Chapter 2: of new faces, a third wheel, cycles, and faces with little import then but huge impacts later
A Game of Puppets Fact #3: That charter school in the County of Kent paid free rent for their elementary school until they had to give up the building. Their high school program ended at the end of that school year and the elementary school went to the high school building.
Game Of Puppets Fact #4: Most pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists and neurologists feel young students should be given recess and punitive action should never include taking that time away.
Right before another school year started, multiple events happened that changed Jon’s home world. Both parents were starting new jobs. In fact, Jon’s father was working two jobs, seven days a week. Jon also fractured his wrist while roller skating, and he still had a cast when school started. Jon’s behavior was also impacting long friendships with other families resulting in those friendships having to end. The last event was his grandmother’s declining health. This had an impact on Jon, and he would frequently become upset about this.
2nd grade began at that charter school in the County of Kent with major staff changes. This school did things a little bit different for their elementary/middle school. After first grade, students were grouped together for the remaining grades. 2nd and 3rd grade were in the classroom, as was 4th and 5th, and 6th and 7th. The explanation was given that students in the upper part of the grade would be able to help the students in the lower part. So students didn’t repeat the same information each year, different curriculums would be taught each year. The only exception to this was Math, and they would go to that by grade. For some reason, three out of the four 2nd-3rd grade classes had new teachers. Jon received a new teacher, but a familiar face. She used to serve as the school’s librarian. This was her first year of teaching. Miss Summertop was younger than Miss Cersi. Jon had never had any major problems with Miss Summertop the previous year when she was a librarian.
Jon’s problems in school didn’t disappear in 2nd grade. In fact, they grew worse. As well, the relationship between the school and the parents deteriorated even further. Jon had few friends, but the ones he had he cherished more than any in the world. One of the problems that can occur when a trio become friends is one can tend to get left out. This creates jealousy and anxiety very quickly. And when one of the children emerges as a leader of sorts, this can create a hostile situation between the other two. This situation happened very fast that year with Jon and two friends. One boy was the leader, and Jon and the other had to constantly vie for his attention. This became most apparent at recess, and conflict ensued many times.
There were about eighty children on the playground, and supervision was limited. Teachers generally ate their lunch while children were at recess, so paraprofessionals and other instructional aides would watch all these children. Usually, there were about four adults watching eighty children. The playground was spread out, with lots of areas to have to look out for. It was very easy for a conflict to begin, and by the time an adult got there, it would be too late to stop it from beginning. As Jon’s father witnessed many times while visiting, the child who made the most noise usually received the scolding or time away from others. As Jon was usually this child, many situations arose where he was being blamed for situations. This isn’t to say Jon wasn’t to blame, but the blame was not shared many times. This would result in events occurring and no matter what happened, Jon would get the brunt of the blame. As a result, Jon would not be allowed to go to recess.
These types of situations would result in Jon trying to get out that frustration on other children. At one point, Jon picked on another child, and he was sent to the office. His father arrived and was told Jon pushed the child’s face into the ground. Jon denied it. Jon’s father decided to bring Jon to a priest to see if confession would do well for the soul. This did nothing. For the next hour, Jon continued to deny doing anything to the other child. Finally, crying and upset, he confessed. When asked why he lied about it, Jon said he thought the school would kick him out if he said he did it. Jon’s father called the other students parents and Jon apologized to him.
Miss Summertop was not as communicative with Jon’s parents, but she had a softer approach when she did. The planner was still in place as a communication tool, but Miss Summertop would not use it. She would send out a weekly email showing what the children did that week and what was coming up. But even that was inconsistent at times. She had an assistant in the classroom, Miss Max. Miss Max was not as patient as Miss Summertop, and when Miss Summertop wasn’t in the classroom, Jon seemed to have more problems. The planner would have notes such as “Jon had a difficult time today. He was removed from the classroom multiple times only to continue disrupting the class.” Other notes would indicate “Jon was making vomiting noises”, “throwing erasers in class”, or “Jon didn’t turn his planner in today”. He had average grades at the end of the first trimester.
Things began to escalate when the second trimester began. Both the math teacher, Miss Volume and Miss Summertop would write complaints in the planner. Jon’s mother began to ask what methods of choice theory were being used. Answers were rarely given that fit the actual mold of choice theory. Emails would not be replied to. When they were, Jon’s mother would receive responses like “I am trying to work with him and you to the best of my ability right now. I will ask you to please keep in mind that this situation is new to me, as the classroom environment is different than my experience in the Library.” Jon’s mother would respond with “Please feel free to communicate with me ongoing regarding a plan to help Jon to focus and slow down, as you’ve stated is his ongoing challenge. Jon usually only needs to feel connected to a person to be able to mentally feel his importance and acceptance.”
Jon felt like he didn’t really have any friends at the school. He felt like he was always in trouble, and he would say he wanted to be good. A look of sadness became a more frequent look on Jon’s face. His parents were trying to understand. They didn’t feel the school was doing the right thing. But they didn’t know how to correct it. They weren’t teachers or administrators. They were parents, trying their best to make sure they raised Jon right. Something was missing, but they didn’t know what it was. They started to wonder if they should have Jon tested for ADHD, but they weren’t seeing all of these behaviors at home. It was usually in other settings, with different noises and distractions. Who could help?
Intervention would sometimes occur from the administration, and notes would be seen in the planner for the next couple days indicating “Jon had a great day” or “Jon was focused today”. But then the planner would be empty for days, sometimes weeks. And then it would be filled with more examples of bad behavior, an intervention, good days, and then nothing. This cycle went on for months. Jon would continue to spend a lot of time out of the classroom, whether it was in the hallway or the office. And again, like the previous year, he was given no classwork to work on. The end of the second trimester was coming, and events and discoveries would occur that changed the scene, and lines were drawn in the sand.
While all this was going on, Jon’s father stopped working two jobs. But he did want to continue working, just not as much. His primary job was from Saturday to Monday. He applied for a substitute teacher job at that charter school in the County of Kent, and he had an interview with the high school principal, Lady Hammerspeak. Jon’s father indicated that he always had a possible interest in teaching, and this could be a way to see if it would be a good fit. Miss Hammerspeak suggested he observe some classes to see if he would want to continue. Jon’s father did that. After a day of observing, Jon’s father found the high school to be completely different than the elementary school. The students were given a lot more freedom. Teachers weren’t yelling, and students seemed to have a closer community than that of the elementary school. No sooner did Jon’s father start substitute teaching there than a decision was made to close the high school. Students began to leave, and even a couple paraprofessionals. This created a void that Jon filled. He became a paraprofessional for Miss Jackalope’s class four days a week.
Miss Jackalope reminded Jon’s father of many teachers he had growing up. Strict, firm, and a very strong desire to teach. His job was to help students that had accommodations. One day, he met with Miss Storm, a special services teacher, and he helped her to update an Excel spreadsheet with the students accommodations. Most of the students, about 25-30 were listed as 504 and there were about 2-5 with something called in IEP. All of these students had classwork given to them with colored sheets of paper, and there would be brief notes about them such as “only has to do half the homework” or “needs laptop for written work” or “needs to test away from the classroom”. In Miss Jackalope’s class, Jon’s father would try to help these types of students when they were stuck or seemed to be drifting away from instruction. During tests, he would take these students to another classroom.
Every once in a while, Jon’s father would be called to substitute in other classrooms. It could be English, Gym, or even Science. He subbed for a paraprofessional one day in a science class. The science teacher, Miss Perspective, was very energetic with her teaching style. It was as if she was driven by a motor. Jon’s father came to the school one day and everyone was talking about some newspaper article about Miss Perspective. She had lost her psychology license over something and there was a bit of controversy. This didn’t have any impact on his father. The high school was closing, and chances were good that teacher would be gone. So he didn’t put much thought into it and forgot about it.
“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes” William Shakespeare
The Game Of Puppets Correction #1: Both Jon and his mother advised Jon’s father that Jon didn’t type in pencil when he found a picture of a penis on the school computer, it was pennies. (See Chapter 1)