Guest Post: Letter to a Teacher

I got this message on the ADHD Kids Rock Facebook page a few years ago and thought that it was worth sharing:

Got my son’s school report today. One of the comments made by his teacher was disgusting. So, we wrote to the principal. Happy to share this if it encourages other parents that it’s OK to advocate for your ADHD child:

Dear Mrs xxxxx,

We acknowledge receipt of our son, xxxxxx’ report for semester 2, 2015. We would like to begin by thanking your staff and in particular Mr xxxx for their hard work teaching Xxx and providing him with guidance as he settled in to his new school. We have enjoyed the constructive comments provided in Xxx’s report and will do our best as parents to guide him as he moves forward with his schooling, taking on board that many positive comments have been made about Xxx’s academic performance and we thank you for these professional reflections.

There was, however, an area of great concern for us, and while we do not want you to think that we are solely focused on this, we believe it to be concerning enough that it needs to be brought to your attention as a completely unacceptable attitude for a teacher to take towards a child with ADHD. We refer to the comment below included in Xxx’s school report for semester two, 2015:

… as he moves into year 4 he needs to approach school determined to do his best so that he is more focussed on learning and less focused on misbehaving…

In all honesty, we found this comment to be not only offensive, but discriminatory and reflective of someone who perhaps does not understand fully the challenges a child like Xxx faces every day in his school life. Of even more concern is the fact that your signature appears almost directly underneath this comment, presumptively suggesting that you yourself agreed/thought that such a comment was appropriate and acceptable.

Though we might be Xxx’s parents and therefore in anyone’s eyes seen as perhaps either biased or lacking insight into our son’s behaviour, let us assure you we certainly are not. We have faced the challenge of parenting this amazing young man and understand that his behaviour can be very challenging at times. Having two other children, we also know the impact it can have on others and the disruption it can cause. We can only imagine that this may be amplified in a class setting so we are not at all suggesting that having Xxx as a class member is not challenging.

However, if you knew Xxx, you would know that he does set out each and every day determined to do his best and focus on his learning. Like all of our children, he has been taught to approach all aspects of his life this way. Therefore, he does not like finding it difficult to control his behaviour. He does not like that he can not produce what is required of him in order to prove to you that he is a bright boy. He does not like not feeling accepted for who he is. You have not seen him come home angry with himself almost every day as he feels he has failed to conform to what has expected of him. You have not had to comfort him when he has cried about not being able to finish a piece of work in class, or for having an altercation with another child that could have been avoided had his behaviour been different. You have not had to sit with him after a bad dream at night about a fight with a peer in the playground.

Xxx actually does want to behave appropriately, but the nature of his ADHD makes it difficult. So you can suggest that Xxx faces challenges in his schooling, but do not ever suggest that he is not determined to do his best and is rather focused on misbehaving. This comment in itself is discriminatory. For example, if Xxx had a physical disability that made him slower in his work, would it be acceptable to suggest that he approach his school work determined to be quicker and less focused on working slowly? Absolutely not! Exactly how hard do you think it is being a child who is intelligent (proven by his last psychometric testing conducted at the Xxxxxx Development clinic in November this year) but not being able to concentrate and produce the work to prove this. How hard do you think it is to want to be accepted and to just make friends when you have impulsive behaviours that make this incredibly difficult. This is not an active choice he makes, but a disability he will have to learn to live with and manage for the rest of his life. We challenge you to think about what it would be like to be a child and bear this every day.

Unfortunately, Xxx has read this comment (as any child would read their own school report) and was quite devastated. He now feels more misunderstood than ever, and has taken quite a blow to his self esteem.

As Xxx’s parents, we would like the following:
1. An acknowledgement from yourself as school principal that this comment was an inappropriate way of expressing Xxx’s situation
2. A new school report printed with this derogatory and discriminatory comment removed
3. An apology from Mr xxxxx for including such a comment on Xxx’s report, and from yourself as a co-signatory to the report for allowing the inclusion of this comment

At this time we would like to reiterate that we are generally very happy with Xxx as a school, and the care that it’s staff has shown towards our children. Therefore we do not take the decision to bring this matter to your attention lightly. However, we feel that the attitude taken towards Xxx in this comment needs to be addressed before the close of the school year so xxx can make a positive start to 2016.

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