Two years ago almost to the day, I walked out of a school meeting fuming so much I swear steam was literally coming out of my ears.
I had just sat in a room with the school administration, my son’s grade 1 teacher and the support staff that had been working with him all year. We were having a debrief of how the year had gone and I learned some very disturbing information. When I arrived back home, I immediately began calling other schools in the area to see about switching him.
My son has never been an easy child for others. From a young age, he has been quite defiant to adults and has had trouble fitting in socially. We worked closely with the school. We had him assessed by two behavioural specialists on our own, who both agreed they could not diagnose him with anything but highly suggested he have the gifted testing in grade 4 (when our board does testing). We worked with our family doctor and in doing an elimination diet, found that he had a sensitivity to gluten. Removing this from his diet made huge changes in some aspects of his behaviour but wasn’t the answer on its own. However, at least we were getting somewhere. Or so I thought.
Halfway through his grade 1 year, things started to change. I was no longer getting ADHD pamphlets sent home in his backpack (seriously, they did this… more than once) and I was not getting much news – I figured no news was good news. I was a little concerned because he was crying every morning that he didn’t want to go to school but my husband assured me it was probably due to the fact that they were finally being harder on him. This made sense so I accepted it. We really thought things were getting better.
Until the day I showed up to the school without warning.
My son was on the wait list to get in to our dentist for pain he had in his mouth so when they called with an opening, I headed straight over to the school without calling. When I walked in the office, I was shocked to see my son sitting there, at a desk, with his name on it.
I signed him out and in the car I asked him about it. He then informed me that is his desk now. I didn’t quite understand and pressed for more information. He said that every day he spent the part of the day after lunch time at his “office desk”. He was an outcast, not only by the other children but by his own teacher. He told me he felt his teacher didn’t even like him. Those morning tears were because he truly hated going to school every day. My heart sank.
I learned at that meeting the following day that they had decided the best way to handle my son was to shun him to the office in the afternoon, when his behaviour would usually escalate. Not even giving him the chance to take part in the classroom activities, the principal was 100% behind this “solution”. It had been going on for months and I had no clue!
The meeting took an even darker turn when I was told that his behaviour had only gotten worse throughout the year. That every month they did an assessment and the score dropped each time. Then when I asked “what is the plan for next year?” they answered with “we will continue with what we are doing as we have nothing else to try”.
They had given up on my son.
Later that day, he was on the wait list at several schools in the area. A long wait later for good news, we were thrilled to be accepted at a school with the most patient and understanding principal and a teacher who truly saw the good in our son – even on his worst days.
His grade 2 year started off rocky as we expected but they really acted quickly to put a plan in place – keeping me in the loop every step of the way and asking my opinion and permission on everything. Things only got better throughout the year and now as he finishes his grade 3 year, things are still improving daily. His teacher recently commented that he is a completely different child than he was in September. We of course have the odd setback but when it happens, they communicate with us and we put a plan in place immediately to move forward. It really is a community effort and I couldn’t be happier. My son is happier.
The one thing that I do regret from what we went through is not bringing it up with the Ontario College of Teachers. Honestly, at the time I had never even heard of them or what they offer. The Ontario College of Teachers licenses, governs and regulates the Ontario teaching profession in the public interest. This means that not only can you read about their professional standards, you can lodge a complaint about a teacher. The College has the mandate to investigate complaints made against members related to professional misconduct, incapacity and incompetence.
In looking at the site, I found a great online tool where you can look up any teacher who is licensed to teach in Ontario through their Public Registry. This registry will tell you their qualiﬁcations, education and membership history with the College. It makes sense! We check in to every other person who is in our child’s life – why not their teacher?
I really do wish I had known about this when my son was younger and am so happy to see that the College is currently reaching out to the public to promote their services through a public awareness initiative. If you have a child in a school in Ontario, I encourage you to check it out. In addition, they release a quarterly newsletter called The Standard which is free to receive and contains information that is very relevant to parents of children in Ontario schools.
I’m thankful that my son’s story has become a positive one. I’m thankful that he now loves going to school every day and is making real friends. I am thankful that he has teachers that can truly see the good in him and make him feel loved. Now that my daughter is also in school, I feel confident that I will be able to work closely with the school should any problems arise with her as well.
I do believe Ontario has some of the best education in the country and am thrilled that we are finally getting to experience it.
Disclaimer: This post is part of a sponsored campaign for the OCT and I received compensation to share my story. All opinions as always are my own and I absolutely think this is a fantastic resource for parents!