is the link:


    Now, I clearly don't know about your situation or anything, but you may find some insight here.

    Good luck!

  4. My daughter has Aspergers, and when she was in 1st grade, it was undiagnosed. So we were working with a different situation than you, so your results could vary.

    Her 1st grade teacher discovered that my daughter worked much better when separated physically (by many feet) from the rest of her classmates. As we figured out, she had a larger personal space than most people, and having other people in it just stressed her. It was not a punishment, just a way for her to feel better.

    She was much happier and more centered being separated. Another accomodating teacher in third grade would let her hide under her desk when she became overwhelmed. Yes, it did make her a bit weird, but when allowed matter-of-factly by the teacher I don't think it affected her relationship with her peers any more than the breakdowns that would have happened without it.

    Throughout her very difficult elementary and middle school years we decided that helping her feel safe and unstressed was the highest priority.

    It worked for her. With high school came maturation, the discovery of a medication that helped, and finally an understanding that her brain just worked differantly than most. She was able to learn accomodations, rather than just reacting in negative ways. She is now (at 24) a social and empathetic young woman. Probably the most charming of all my kids. She still has her quirks, but she also has lots of self confidence.

    So I say, if it works for her and her teacher, please consider it.

  5. Yeah.... I am kinda feeling you on this one. Was she initially separated becasue of disrupting the group? She has been offered to go back, but does she just stay "in trouble" to avoid getting into trouble again?

  6. I don't think I've commented on your blog before... so hi ;-). I have no idea what would be best for your daughter. However, if you think it's a bad idea, why not give the teacher a counter-proposal: put Genea in a group, the closest group and the closest seat in that group to the teacher's desk, and make sure the other 3 or so kids in that group are the gentlest, most task-oriented kids in the class, and see if that works for her.
    (I've got 3 kids, none of whom are adopted, one of whom has ADHD. My oldest is a really easy, task-oriented kid. When she was in 4th and 5th grade, she had teachers who would shuffle the table groups once a month. Those classes, like any class, had a few more challenging kids and Zoe always ended up next to one of them. I'm sure it was by design.)

  7. I tend to agree with Anita. But truly- what I would do if I were in your shoes is print out this blog post and take it to your child's teacher. After all, the teacher is only human and maybe hasn't considered all the angles that you have concerns about.

    It would definitely open up the dialouge about how you and the teacher could best work together to help G be the most well rounded (academically and socially) that she can be!

    I hope you all can come up with an arrangement that everyone feels good about!

  8. My feelings coincide with yours. I'd be even more upset that the move was made w/o any conversation with you prior to it. I wouldn't want the additional "stigma" attached if it can be helped. Let us know what you decide and how it's handled! Good luck!!

  9. My gut feeling is move her with the group. When you get a teacher who isn't accommodating anyone (and you will especially in the later grades) what then? Will Geena cope with being with a group? It's a tough call. Talk to the teacher first, tell her your concerns.....give it a little time and see what resolution you all can come to.

  10. First let me say, Essie, that what was done to *you* in school was not right.

    I can also see the pickle you're in with Miss Genea, and that your own experiences heighten the reaction- Just because you *do not want* anything to make things tougher on G.

    My gut feeing, though, would be to leave Genea nearby the teacher, if that keeps the stress levels down...

    Sorry to go a bit against the grain, but I also believe you will do what is best for Genea, whatever you decide, and I respect you *tons*

  11. I think this is pretty classic attachment behavior in a classroom, and that the teacher (who doesn't know what she's dealing with) is feeding it. It's a trigger for you because of your history, but Genea is an attachment kid, so look at it from that standpoint.

    Kids with attachment issues do this "currying favor" behavior because they don't feel safe. They need to know that someone is going to look out for them and protect them.. that they've got an "in" with someone whose got power, so to speak. Just like our kids did in the orphanage. They need to know that all of the extra benefits and special privileges will go to them (this is based on survival, from a time when our kids needed to make sure that they got food and attention in order to LIVE). Genea has to do whatever she can to ensure that she gets that "in" with the teacher. But sooner or later she will start to test the teacher, because she does not really trust her, either.. she can't trust the teacher to keep her safe any more than she can trust you to, and that's because of her history and because she learned that adults don't keep you safe, and if she doesn't maintain control, she'll die (or so she thinks.) And then the teacher will be like.. WTF? How come Genea can do xyz one day and can't do anything the next? etc.

    How much of this you convey to the teacher is up to you, but my feeling is that she needs to be moved back to the group and treated "just like everyone else" as much as possible. And that the teacher try to pay attention to not babying her, not giving her extra "love", and making sure that classroom privileges are assigned on a totally fair, rotating basis so that she sees that everyone is treated "the same" as much as possible

    That's my 45 cents. xoxo

  12. well, the sentence that summed it up for me is the one where you say why ask an emotionally disturbed kid what she needs. You have to decide what you want out of second grade for her- social success or academic success. as a mom of a different kid, I have to say that second grade is about the end of kids being nice just because the teacher tells them to. the other thing is, why doesn't she have an iep? if you are keeping her diagnosis from the school, well then, that is your choice.

    I remember seeing my brother always isolated from the class, ans it gave me a sick feeling that i can't shake to this day.he never did get un-isolated, either.

  13. I'm with Corey and Wooly Woman.

  14. Thanks for saying hi!

    Your situation sucks too. Sounds like crabby days all round!

    Good luck with your decision.


  15. I agree with your husband. Seperating her from her classmates is stigmatizing.

  16. It is stigmatizing to be isolated. That was where I was coming from with GB. I was dollar short and a day late. GB already knew she was different- and so did her classmates. Best wishes- I am sure you will come up with a solution you can live with. {{{Hugs}}}

  17. Wowza, that's a hard one. After reading all the comments, and analyzing what I'd feel like if it were my little Rad-let, I'd be concerned that he was taking advantage of the teacher. Last year, all of the Kindergarten teachers special toys (mementos given to her by students in times past) all came home with Alex...I questioned her as to why she gave them to him. "Because he loves playing with them so much"

    Um....no, he just "wanted" them. Most of them, once they came home filtered to the bottom of the toybox, never to be seen again.

    Being so good at confrontation (not), I had my husband let her know that we didn't want toys coming home with him and that they would be thrown away. The offerings finally dwindled. But the lasting effect is we still have a nightmare of him bringing home whatever he "wants" from stores and other kid's school bags. Nothing like having to frisk your own kid before you leave the store or a friend's house. Grrrr...

  18. Whatever you do, from a teacher's perspective, don't let her know you're blogging about her. Even though you haven't used her name or even the school name, it is creepy to feel like a parent is writing about you, and it is not likely to make for the kind of trust and good relations that is best in the student-parent-teacher triad.

  19. My gut was with you and the rest of the post-ers here who think it might stigmatize her with the rest of the kids.

    That being said, I think it falls you you at home to process through what it means to rejoin a normal-cluster and that it doesn't mean her teacher likes her or values her any less, simply that it makes her more available to be friends with the other kids in her class.

    Let us know how it turns out!
    -Kim @ www.americanmamacita.com

  20. most of the things I was going to say have been said but I am slow to comment because I have been making perogies! I have mixed feelings aobut it as an elem. teacher I understand the strategy as a Mama I don't much like it. I think I would aim for middle ground and see if she vcould have 2 desks, one in a group and one near teacher that coudld be used on an as needed basis with both G and the teacher decideing what as needed means. It might mean you sending in a 2nd pencil case to make things easier so she is not always running back and forth but it might be a solution that works.
    PS I so have a book that Geena needs, email me of dm me on twtiiter or crackbook so we can figure out a way for me to send it to you. It is a aobut a little girl named Toby and all the things that get lost in her hair.

  21. I'm responding before reading other responses....

    I suppose I'd feel conflicted, as you do. Husbands generally are more "status" oriented, and don't want their child to be "different" unless it is clearly in a good way. Would he mind if it was the "Student of the Week" who got to sit by the teacher (which was the case in my sixth grade class.) Or, is that just my husband?

    Yes; as teacher, you want to teach. And at this stage of her schooling, it is so critical that she not lose a beat. Though, a child's social and emotional well-being is important, too. My guess is that the teacher did this once in response to some particular "issue" and it worked, and when Genea even LIKED it - seems like a perfect situation, doesn't it? At her age my guess is that most of the kids want to sit by the teacher, and may even perceive that she is being favored.

    If Genea LEARNS better in a certain setting, and has discovered this herself, and enjoys using this strategy....well, that seems like a good thing. So, perhaps in individual LEARNING situations she might be allowed to work un-distracted, but in more social situations she could be encouraged to work in groups. (Often, by the way, these seating arrangements are not in order to create little social groups, but just to allow more free space in the room, and the social stuff is the price you have to pay.)

    You seemed to have turned out fine.

    Kids don't generally stigmatize the way adults do. I've found that my students have always been absolutely AMAZING in understanding and having compassion for "different-learning" kids...and, moreover, it is just a natural thing for them. I had a boy in class once that just needed to stand up. He stood up the whole class. When I initially forced him to sit, he was always making noise with the table or with papers, or finding and excuse to get up. When I finally stopped telling him to sit down, he participated beautifully, appropriately, enthusiastically - and I noted that not one other student ever commented on the fact that this boy was standing. I actually sensed relief on their part - and not just that the nervous noises were gone, but there was almost a sense that they were relieved he was comfortable.

  22. Also - school is really pretty different in many ways than it was when we were young. Today it is all about "meeting each child's individual needs" and planning for "different learners".

    Most teachers I know strategize to help each child succeed, and there isn't so much of kids being "in trouble" as there was in the past. Because, generally being "different" in any way used to translate to "being in trouble". Now it is just something the teacher needs to consider when planning activities and classroom management techniques. So, you might observe to see if there are other ways in which other children are accommodated. I bet you will find that there are.

    Also, I bet the teacher didn't ask Genea where she wanted to sit, but rather thought about where she OUGHT to sit to be successful, and made sure it was not going to be upsetting for her.

  23. Well...as an attachment parenter, I don't like it. I think she's too close to the teacher and is spending too much time with the teacher instead of with her peers. It's HARD to learn to be with your peers, but you won't do it if you're not with them.

    But that's my parent hat.

    My teacher hat offers this story:

    I had a little boy in first grade who was very wiggly, easily frustrated, and needed some help. I sat at a round table in the center of a u-shaped arrangement of students. He was on the end closest to me so that his up and downs didn't disturb.

    Often, he'd be up to ask me to explain something, up again to ask for more assistance and then would end up at my table with me for some extra help. When he was done, he'd go back to his desk. Soon, other children were doing the same--pulling up a chair when they were feeling insecure (academically or otherwise, I think) and going back when they felt confident.

    In my classroom, you can work anywhere you like as long as you're working--on the floor with a clipboard, on the couch, lying on a pillow, standing, lying stretched out on the radiator (!!) or whatever, so this caused little fuss.

    Could a similar arrangement work? A chance to come up for help when she needs it, a desk that is there for any student who needs it, but her REAL desk in her group? I know space is at a premium.

    Last advice: TELL the teacher WHY this is important! Explain attachment parenting and why G's brain is wired the way it is. Then the teacher can help.

    Here ends my novel. E-mail if I can help!

  24. as an educator, this approach indeed worked for a few of my really challenged kids. I had one student that ended up coming back to me a second year in a row (for a different class) and he BEGGED to have the isolated seating again, told me he begged all the other teachers too and they refused. He said I was the only teacher that understood it was what he needed.

    that said, although I gave the isolated seating only to a limited few and only after exhausting all other methods of differential instruction, the isolated seating was only for limited amounts of time. I always set an achievable goal that would encourage the student to return to the regular classroom seating arrangement.

    in addition, i was very adept at arranging my seating chart so that i put students with similar attributes together so they could support and encourage one another for mutual benefit.

    all that to say, ask the teacher for defined parameters for the isolated seating. (ie) only for math worksheets

    i would also ask that the teacher give Genea an achievable goal so she can return to regular seating arrangement with the understanding that if genea relapses in behavior/achievement, she returns to isolated seating

    and finally, I would suggest that you consider that perhaps, that really IS Genea's best, that she really DOES prefer it. I know for Sissy, she'll balk and squawk and holler and fume about isolation but when she actually gets down to it, she reports that she prefers it. I worried for a long time that it would make her RAD worse. PBFT. the child's RAD can't get any worse. What I have observed is that after isolation, Sissy is regulated, articulate, focused and compliant. A pattern I found to be identical when I isolated my challenged students in the classroom

    and that's my two cents

  25. lol - i posted my response before reading everyone else's so you'd get my honest/off the cuff/unbiased answer.

    then I went back and read some of Annie's responses. In particular, the one about the student standing up to learn ... one year I had a student that learned best by LYING DOWN UNDER HIS DESK, on his tummy, feet up in the air. One day the principal walked in and was majorly annoyed with my student's learning posture. She was making a big hoopla about it in front of the whole class (btw, just as in annie's account, my other students were GLAD he was no longer pestering them, that he had shut up and was working finally). So I interrupted the principal and said, "well, let me just show you." then I called to my student, "J. Show me your completed work please." Up from under the desk came a hand (that's all we could see) full of papers. Pages and pages. I leafed through it and laughed. "Wow J. you've done an entire week's homework AND the class assignment?"

    the desk said, "yes ma'am."

    the principal said, "let me see"

    I handed her the papers and she said, "wow. his penmanship never looks this good on the papers he hands in to me!"

    I responded with, "well, after much trial and error, we've discovered by accident that J prefers to learn this way. It's not bothering anyone so I leave him alone. and now he has an A."

    the principal left without saying another word! LMAO

  26. First off, I'm surprised you had to find out about this by walking into the classroom. My kids' teachers would have e-mailed or called if they were making that kind of change.

    I've noticed with Princess that as soon as she's "done" with a teacher, the teacher is completely out of her mind. I've had teachers tell me how much they miss her, how happy they were to see her in the halls, and Princess doesn't mention a word.

    So. My suspicion is that Genea's playing her teacher. If it were Princess, I'd make sure she wasn't actually having problems in a cluster, and then I'd ask to have her move back to a group, mentioning how we're working on social skills at home. I use the therapist a lot, too. "Her therapist thinks she needs more social contact," something like that.

    And really, it is important. Princess learns a LOT just by watching the other girls. She knows it's weird for her and natural for them, so she copies how they act and what they say.

  27. Though I'm very, very far behind...I am slowly catching up. As a future educator, I thank you for giving me an insight I might not necessarily get elsewhere!


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