Emotionally Disturbed

I had two students in my first teaching gig that totally did not belong in that program. It was a county class for students with the label of emotional disturbance. The first kid was only guilty of being the son of a father who was in a second marriage with a woman who was clearly not interested in children. If anything he was exceptionally detached about the fact that his father was obviously more interested in pleasing his new wife than caring for his son. I don’t remember the profession of the father other than he was a professional. Even though it was early in my career I could clearly see his wife was in control at those IEPs. I am not sure why all the others (administrators, psych’s, etc.) allowed this placement to happen. The kid was with me for about 2 years and although he was making good academic progress and I had no behavior issues that “mom” at the second IEP was able to convince the team that out of state placement would be more appropriate. I was the only voice against that idea. I think about that kid from time to time. I figure he is either a millionaire, he was quite intelligent, or in prison for committing some elaborate crime.

Another student I had that I thought really didn’t in my program was a kid who was guilty of drawing some violent pictures. If you had conversation with this kid you would thought he was the most normal and nicest of kids. I don’t know why the mother so easily allowed her child to be given the label of emotional disturbance. I do know I pissed off a lot of people when after the first day or so I called the mother and told her her child did not belong in my class. I think the principal called me first and told me I was not qualified to make that kind of assessment. Whatever. He did well in my class and was eventually sent back to his home school.

I taught general ed English for several years. A lot of those kids, given the right test or psychological exam could have qualified as being emotionally disturbed. I thought we just called that adolescence. Over the years I did have a few kids in my ED classes that were truly ED. They had clinically diagnosed psychological disorders and most people could clearly see there was something not right with these kids. They were fun to work with. Interesting to see the world through eyes that clearly have a different perspective.

Both times I did have ED classes I could only last 4 years. It does wear on you after a while. The academic part is easy. It is all the social-emotional stuff that gets tiring. You try to help and give them as many coping mechanisms as you can but it always required so much prompting to remind them how to handle themselves. I am good at what I do and would often get asked to take kids that fell between the lines in terms of labeling. Last ED class I had also had several students with autism, MR, and others with multiple labels. The program specialist called me her “go to guy” because I would never say no to accepting a challenging student. Burned up, burned out, burned around. Talk loud or never be heard.

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