Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Raising Gifted Children: School for Disruptive Students

I'm reading: Raising Gifted Children: School for Disruptive StudentsTweet this!

Earlier this week I came across a commentary piece in the Chicago Sun-Times which got me thinking. Esther J. Cepeda's article, "School for disruptive students might work," voices concerns which I've tossed around in my mind for a while now.

Reflecting on a former student who behaved in her classroom, but not for other teachers, Cepeda writes, "...I do know the destructive impact he had on classmates outside of my algebra lessons: mounds of lost instruction time, undermining of other students' respect for their teachers; some diluted bullying, annoying those who wanted to learn."

She wonders if putting disruptive students into special classrooms with teachers trained to "reach" them would help.

As the mother of a child who functions best in a structured and calm setting, I've been frustrated and disappointed to find how few teachers provide such an environment. I understand that some kids have the need to get up now and then and yet others lack the typical amount of self-control (and that in my middle class suburb I dare say most of these kids have IEPs), I just wish those kids didn't meet their needs at the expense of my son's needs.

Can I get my boy an IEP that states his need for a calm structured environment? Oh, right.

At any rate, as Cepeda ponders the efficiency of removing disruptive students from the class, she wonders if such special classes for disruptive students would merely turn into a dumping ground.

Still, she writes that perhaps that concern, "...should be set aside to investigate the possibility that such a program could recoup thousands of hours of instruction time in mainstream classrooms."

I can't help but think that part of the issue is our nation priority focused on raising the bottom, rather than helping all children learn and grow academically. And I think that Cepeda's dumping ground fears are valid.

Still, the thought of my boys being in classrooms where learning, rather than classroom management, is the focus is quite appealing.

Your thoughts?


Carl Weaver said...

From my experience teaching, I think the best you can hope for is to satisfy about 80% of the kids' needs in a standard classroom. Some will want to progress much faster than the group and that is frustrating to them and should be encouraged, but some will also not progress quickly enough to keep up. Some will have other behavioral issues that get in the way. All these things impact the quality of education all the students get.

Once you set up the class for kids who can't sit for extended time, which is probably not normal for kids to do anyway, or for the kids who are easily distracted, it does tend to become a dumping ground. Some schools are good about not letting that happen but others, like most of the ones I attended in my youth, simply cage those kids and try to keep them until the final bell rings, hoping nobody starts a fight. Very little instruction happens for those kids, in my experience.

I had my own class of Sweat Hog types when I taught GED classes. I was in charge of the dumping ground - such joy! Most of these young people just needed to be reached a different way than the others needed. It wasn't hard for me to do but it's the type of thing that is hard to do in a traditional classroom. It requires lots of individual attention and most traditional teachers want to focus their energies on the students who are already getting good grades, or else on that middle 80%.

This is a tough problem to tackle.

Drew Kime said...

This is such a huge issue it would take me a full blog post to express what I think about it. So I'll just focus on what you said about the national priority on raising the bottom.

I've heard a few people say, "'No child left behind' means the same thing as 'No child allowed to excel.'" As a former "gifted" student, I remember what it was like sitting in classes bored senseless.

I believe the main cause of "disruptive" behavior is the same for those at both ends of the bell curve: They're not being given work appropriate to their abilities.

If kids' abilities really do follow a bell curve, wouldn't it make sense to have at a minimum a large class for the "average" students, and one smaller class for students on either end?

But we don't do that. We want all the class sizes to be the same. That or one-on-one, with no middle ground.

Oh, and a student in the "gifted" class for math might need to be in the "beginner" class for English. That's the other thing we don't do, is recognize that a student who is below-average in one subject may be far above in another.

Okay, I need to stop now. Like I said, I could keep going like this for several pages.

Kidlutions(tm): Solutions for Kids said...

I guess I would wonder what sort of qualities the teacher had that would make this student "behave" for her, but not for others? How about if we cultivate those characteristics in other teachers? As a child and family therapist and former school social worker, I know it is all about "RELATIONSHIPS". This is an overly simplistic thought, but when teachers sincerely care about a student, the student can "smell" that and "feel" that. If that kid could behave in one classroom, he could behave in any number of ohters. The question is, what would motivate him to WANT to? For some kids, it's not as easy as others.

I'm against the school for disruptive students on multiple levels, but time constraints dictate that I not go into those here.

As a parent of a child whose accelerated needs have been overlooked while teachers have been forced to teach to the "middle", and as a person who in my own childhood got to clean erasers outside, or run errands after I completed my work prior to others, I can't help but join in the refrain...."There's got to be a better way!"

Nice post! Sure makes us think!

Kim Moldofsky said...

I agree with all of you that there is so much MORE to be said about the topic. I admit to taking the easy way out myself or it would have taken me hours to post. Perhaps I'll revisit this at a later date.

I do want to point out that what is commonly referred to as teaching to the middle in reality (from research I've read) is teaching to the lower 1/3 of the class. If you've got a student in the top 1-10% of the chances are they are not making the academic progress that they would had they been separated out...but that, too, is another post.

RL Julia said...

The problem is that short of having a tutor one on one or maybe one on five, no kid is really going to have an educational experience that is tailored to their needs and is engaging. Like everything else in this country, no one can really afford this ideal situation (except the very wealthy). I go back and forth as I think about my daughter who is busy checking out of school because it isn't really teaching her as quickly as she'd like to go and her best friend's little brother - a delightful child with an ever expanding list of deficits, missed milestones and quirks. Theoretically each child should get what they need from the school system - and by law the school system is mandated to give Emma's little brother just that but in the end of it all he's not getting the super-intensive services it will take to more completely ameliorate his learning issues and neither is my daughter -and my nephew who is more in the middle isn't necessarily understood or being stretched to the greatest of his abilities either. They each get some version of good enough. Which on any given day can translate into not quite enough.

To be an educated human being these days, school can only be the starting point for learning.

Kidlutions(tm): Solutions for Kids said...

Amen to that! School really is a starting point for learning. I do rather like the idea of "differenatiated instruction" and we have had some teachers do that well. It's not easy being a of the hardest jobs in the world next to parenting. It's not the teachers, it's the SYSTEM, the way it is set up...and a whole host of other ills. I don't think the internet has enough space to hold all of our thoughts on the matter!

RL Julia said...

My kids' school is big into differtiated instruction but I find that it only carries you so far and it totally depends on the teacher and their energy/comfort level. My off-hand observation of it is that it tends to polarize the class so that at the end of the year you end up with a group of kids who are totally above level and another groups who are working below level. That being said, it is totally better than nothing.

The system generally doesn't support teachers (or children for that matter)and I agree that teachers have a really hard job but just like in life, there are people who are more or less competant, caring, capable etc...

sean lancaster said...

the best you can hope for is that the teacher is good enough to teach to all kids; not just 80%. why shouldn't a teacher be able to provide enrichment and remediation activities into the same lesson? if you're a parent and the needs of your child aren't being met then you need to demand more and be aggressive about it. don't allow subpar teaching to continue to get rewarded by shifting the blame to this child or that one.