Chapter 1: of hand movement, chewing sweaters, a disturbing conference, and a very odd thing found on a school computer
A Game Of Puppets Fact #1: Choice Theory, as created by William Glasser, states that we all choose how to behave at any time, and cannot control anyone’s behavior but our own. Choice Theory is the central philosophy of that charter school in the County Of Kent.
A Game Of Puppets Fact #2: In 2004, the United States federal government passed into law the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Part of the law included Child Find, which mandated that public schools must identify, locate and evaluate children suspected of having a disability. Any school that receives federal funding is considered a public school. Charter schools receive federal funding.
Jon began first grade at that charter school in the County Of Kent. He was very excited. He had a whole new school with tons of kids to become friends with, he could ride a bus, and he even knew several kids from The Tiny School. In fact, all of his friends that applied to his new school got to go there. Those are excellent odds for an admissions process based on a lottery! Jon’s parents were equally excited. This was what they had worked so hard for and paid all that money to The Tiny School for. Jon got to go to the best school in the area.
Jon’s teacher, Miss Cersi, had a class with about 20 students. She had an assistant, named Miss Deutsch who had a voice as sweet as candy. Miss Cersi had been teaching for many, many years, and surely someone with vast years of experience would be able to utilize all that knowledge in best helping children.
The first week of school went off great. Jon received glowing praise from Miss Cersi in the school notebook that was used to pass messages, concerns, and assignments between parents and teachers. Jon made new friends and the promise became reality. And then the reports started coming in: “Jon can’t keep his hands to himself. Jon interrupts. Jon can’t sit still. Jon doesn’t get along well with others.” In an email to Jon’s parents, Miss Cersi wrote that Jon “he is a fun kid and has a lot of energy but unfortunately he has been having trouble directing that energy into constructive behaviors and conducting himself in a safe manner. He seems to constantly be putting his hands on other people in the class (when waiting on line to walk to the gym, during and between activities, etc.) If Jon can’t follow my rules and expectations which simply resolve around maintaining a safe, fun, and constructive learning environment then I can’t allow him to participate.” The parents requested a conference with the teacher to go over these concerns. Miss Cersi told Jon’s parents that Jon was a great kid, but she was concerned about his behavior. She asked Jon’s parents if they could do something about it.
Jon’s physical education teacher, Mr. Namor, had many problems with him. He explained that Jon had great difficulty with his motor coordination and would not participate or listen. He conveyed this to Miss Cersi as well. The two of them were unable to come up with a plan but telling his parents would probably fix it.
By the time that charter school in the County Of Kent had their first trimester end, the parents were invited to a conference where the children could show the parents their grades and examples of their schoolwork. Of course, with children in 1st grade not being able to accurately lead this type of conference, the teacher did most of the work. Jon’s grades were average, but MIss Cersi had grave concerns about Jon’s behavior. She advised Jon’s parents that his behavior could be seen as bullying to other students. Jon became very nervous when Miss Cersi talked about this. He began biting his nails and chewing his sweater, and Miss Cersi kept putting Jon’s hands down when he would do this. She explained to Jon and his parents that he could be arrested for these types of behaviors when he is older. Jon became even more upset and began to cry. Jon’s mother was very upset and his father was in a state of shock. Jon was six years old and didn’t understand what he was doing. Miss Cersi explained that she was concerned and told Jon’s parents he may have ADHD and his parents should check on this immediately.
During Jon’s yearly physical, his mother asked his doctor if Jon exhibited signs of ADHD. He didn’t think Jon had this, but he also stated six years old is a very young age to have someone diagnosed as having ADHD. He added that if a child at that age was diagnosed with ADHD it would be dangerous to medicate them as so many of their brain functions are still in development.
Jon’s parents sensed that their child was different, but the behaviors Jon was having at school were vastly different from what the parents saw at home. They didn’t see this child in constant motion, swinging his arms constantly and rolling on the floor and touching other children. Jon’s parents saw a typical six year old with energy, sure, but none of the things Miss Cersi saw. Jon’s parents continually spoke to him about his behaviors in school. Jon would say that he didn’t know why he couldn’t pay attention. He stated Miss Cersi was mean and yelled at him all the time. He constantly said other students were teasing him and he would tell the teacher and she wouldn’t do anything about it.
Jon spent a lot of time in the school office. The receptionists knew him very well. Jon’s father saw him there on a few occasions when he would just stop in the school randomly for a surprise visit to his son. Jon’s father would see him sitting there, drawing or staring into space. No work was brought to the office for him to work on. Sometimes, he even got to bring his lunch there or stay there during recess. When Jon’s father would ask why he was there, it was usually because Jon couldn’t keep his hands to himself. While going to lunch, which was not even in the same building, Jon would frequently swing his hands, and accidentally hit other children with his lunchbox. And when Lady Ellen or Lady Kathryn weren’t there, Miss Snow, the school nurse, even got to attend to discipline problems with Jon. She began to tell Jon’s father as well that she thinks Jon had ADHD and that we need to do something.
Several more events occurred during Jon’s first school year. One time, Jon’s schoolroom was very cold, so Jon wore a sweater. For some reason, Jon kept chewing on his sleeves, so Miss Cersi told Jon he had to take off his sweater so he wouldn’t chew on it. Jon was cold the rest of the day, but as long as it didn’t distract Miss Cersi, things would be okay.
Jon’s father visited the school on many occasions. He wanted to see what was going on there. He spoke with Miss Cersi about how cold the room was. She explained to Jon’s father how the building was old and they were having problems with the heating. Jon advised Miss Cersi if Jon is cold he needs to be allowed to wear his sweater. Miss Cersi began crying about how much Jon’s father cares and how “you won’t believe how many parents don’t care what happens with their child in school”.
After several more conversations with Miss Cersi about her insistence that Jon be diagnosed with ADHD and medicated, Jon’s parents had a conversation with the new principal, Lady Kathryn. Lady Ellen became the new head of school for that charter school in the County Of Kent, which included both the elementary school in the area surrounded by academics and their high school a few blocks away. Lady Kathryn was a very patient woman. She listened and seemed to want to do something about our concerns. Jon’s parents insisted that Jon be transferred from Miss Cersi’s class into the other first grade class, which was taught by Miss Quarterloader. Lady Kathryn explained that this had never been done before. After Miss Cersi continued to force Jon’s parents to acclimate what she wanted, Lady Kathryn agree it would be best for all involved to be moved to Miss Quarterloader’s classroom.
Jon’s parents found Miss Quarterloader’s class to be a better fit for Jon. He continued to have some of the same problems, but the duration and severity of them seemed to diminish. One amusing situation happened one day when Jon was in his computer class. The computer teacher, Miss Softstick, instructed the students to find an image of a pencil on the computer. Somehow, Jon found a picture of a penis on the computer and decided to show a girl the picture. His friend was horrified and told Miss Softstick what Jon had done. Miss Softstick called Jon’s parents and explained this bad thing Jon had done. Jon’s parents were very concerned that there was a penis to be found on a computer for elementary school children. Jon’s school did not like hearing these types of things from Jon’s parents. They were very upset about this disturbing development. Regardless of the environment, Jon was responsible for his behavior at all time as per choice theory. If only Jon had remembered to spell the word pencil right…
Jon had exhibited a pattern of behaviors at that charter school in the County Of Kent. He would chew things, be it his sweater or his fingernails. He would roll around on the floor and couldn’t stay in his seat. He would swing his arms and constantly hit or touch other children, especially in a line. When confronted by teachers or administration, Jon would say he didn’t do anything. They would tell Jon’s parents that he lies all the time.
Jon ended his first year at that charter school in the County Of Kent. At the end of the year picnic, Jon’s father spoke with Miss Cersi and she said the most important thing is that Jon be successful at that charter school in the County of Kent. His parents were concerned about Jon’s future there, but they had heard so many bad things about the other schools in the area that did not have a charter. Catholic school was very expensive and a private school would have been out of the question. They knew Jon had a difficult year, but it ended better due to the classroom switch. They hoped and prayed he would receive a good teacher for his second year.
“Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear.” Mahatma Ghandi