Saturday, June 20, 2015

Dear Teacher, My Child Needs Us to be an Unstoppable Team

{Please feel free to share this Letter with your children’s teachers and administrators}

Dear Teacher,

Before this academic year starts I want you to know I am on your team.  I want to be and I have to be.  And, I’m asking you to be on my team too.  

Before coming to live with me, my son suffered more trauma than I am willing to describe in detail.  He loves to learn, and yet that is not always obvious by his behavior.  

You need to know that when my son looks impulsive or checks out, it is not because he has ADHD or is defiant.  He’s scared.  He’s ashamed. He’s sad.  He’s lost.  He doesn’t understand.

So, please do not try to motivate him by creating a reward system for him.  Please do not  give him a chart to monitor his behavior.  

Those things add to his stress.  To his shame.  When he’s stressed out, he cannot  do his best thinking

He needs to know that whether or not he is ever capable of earning any reward, you and I are cheering for him and excited about him.   He needs to know he cannot earn our favor because he already has it and he cannot lose it.  He needs to know we will stick with him and help him learn the skills he needs to succeed in life.  

Also, when he is stressed, he communicates that stress by checking out, lying, stealing, breaking things, and by acting violent.  In a state of stress, he can’t learn.  In fact, he regresses socially, academically, and emotionally. And, when he is stressed at school, he disconnects from his family members at home.

In those moments, he needs you to help him feel safer.  He needs you to ask him how he is feeling and empathize with him.  He needs you to get down to the root of his behavior.  He needs you to clear things up when he misunderstands.  He needs to hear your concerns about his behavior.  He needs you to problem solve with him to help him gain the skills he needs to do well both in your classroom and in life.  He needs you to remain calm and compassionate.  

Most of all, he needs to know we are a team.  So far he has had one academic year that was a success.  The main ingredient to that success was that his parents and teachers were on the same team cheering him on.  He felt safe and his behavior was not a problem.

Remember, he has not been home long.  At this moment, he has spent more of his life in extremely volatile and unsafe living situations than he has spent home with us.  When you do something to tell him you disagree with his parents and how they raise him, you are once again causing him to question his own safety.  Is his mom safe?  He’s not sure...again.  

And, again, he’s stressed.  Again, he can’t learn.  His behavior begins to spiral.

The best thing you can do for my son is be on a team with his parents.  When you don’t agree with us, please, give him absolutely no indication (verbally and non-verbally) and bring your concern to us later.  It will help him greatly, if you give us the benefit of the doubt.  And, of course, we will do the same for you.  Without a united team, my son has very little chance of being educated, and he has very little chance of making long-term meaningful connections with other human beings.  

Sadly, my son has known the world’s cruelty more intimately than the majority of adults I know.  He understands the world is cruel, and unfortunately, he expects it.  He expects pain.  He expects loss.  He expects rejection.  

When you are on the same team as his parents and you offer him the safe place he needs to learn and problem solve, you are proving to him that his world does not have to be a scary place.  You are proving to him he is worth you getting to know.  You are proving to him that he can be a healthy community member.  You are proving he is worthy of a loving family.

It is true.  He needs a lot from you.  He needs a lot from me.  When there is consistency between home and school, life is easier for all of us.  

And, he can learn.  

We can do this together!

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