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View Diary: A Reflection on Mental Illness from a Former High School Teacher (140 comments)

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  •  My own experience in Chicago (11+ / 0-)

    Although I was certified in other subjects, there were some years when I had a Letter of Approval in behavioral and learning disabilities, based on taking a sequence of courses. Sometimes I taught special small classes, at the elementary level, and later, when I was a high school teacher, I taught full sized special classes in biology and ecology.  

    All the schools were extremely disorderly to the point of being dangerous, and there were so many hostile and misbehaving students in everybody's classes, special or not, and roaming the halls, that it was hard to find kids who weren't troubled.  Some kids with IEP's probably were helped by the special attention, and others were essentially just pushed out of the way because nobody knew what to do with them.  A lot of my special students barely came to school and didn't do any of the work because their absences kept them perpetually lost, so it was hard to tell if they actually had a disability.

    I am all for improving mental health care and identifying those who need it, while they are still in school and cannot easily walk away from what parents and schools advise.  But looking at the reality, I don't see how it can happen without a lot of work and funding.  First of all, in many schools it is a given that the teacher is to blame, for not handling it right, when a student acts in some unacceptable or bizarre way. Then, if a teacher does have a receptive and caring administration and family supporting the idea of getting help, in many cases there is no help available.  Finally, our treatment of mental health overall does not seem to be at a very advanced or effective stage, and drugs seem to be a big part of it; treatment is not cheap and comes with side effects, including the possibility of a kid being stuck with a label that will hurt his future, although the other kids have probably already given him a pretty bad label anyway.  

    What I am thinking is that, although individual teachers often are able to help individual students, we are very far from a time when we can help the majority of disturbed kids enough to prevent some tragedies. But that doesn't mean we can't make a start at doing better and at least work on finding solutions.

    •  fractured system (9+ / 0-)

      I think schools are unfairly asked to be a panacea for all manner of social ills that schools have little ability, power or funding to solve. A teacher’s role is a little greater than simply being an instructor but it’s not fair, or effective, to ask them to be social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors as well.

      Schools get scapegoated with social pathologies because society does little to address them anywhere else and school is where the problems manifest themselves where everyone can see them. But teachers aren’t the answer to mental health problems in children. An effective public health system that screens for and treats behavioral health is. The latter basically doesn’t exist, so problems that schools and teachers don’t have the tools to solve appear in classrooms anyway, where they are expected to just deal with it.

      Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

      by Joe Bob on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 12:18:59 PM PST

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    •  Special ed and at risk classes (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AllisonInSeattle, Noor B, worldlotus

      We have chosen to separate the problem children from their peers so they don't disrupt the learning experience for the rest of the students. We can tell ourselves that we are following the utilitarian principle of the most good for the most people...and that's true.

      The problem now is the classrooms where every child is disruptive. Some of those children will be bullies and some will be their victims. We have treated them all as if they are disposable. We don't allocate the resources necessary to produce the best outcomes for every child.

      Is money the only obstacle or are our own prejudices even more of a problem?

      Others have simply gotten old. I prefer to think I've been tempered by time.

      by Just Bob on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 02:16:04 PM PST

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