What Do You Do With A “Bad” Kid In Your Child’s Class?

“Girls, it’s time to do your math homework. Come sit down at the table.” I called out to my kids like I had done so many afternoons and started putting out the paperwork.
“No!” I heard from a far corner of the living room. “My friend says homework is stupid. Math is stupid.”
That got my attention. My 6-year-olds argued with me about a lot of things, but homework had always been non-negotiable. Plus, they usually loved math.
I crossed the dining room to see one twin with her arms crossed on the couch, and the other frozen in motion, halfway across the room, hesitant now to follow my instructions since her sister was taking a stand.
I told my sitting daughter that regardless of what her friend said, math was something we had to do, and if she wanted to play outside later, she’d better do it now. She did it. But later, she admitted something to me. The girl who said those things wasn’t actually her friend, but her class partner. And she spit at my daughter and threw things at her and kicked at her with her feet under the desk.
The next morning, I spoke with the teacher. She shifted from foot to foot and looked over my shoulder when she said, “I’m so sorry. She’s having a lot of trouble at home, and she also has special needs, including learning disabilities,” she told me. She sat her next to my daughter “so that she might have a role model to look up to, someone to help guide her a little bit.”
A million thoughts raced across my mind all at once. First, that poor girl. Was there anything we could do to help? Second, my poor girl. Is it fair to ask a 6-year-old to be responsible for another child, even in the slightest of capacities?
Ellen Mandinach, the director for the Regional Education Laboratory Appalachia and spokesperson for the American Psychological Association said this responsibility is falling to the children because the idea of mainstreaming those with special needs was implemented without necessary base changes in teacher training and classroom format.
“The unfortunate thing is most teachers are dealing with a classroom of 20 to 30 kids, and the disruptive kids are the ones who are gong to get the attention,” Mandinach said. “The teachers only have so much attention to give, and if they’re in a regular classroom, they’re not going to have the appropriate training to handle behavioral issues. There are supposed to be administrators and specialists to help the teachers try to figure out situations, but in reality those are lacking.”

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