English: A child not paying attention in class.


Today is my daughter’s last day as a special education teacher (SPED). She has two M.A. degrees one in SPED, the other in English (linguistics). She plans to use the second degree in a new job. Meanwhile she will begin a program of study this summer in Latin. She hopes eventually to teach Latin in a high school.

Connie asked that I not write about her experiences as a SPED teacher. They were quite painful, I think because of overbearing parents and paperwork. She is sad at leaving the field, but working 12 hours a day 6-7 days per week and dealing with threatening parents on top of it were too stressful. We don’t want her dropping dead (she suffers from HBP). 

From the stories Connie has shared, I think some parents are very unrealistic about the abilities and capabilities of their children. This parental attitude makes it difficult for the child, difficult for the teacher, difficult for everyone. When kids don’t live up to parental expectations (to say nothing of the expectations of bureacrats), everyone suffers unnecessarily.  Some folks actually think the US is Lake Woebegone where ALL the kids are above average.

I am her mother, so I am prejudiced, but I think Connie is a wonderful teacher. Others have the same opinion (her principal gave her a fine recommendation for her new job). What a shame she will not be a SPED teacher in the years to come, but good luck in your new endeavors Connie.


David and I have been fuming over the new Diagnostic Statistic Manual (DSM VI). Some professional groups like the APA say they will ignore it. Many childhood behaviors classified as “normal” in recent years are now listed as “mental illness.”

Years ago when I was working on a PhD in Social Psychology (Sociology) at the University of Maryland, I took several courses with Morris Rosenberg (1922-1992), a famous social psychologist who also worked for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Among the courses were ‘Mental Health’ and ‘Childhood Development.’  

Looking at Mental Health from a Sociological perspective convinced me that much of what we determine as mental health is a social construct.  In other words, Society determines what is healthy and what is not. There are no fixed categories here.

More and more, I have begun to think that biology, not sociology is at the root of mental health. True, some people have horrendous experiences, but not everyone who has a horrendous experience becomes a serial killer. Abused children do not automatically grow up to become abusers.

The largest mental health (or lack thereof) growth category in Children is Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Nobody can give me a solid definition of what these conditons are. Mostly, boys are diagnosed with ADD and then overprescribed mood-altering drugs to “calm” them. 

I have witnessed both types of conditions in children I worked with when I taught school (they had been diagnosed), but I do not think that many of the kids diagnosed with these conditions today are truly Autistic or suffer from ADD…whatever that is. 

Okay, that’s my 2 cents, now you can yell at me.  



9 thoughts on “Today

  1. Teaching at any school, at any level, is not easy. Add in poverty, uneducated parents, missing parents, medical & emotional problems, and it all becomes more than some of us can bear. I went into teaching believing I could change things and make a difference. After 21 years, when I saw the same problems coming in and out of my classroom, I gave up. Society sure wasn’t making it any easier and I wasn’t making a difference. I wish your daughter the best in her new endeavors. I know she has worked really hard.


  2. I’m so sorry that Connie got burned out by her job. Special Ed is such a tough, exhausting job. I’m sorry the schools are losing your wonderful, hard working daughter.
    My son told me once that he thought he was ADD. He felt he kept losing interest in school and was not happy with his teachers. I told him it was his responsibility to learn. Well… after a stint in the Peace Corps, becoming a fire fighter and now doing research for his Masters in Dhaka from Johns Hopkins, I’m thinking the ADD he thought he had was just that urge to do something else with his life and when you get down to it… maturity.


  3. I know almost nothing about special ed., but it doesn’t surprise me that a lot of special ed. teachers burn out. It’s a really tough job, and maybe it wasn’t ever meant as a whole career, but more as a tour of duty. I DO know a couple of special ed parents. That’s a really tough job as well . . . and you can never change your career, either. Best of luck to your daughter; she deserves a medal.


  4. Overbearing parents seem to be the norm. Gone are the days parents supported the teacher and made sure there were consequences at home as well as at school for offspring who misbehaved in class or shirked work.

    Bravo to Connie for taking steps toward a less stressful situation.


  5. Oh, I always love yelling at you. I have a, what was called mildly autistic, granddaughter who communicated by mewing. I have an adopted grandson diagnosed with ADD. I don’t know what that is either, but he was able to tell me that he could now focus on things much better after he started meds.

    Yes, there’s a special ed teacher in my morning class. Her last day was last week. Same reasons. It’s a terrible tragedy that this is happening. We need these teachers.

    Being one of those special folks during a period of “It was all my fault,” I sure can see both sides.


  6. I will yell with you. What Connie experienced is a shameful commentary on our society. Responsible and cooperative parents surely are one of the keys to successful educational experiences. And redefinitions of normal, or at least common, behavior are no help.


  7. Hi Dianne. I somehow got behind on your blogs but have now caught up. You have become quite prolific in the past few days!

    As for this subject, my views on child education are somewhat jaded and tainted after seeing what Patty went through in her years of teaching. The parents, although there were some that were genuinely involved and cooperative, were mostly either overbearing or totally unconcerned (if not physically absent altogether). And the “rules of engagement” were capricious at best and stifling at worst. As for the mental aspect, I tend to agree about the over prescribing, but I have seen first hand the chaos created in the classroom by one uninhibited child.

    It’s a troubling problem and just one of the many reasons that teachers are grossly underpaid. If Obama would really like to “spread the wealth” (and he surely does) he could start by taking it from the multi-millionaire ballplayers and his Hollywood elite buddies and give it to the teachers.


    • I agree with everything you write. A disruptive child can make a classroom hell. I just think that sometimes, some kids are diagnosed with ADD or Autism and are not mentally ill. I wonder how much food additives affect children too.

      I agree, lets take more from the overpaid and give it to teachers. Goodness, I sound like a Socialist.


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