The Chase #SOL19 14/31

Some days, being a Special Education teacher is all about the chase.

The classroom phone rings, “Have you seen…?”
A teacher pops their head into the room,  “I’m looking for…”
The Head Custodian texts “I found this kid in Stairwell C. Do you know he’s there?”
The Vice Principal sends an email, “Do not let this student leave the classroom unsupervised” right after I let the student leave the classroom, unsupervised.

And the chase is on. I casually glance under the stalls of the girls’ bathrooms. An EA checks the boys’ locker room. I call Guidance. I look outside that one door and in the hidden alcove under the other stairwell. I walk through the cafeteria then meander into the far back corner of the library. Most kids have preferred hiding places; most of the time we find them.

There must be a million reasons not to go to class. After all these years of teaching, I think I’ve heard them all, but of course I haven’t. And even if I have, my job is to hear the reason behind the reason. I absolutely believe Ross Greene’s idea that “children do well if they can,” so my burning question is always “why aren’t you in class?”

He says, “There’s no point in going anyway.”

And I slide down to the floor of the stairwell, tuck my skirt under my knees, shoulder to shoulder with a child who should be in class but isn’t, who should be passing but isn’t. “Tell me more.”

And he does. So much more. I’ve been listening to him for a while now – years, really – and things aren’t good. Some days I’ve lost my patience with him. I’ve told him to make a choice, to stop blaming others, to just go to class for Heaven’s sake. He’s walked out on me, come back, talked and even cursed. I’ve sat next to him during tests, made him take out his ear buds so he has to listen, even set my hand on his shoulder to help him settle down while we breathed in and out together. I’ve spoken to his father, to his mother, to his teachers. I’ve chased him before.

Today I’ve found him. Today he can’t see any way out. Today he can’t imagine that things will change. Today we talk about his dad and his mom and his brother and rehab and rehab and rehab. I tell him what I know – which is not much – but I know that things are always changing, that six months from now will not look like today. That he is changing, that life is change and that sometimes crisis leads us to new opportunities.

I’ll chase him again another day, I know. And if not him then another student, another child who needs to be found and needs to be heard. Because I’ve learned that the trick to the chase is not to know where a student is going, but to recognize where they’ve been.

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16 thoughts on “The Chase #SOL19 14/31

  1. There’s a lot of love and passion for helping others in this post. Thanks for sharing it! At this point in the year I know where all of my hiders will go to hide first. That makes it a lot easier than in September when I’m not sure where to start. Often by the time they leave me they’ve outgrown this coping strategy, but not always. Perhaps some of them are hiding at the high school now. I wish I knew the best way to help them, but I suspect they each have their own best way.

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    1. Sometimes I really believe that skipping is the only strategy that makes any sense to them. Kind of breaks my heart to imagine that some of them have been doing this since elementary school.

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  2. Wow. There is so much pain here and so much beauty. Your belief in students and your desire to want to be there for them comes out loud and clear. Those kids you chase need you. Sometimes I wonder why some kids keep coming to school. They seem to be pegged so early on- with labels they can’t shake. You see beyond those labels and are helping them to, as well.

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    1. One of my consistent statements in meetings is that if a kid is still coming to school – even if they are not going to class – then we still have a chance to help. Let’s honour the fact that they are here and move forward from that space.

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  3. This is one powerful post! I could picture you with that student, listening intently, filled with a desire to help and support. I could feel his despair and pain. Children “need to be found, and need to be heard.” How lucky your students are that you’re in on the chase, and willing to work to track them down and spend time with them and listen.

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  4. “Because I’ve learned that the trick to the chase is not to know where a student is going, but to recognize where they’ve been.” Tears. This is such an amazing, truthful, and touching story about your amazing, truthful, and touching gifts.

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  5. “The reason behind the reason.” Being an educator of children with special needs means you are in constant functional behavior assessment mode. There are days in the library where I miss figuring out those puzzles. Keep up the good work; it makes a difference!

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  6. I’ve done those chases… and they’re never fun. I think you have a lot more patience for them than I ever did when I was teaching. Your calm demeanor and kindness shine through in every post, but especially this one, Amanda.

    BTW: Do you follow Gravity Goldberg? She posted a fantastic video yesterday on Facebook about blame. It’s worth listening to since it might be a message you can transform so that it’s appropriate for this student. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/teachlikeyourself/?multi_permalinks=2363177570563276&comment_id=2366779436869756&notif_id=1552604637390582&notif_t=feedback_reaction_generic.

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  7. Your last line just wrecked me. Beautiful and poignant and honest, which is why I always love reading you. The way that you are in touch with your students’ humanity is inspiring.

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