Obviously, names have been change to protect privacy... other than that, this email is copied and pasted for your reading pleasure...
Hi Ms. Cruella Deville,
As promised during our phone call today, I'm emailing you about our triage conference held last Friday with Mrs. D. As I mentioned on the phone, I walked away confused... and deflated.
During our phone conversations since September regarding Dayton's unacceptable behavior, you had made assurances that Dayton has made great progress this year and that he is working harder then ever. I agreed since he has only had one in school suspension this far, a huge improvement from last year. It appears that Mrs. D does not share our enthusiasm of Dayton's progress.
Reviewing Dayton's portfolio, there was little added to the portfolio since the last triage conference last November. When I asked Mrs. D about this, she informed me that this is due to Dayton's non-compliance, and that instead of working on his assignments as asked, Dayton chooses to play games, draw guns and play with paper figures. She also pointed out that Dayton has continued to bully little Johnny, something I thought had been dealt with... It appears Dayton bullies Johnny every day, and she wanted me to discuss this with Dayton. I started to tell her that I have discussed the bullying issue with Dayton a few months ago when you had brought it to my attention, and that there are a few more boys involved in this: Jeff, Pete and Odie. Mrs. D cut me off by telling me we are not going there, and to please discuss Dayton's behavior at home with him. Without clear examples of Dayton's behavior, it makes it difficult for me to discuss and teach Dayton differently, especially since I'm suppose to deal with three months worth of bad behavior. The only example she could give me is that Dayton "flicks" Johnny in the head once a day.
The reason I had brought up the other boys was not to make excuses for Dayton's behavior. Bullying is wrong, and Dayton knows the difference between right and wrong. However, Dayton's emotional development is significantly delayed in comparison to the rest of the grade 3 class. While Dayton may chronologically be 9 years old, emotionally we are dealing with a 5 year old little boy. At this point in time, Dayton practically worships Jeff, Pete and Odie, and when Jeff tells Dayton to flick Johnny in the head, even knowing he will be sent to the principals office and that I will be upset and he will most likely be grounded, he will choose his friends as he wants to be part of their group. Frankly, I don't think Dayton is able to stop and think of cause and affect, as when he flushed Johnny's toy down the toilet, he told me to he did it to see what Johnny's reaction would be. When he saw Johnny cry, he felt sorry for Johnny and gave him one of his toys. To me this is a huge improvement as last year he showed no theory of mind (empathy, or the ability to see what the other person thinks or feels). The reason I want to know who is involved and what happened is again, not to make excuses for Dayton's behavior, but to use it to teach him to "change his mind."
When I asked Mrs. D why she hadn't contacted me by email about Dayton's behavior, she told me that if she informed me of every behavioral issue Dayton displays in the classroom, she would "write a Novella." It would leave her little time to do anything else during the course of the day other than type my email. Hearing this I made the comment that it seems that Dayton's behavior seems to be preventing him from being "included," when she interrupted me and stated this is not the case, and that he is always included unless he chooses otherwise, completely missing my point. Had she allowed me to finish my sentence, she would see that my fear is that Dayton perhaps shouldn't be mainstreamed if his behavior is causing such a disturbance to her class and the rest of the students. I also feel uncomfortable that Dayton is bullying a child on a daily basis. My concern is not just for Dayton, but for the rest of the children in the classroom, especially their safety as well as his own.
I walked away from the meeting feeling as though no matter what I say, there will always be that unspoken insinuation that at the core of of Dayton's behavior problem is my parenting. It has become exhausting to prove to your staff that I am a loving and caring parent, who is trying to instill values and morals in my child.
The drive home was very, very silent. Dayton knew he was in trouble.
As soon as we got home, I got him to go to his room so that I could clear my head. I then asked him to join me at the kitchen table where we used Lisa Hurl's advice and "drew" Dayton's story. I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen. The only questions I ask is who, what, where, when and how. I am not allowed to ask why, and even if I did, Dayton would answer with an "I don't know." As he answers my questions, I draw his answers, always asking "did I get this right?" I drew the classroom, the door to the class, Mrs. D's desk, Dayton's desk (he tells me he sits alone with Mr. J?), Pete and Odie's desk (he forgot where Jeff sits) and Johnny's desk. Dayton showed me he walks around Mr. J and crosses the classroom to get to Johnny, flicks him in the head and crosses the classroom again to go outside and wait for the bus. Because the boys "hate" Johnny, Dayton's perception is that the whole class "hates" Johnny. Dayton also tells me that everyone laughs when he does this, instilling to him that he's doing the right thing as he wants to be funny. Being funny is very important to Dayton. He agrees that Mr. J and Mrs. D do not laugh, but the children do. Again, I do not wish to take the blame off Dayton at all, or excuse his behavior, I am simply giving you what's going on in his head: Jeff tells Dayton once a day to hurt Johnny, and Dayton listens to Jeff because Jeff is his "best friend." When I got your note today, again his answer was "Jeff told me to," and "Jeff's my best friend." I lost my patience and told him to get Jeff to prove he's Dayton's best friend by coming to talk to you and tell you how he gets Dayton to do things for him. I doubt Dayton will ask him to, like I said, I just lost my patience. I am human. By the way... not only was yesterday's note to me crumpled up, but Dayton also tried to forge my signature with a red pen. He is grounded for 3 days... no TV and no video games.
As I've mentioned to you on the phone, I've bought you a book called Making sense of Children's Thinking and Behavior. It's a short read, only 180 pages long, and it completely identifies with Dayton and how he thinks. It has graphs to use and is super simple. The author gives many examples of how to use the tools she has provided in her book. I will place it in Dayton's back pack for you, and hope you look through it. Feel free to lend it to Mrs. D and other staff involved in Dayton's learning and return it when you're done. It took me one day to read it.
My plan for Dayton as a result of this meeting:
I have bought Dayton 3 joke books. As discussed with you, I will put one of these books in his back pack for him to practice with Mr. J during the times that Dayton is not required to work. I would like this book returned every night as we will continue reading it until we finish. I read the jokes to Dayton, and then highlight the jokes he likes for him to read and memorize. I've asked Dayton to practice these jokes on Mr. J, and once he's got them mastered, he can try telling his "friends" the joke. I'm hoping this will distract him from trying to be funny by bullying Johnny. Mr. J is more then welcome to continue reading this book with Dayton and highlight the jokes Dayton "gets" and likes, or practice the highlighted ones.
For his drawing, I bought Dayton a book called "The Boys Doodle Book." I will work on this book with Dayton during the spring break, and put it in his back pack the first day back at school. Perhaps this will distract Dayton from drawing guns. Worth a shot. I wish I had known about the gun obsession returning, as I would have dealt with it immediately. He did receive a Nerf gun with foam bullets for his birthday from a well intended friend, it is now removed from his toy box. He is also not allowed to play video games for 3 days, and then he will return to playing Mario Brothers only.
I am sorry about the long winded email, but communication is very important and I want you to know I'm doing everything I possibly can to work with you.
I'm sure none of you will be surprised that I have received NO RESPONSE to this email. I did however, get a note in Dayton's agenda written in red ink, thanking me for the book and she will be reading it during her "breaks." Awesome!
As for the book that I bought for the school's staff, it deserves a post of its very own, and I will soon do that for you all. It's an amazing book!!!
Consider yourselves hugged!