Friday, November 20, 2009

Mainstreaming

Wifey told me she had a story to tell me after I got home. So when the kids weren't listening too closely, I asked her what was up.

Wifey had attended a Thanksgiving lunch at the Girl's school. One of the Moms she's friends with said that her girl had come crying to her at home the previous night because she was upset at what she heard in class. The back story is that in one of the 1st grade classes this year, there is a new boy. He is Chinese, recently adopted, and does not speak any English. He was trying to get a point across, got frustrated and may have done some pushing or throwing of things because he was frustrated (the Boy sometimes still does this, but it's reducing because of the improvements with speech therapy).

The Boy was separated by being placed in another 1st grade class for the rest of the day. The teacher talked to the kids in his original class and was trying to educate them on what to do when kids get frustrated with you in the future.

Now this is where it might be a little hazy. You have to remember this is an upset 6 year old recounting to her Mom what she thinks she heard.

She thinks she heard the teacher say, "Now next time [Chinese boy] gets frustrated and acts up, we shouldn't get upset, we should laugh at him."

Hmmmm.

I was wondering, would a teacher at this very politically correct, Blue Ribbon school say that?

Or did she say, "Now next time [Chinese boy] gets frustrated and acts up, we shouldn't get upset, we should laugh at the situation." ?

It's hard to say because, of course, I'm hearing it 4th hand.

And then Wifey said, "I can't believe that they (parents) just put a kid who doesn't speak any English into a first grade class like that! That's gotta be so frustrating for him!"

Hmmm.

I said, "Well, ummmm, I came over when I was 4 years old without knowing any English and I started in Kindergarten. I turned out okay."

She replied, "That's different. Those were the old days."

I'm not sure if I've blogged about this in the past, but one of her brothers is deaf. He's the 50+ year old man-child who still asks Mommy for money. When I was dating Wifey, she described him as one who always has his hand out for a handout. She said that when he was in 6th-8th grade, he went off to boarding school at their state's School for the Deaf. At the time we were dating, she told me, "And that really messed him up. They taught him that the world OWED him things; that he was disabled and deserved a leg up and help from the world." She said that when he came back, he was a different person.

But of course, as we know, philosophies and social worker trends keep changing. When he got to high school age, it suddenly became the thing to "mainstream" deaf kids. So, he came back to his family and town and started high school. He didn't do well, and dropped out when he was 16 and has been a "gentle bum" since then. Seriously, he always finds sympathetic girlfriends to leech from.

And so as we were talking about this Chinese Boy being mainstreamed I asked, "Well what are the parents supposed to do? Keep him at home until he learns enough English?" Wifey shrugged. She felt sorry for the kid, but she didn't know what his parents could have done different. We have lots of English-Spanish schools here in the South, but of course on English-Chinese schools.

And then, you're reading the blog of a 4 year old boy who was dumped into the deep end of the Great American Melting Pot, and I find no problem whatsoever if this boy's mainstreaming.

But just as trends change, last night when I asked Wifey about her brother and the deaf school, I asked her if she thought it was good or bad that he was mainstreamed. She said, "Oh no, he should have stayed at that school."

Me personally? I don't remember much of kindergarten and 1st grade. We say that kids are resilient, and that's the way this little guy is going to have to adjust - in the deep end.

But as I'm typing this up, I realize that Wifey didn't take into account the Boy, our son. When we got him, he was 27 months, walking, with all his teeth. We get home, she spends 1 month of bonding time with him, then it's off to daycare where he didn't know anyone and didn't speak English.

Somehow, Wifey doesn't view that as mainstreaming. Gonna have to point that out to her tonight.

[typed up with no proofreading - you gotta take what you can get folks]

10 comments:

  1. Plus in our school district you can't put a child in an alternate educational setting simply because English isn't their first language....

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  2. Hmm. We put our then-8-year-old in school a week or two after we got home with her. I can't imagine how she managed, but she got ELL instruction and the school lined up with some Mandarin-speaking kids to help her. I'm assuming this little guy is getting ELL/ESL help. I guess I'm with you, I think kids can probably face challenges better than we give them credit for.

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  3. That would be a really difficult situation for the little boy. Not only does he not know English he's just has entire world turned upside down and is probably confused as all get out. Not sure what I would if he were my child, but I hope he's getting reassurance and love at home and I hope the school can rise to the occasion and help him fit in.

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  4. Whiel I am pretty much with you on the mainstreaming, I somehow hope the school has some better resources to help him. Even 4th hand, the fact that the little girl was upset about it, it just doesn't sound solid teaching.

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  5. At least you could communicate with your family. It must be unbelievably hard to have left everything you've known and to feel clueless and unable to communicate. Maybe the teacher said to smile and didn't say laugh? I can't imagine a teacher being that insensitive. As an elementary school teacher, I know that children can at times be unkind and find subtle and not so subtle ways to make an outcast feel even more like an outcast. Some kids are able to handle situations like this easily, for others it is very hard. Hopefully this boy is young enough to not remember these tough years later.

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  6. Hmmm Aren't schools required to provide ESL language support services, or is that just NC? Although even when it's available, the main teachers aren't always on board.

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  7. As a teacher, my humble opinion (which I am aware you didn't ask for) is that I'd just about guarantee you that there is more to that story. Also, as a teacher in an urban school where the majority of my students are "at-risk," albiet all speakers of English, I cannot even imagine a student unable to speak or understand English sitting in one of my classes. I'm not even sure the school system I work for has the resources to help a child like that. And to be a devil's advocate, I have to wonder why it should be the school system's resposibility to provide services for such a child. I mean, afterall, it would be the parent's choice to put the child in that situation. Things that make you go hmmmm.....

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  8. As a four-year-old, I attended a Japanese preschool as the only English speaker (save for the reading teacher, who knew about 30 English words). And yes, it felt a lot like treading water in the deep end when you barely know how to swim. But I learned Japanese. And I learned how to communicate non-verbally. It's a very hard thing. But he will get through it.

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  9. You know, "mainstreaming" is just one of those big concepts, like "daycare" and "mothers-working-outside-the-home" and "single-sex education" and "home-schooling," to name just a few -- it is not good or bad in and of itself, but depends on how/why it is put into practice. Too many variables -- what works well for one kid in one situation might be horrible for another.

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  10. You bring up some very good talking points. Thanks for sharing your thought process with us.

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