Dr. Val FarmerDr.Val
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Teachers Respond To Classroom Challenges

April 3, 2000

I received the following three letters in response to the column I wrote about the challenges teacher face in their classrooms.

I could have written your article. I recently took early retirement after nearly 20 years of teaching elementary students in the public school. You are absolutely right about the changes teachers’ experience in the classroom.

Children spend too much time watching cartoons and playing video games. They are used to being entertained and have a difficult time focusing their attention on any task that requires effort or concentration. Very few children spend time reading for pleasure, because it takes sustained attention to the book. More and more children are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD and put on Ritalin, and I am certain that often times the children have simply not been taught at home to pay attention to the adults in their lives.

If my own children were still young, I would not put them in the public schools because of the behavior problems of the students that they would associate with.

I also found in my last few years of teaching that I could not ask my students to, "draw a picture of your family." A conversation such as the following would take place. "Should I draw Joe in the picture?" "Who is Joe?" "My mother’s boyfriend." "Well, does he live at your house?" "Sometimes." Many families are dysfunctional and children have no concept of what a family is or should be.

Well, I thank God daily that I don’t have to be there anymore. As someone else once said, "I’m free at last, free at last, free at last." - An Concerned Retired School Teacher

I work as a substitute Occupational Therapist for our school system. I have spent entire therapy sessions with children debriefing them over some movie that they have watched with their parents (usually R rated) which scared them out of their wits. I have heard the tales of mom’s boyfriend, and dad’s girlfriend and do wonder about parents’ ability to delay gratification, respect for one another, values, etc. I wholeheartedly resonate with your column. - A Dismayed Occupational Therapist

I am a veteran teacher of 25+ years. The first 15 years of my teaching was in Kindergarten. For many years I had two sections. My total head count was close to 60. I now teach a transition class between Kindergarten and 1st grade. I have 15 students in my class this year and work harder than I did when I had 60.

Out of my 15 students, four are "normal" kids with "normal" families. The other 11 have an array of problems:

a. Two are ADD - one of whom is on medication. The days he comes to school unmedicated, he is impossible to handle and scribbles his work.

b. One girl is the daughter of alcoholic parents. She has yet to turn in any homework or return her work/behavior report sent home every Friday. Her parents do not visit the school for programs, conferences, etc.

c. One girl resides with grandparents because mom lost custody of her and her sister.

d. One girl lives with two brothers, both of whom have been diagnosed for severe aggression disorder and both have been hospitalized. She is "in the middle" so she has severe influences older and younger!

e. One boy is the 4th in the family and each child has a different father, and the mom is still single.

f. One boy is in a family where his mom lives with a boyfriend and his son and the two kids don’t get along and the mom doesn’t like the boyfriend’s son.

g. One boy comes from a family that lets the kids run the house. I have seen this family out in public and nothing is done to curb misbehavior. The kids both sleep with the parents because they, "don’t know how to get them to stop."

h. One boy comes from a "regular" family but has had behavior problems since preschool. I had him as a Sunday School student when he was 4 years old and he would lash out at the other kids in the class for no reason. I now have him in my classroom and still see this behavior. He was kicked out of preschool because of his behavior! All the parents do for him is "pray for him."

It is so sad to see this happening in kids that are 6 and 7 years old! What’s to become of them?

Another thing that I see prevalent is the forwardness of parents! I’ve been "bawled out" by two parents this year - one even used rotten language. It seems like when teachers try to help and curb some of the bad behaviors, the parents stick up for the kids without even hearing the story! What’s going to happen when the kids get to Jr. High? Will the parents still bail them out? It is a scary thought. Nowadays teachers are seen as the "bad guys" instead of getting the respect they deserve for doing one of the hardest jobs on earth!

There are many things I enjoy about teaching - otherwise how could I still be in it after 25 years? But it is disheartening to see such a drastic plunge in morals and behavior. I really enjoyed your article because it made me feel like there is someone out there who understands! - A Frustrated Veteran Teacher