I recently shared about a student in my classroom who displays serious aggression toward me. I had offered many suggestions for appropriate supports to make our setting work for this student. After months of feeling unheard, staffing shortages suddenly spurred a response. I think there was also pressure from some administrators at the county level who became aware of the situation inadvertently from another teacher at my school.
A whirlwind Functional Behavior Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plan process followed and, less than a month later, the IEP team has determined that he will be transitioned to a more restrictive setting immediately after Thanksgiving break.
The change in setting is right for him. He will be in a behavior support program with a lower ratio, access to a full-time behavior specialist, and a more structured daily schedule. I met the staff, spoke at length with the behavior specialist, and think this is the right outcome for this student.
I realize it’s right for him and for me and especially for my other students. I just can’t help feeling a little bit like I have failed him. For one thing, he will be at a center with no access to general education. Rationally, I know I did everything I could for him. I gave him the best behavior support I could in our setting. I think other teachers might have given up on this student a long time ago. No one at my school would have blamed me if I left him in our make-shift safe room for hours a day so I wouldn’t have to walk around like a bruised banana.
My colleagues, my friends and family, and his parents are all relieved at the outcome. A part of me is relieved, too. I know it has taken a toll on me and I know it has had an impact on my other students. I’m looking forward to being able to do my job the way it is meant to be done.
It will be nice to bring back the play kitchen and reinsert the structured play time that we’ve had to cut back on in order to support this student. My younger students really need that. I’m glad that my students won’t have to witness what they’ve been witnessing and that they can feel safe in their classroom the way all students should. My frustration with my assistant will dramatically decrease when her not following directions will no longer mean that I get injured. I’m looking forward to a return to the way my classroom used to be.
This outcome is best for everyone, but I will miss him. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t make it work. I have found that the kids who have had the most impact on me—the ones who take up residence closest to my heart—have been the most difficult ones. Their success is hard-fought and more satisfying as a result.