The Other Side of the Gate
I know how frustrating it can be when dealing with an ETL and the school system. I have seen the process from both sides of the schoolyard gates. I am the Reading Coach at Margate Elementary in Broward County, Fl. I am also an ADHD advocate, parent and teacher who deals with ETL kids on a minute-to-minute basis. All of this experience gives me a bird’s eye view of what’s happening with our kids.
My day is a variety of school activities, from working with small groups of struggling readers, conferencing with parents and helping out with discipline and positive reward systems. I know every ETL child in our school of 900, some very well.
We have a comprehensive program in place for these kids but still have many issues on a day to day basis. School begins at 8:00 and our first behavior code is usually at about 8:05. So we are off and running. We have 5 adults who take turns responding to behavior codes if a child is likely to hurt themselves or others. We retrieve children who have left classrooms without permission. We separate children who need to be separated, we talk to kids about their anger issues, we try to provide a safe yet structured environment for these kids for whom school is so challenging.
Despite ongoing training, we don’t always have the answers. What we have is time, concern, love and empathy for their struggles. I have called parents for advice, asking them, “What do you do?” My office always has 1 or 2 children in it, working, taking time out, talking with me, crying, and occasionally having a tantrum.
Sometimes they just need somewhere to go. Sometimes they have had a remarkable day and get to pick out of the principal’s treasure box, or call home to tell the good news. My office revolves around these kids daily.
There are times when my whole day is spent working with ETL kids, their teachers, and their parents. Paperwork I never finish is lugged home, because let’s face it, it can be done later. Kids are immediate priorities.
I meet every week with the RTI (Response) team. We meet with teachers and parents to discuss current interventions and how they are working. We put new interventions in place and follow up on their success. A coach is assigned to each case to help the teacher with what needs to be done. Some children are tested for learning disabilities if interventions prove to be insufficient.
We also work very hard to promote success. Teachers have been trained to be proactive so as to prevent future problems. Children are placed in classrooms where they will be deemed to be most successful. If their environment is not a good fit, another class is tried and many times this helps a lot.
Our Positive Behavior program is very effective. Selected children (K-5) are put on a contract each school day. Their goal is to earn 10 tickets per day. At 1:00 PM they come down to the Positive Behavior Room with their tickets and a work folder. If they have 10 tickets we celebrate! High five, mark it on their chart and they choose an activity. (reading, board games, legos, handheld video games and video games on the TV. Also air hockey.) If they have less than 10 tickets we talk about their day. They must complete some activities that the teacher has provided before they can play. So if they have 7-9 points it is pretty easy for them to earn points. Once they finish their work they get to play. Children with no points do not get to play that day. At times, we have had to move them to a different class away from the others. At the end of the 45 minutes, dismissal time, children who had 10 tickets get a special reward. They all get a snack for appropriate behavior in the group. There are celebrations for highest number of points in a week and then a monthly award.
We have seen a huge turn around in the kids involved in our program. Teachers report that the point system is working great for them. Of course, we are still struggling with transition times such as during special classes and lunch. But it’s a start!
We feel many of the same frustrations that parents do. What works one day does not work the next and so on. What we hold dear, is the parents who are trying so hard and who show us that we are all on the same page together in trying to provide the very best education for our kids.