awhile ago we discovered one of our fabulous kiddos had an old iep file. we were surprised, but assumed that perhaps she had some mild early developmental delays she grew out of (she's in first grade now) so we flipped through it to discover that actually she'd been quite the proverbial holy terror.
nothing we were reading made any sense. the papers described angry, defiant, violent behavior but the little one in our class was one of the sweetest, most compliant kiddos in our community. how was it possible she had changed so much? we had to have the wrong file. or medication? perhaps she's heavily medicated now.
a check in with mom confirmed that yes, it was all true, but there was no medication she had just grown out of it.
what hope it gave to hear that with the right support these violent, defiant and angry kindergarten kiddos i'm working with this year can grow up to be compliant, happy, hard-working students. it's possible.
kids change drastically as they develop but i think that's something we tend to forget in school. we like answers and like firm definitions so we meet a kid and file away the information on him. "in kindergarten he bit the principal, his mom is a mess, he had to repeat kindergarten," so when he gets to first grade the teachers are ready. it's not out of hating kids that we do this, it's just that we like to know what's up inside their little heads, we like to be ready (and with some kids being ready is the best thing for them) but not for others. (once again, wouldn't life be easier if there was a formula we could follow for all kids?)
(i personally believe it's really important to know the background facts but be able to withhold judgement. i know there are many camps on this issue though)
as a classroom teacher i had a little girl who was known as "a mess" in kindergarten and preschool. by the end of the year i was pretty proud of myself. i had worked hard with her and you couldn't tell she did the crazy out-of-control things she had done in kindergarten. her kindergarten teacher shook her head and wondered "what could i have done better?"
the next year in second grade she had teachers who were fairly new to our school and hadn't known her crazy behavior in kindergarten. they hadn't seen how far she'd come, and wondered why i'd let her get away with everything i did. i watched her grow in there and wondered, just like her kindergarten teacher, "what could i have done better? i must have really screwed up if she is able to be this fabulous in 2nd grade"
but this little one kept changing and growing up. her kindergarten teacher did all the right things to make it so i could do all the right things, which let her second and third grade teachers do all the right things. if you'd told us when she was in kindergarten what she'd be like in 3rd grade we wouldn't have believed you.
it's hope for the kindergartners i work with now. they are not destined to a life of ignoring teachers and being violent. they'll grow up.
but it's also a reminder to me that we can't judge the teachers from the years before. it's so easy to see the change and think, "wow, there was no reason for him to be a mess last year!" when really the kiddo grew up, developmentally changed, and with the support of the teacher slowly turned into the fabulous kiddo in his new class.