The Bad Kids

With school starting, this has really been on my mind lately.  For those of you who read my blog, this is a repost from last year.  To me, it is worth repeating.

My friend and I are in the process of creating a peer support system for kids with special needs.  As our kids get older, they really need more understanding from their classmates.  We are training students who want to be buddies to be leaders and helpers for those who need it.  

Here is why:

When I talk with kids about Michael's Asperger's Syndrome, one of the first things I do is tell them that there are disabilities you can see (people who use wheelchairs, people who have Down's Syndrome, etc.) and disabilities you can't see, the invisible ones.  Just because you can't see them does not mean they are not there.  It's a dangerous assumption to make that those who appear normal -- are.

I often hear moms discussing who their elementary kids are talking about in the classroom.  I'm horrified at all of the privacy laws that are broken by teachers.  Adults and kids often make the assumption that they see the whole picture just because a child looks like the rest of them.  There is almost always a bigger story to tell.  I try to remind people of this but it doesn't always sink in.  In fact, it usually doesn't compute at all.

I didn't get to teach for very long, but I was a teacher because I have always had a big place in my heart for kids.  When I finally got my teaching job, I ended up in a gang neighborhood with 5th graders as big as me.  The first thing I realized on that frightening day school started was that these were just kids.  They weren't so scary.  One thing is for sure, I met plenty of bad kids.  Most of them got moved to my classroom because the other teacher couldn't handle them.  Many of the kids I taught have probably been to jail by now.

I hear moms talk about how bad a kid is.  I hear moms gripe about how a particular child in the classroom takes up all of the class time because of their behavior.  I get it.  I understand.  And I'm sorry but these parents forget that I happen to have one of these children living in my own home.  So I take this one personally.

I didn't ask for my child to be the difficult one.  I work much harder than the average parent trying to attain normalcy and to teach my son things that your kids will learn naturally.  At one point in time I put so much effort into it that it wasn't fair to Michael.  He is who he is.  We teach what we are given.  His behaviors are not something he does in an effort to create problems for others, not intentional.  He is doing the best that he can.  At the core of this child is a purity that few possess.  He is often untainted by the pressures of society or peers.  This is his blessing and his curse.

So let's not assume we understand the bad kids.  Even if they don't have a label, there might be something going on.  When I taught school, there were kids in my class whose parents refused to have them tested for special services.  There are kids whose home life leaves them frustrated or angry or hurting or just plain empty.  You don't know what goes on behind closed doors.  They might be dealing with big things in their youthful minds.

When I hear you talk about so and so who is in trouble all of the time, I also often hear you say that you told your child to stay away from them.  And then I understand that you might say the same thing if you didn't know Michael and know our circumstances.  You may think your story is different, but to me it isn't.  My child is the one not invited to join in.  My child takes up more time from the teacher which in turn makes other kids think of him as being in trouble all of the time.

Let's remember one thing.  These are kids.  Not all of them have the neurological ability to perform at the level they are expected.  Not all of them have the support at home that they need.  And not one of them have the ability to change their life's circumstances.

Let's practice what we preach.  Teach your kids right and wrong - yes.  But teach your kids compassion and understanding.  Teach your kids to be friendly and kind to the unfriendly.  Teach your kids to include 
all of their classmates on the playground.  Teach them to be leaders and not followers.  Those bad kids are desperately in need of a friend and have become isolated by their peers and sometimes even their own teacher.  Your child can be part of their recovery from "badness".

They will look to you for answers and I hope you will look at the bigger picture.  There are circumstances in which your child may need to stay away.  But please be careful how you guide them.  They are listening to your words and will repeat them to others.  The more it spreads, the more the bad child will be alienated.

You may be offended by what I say.  You might be saying - "But your case is different."  I don't think so.  I hear you loud and clear.  And I hope you won't mind if I leave the room quietly the next time I hear someone start talking about the bad kids.
It makes me want to cry.

Mrs. Priss

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