I am heartbroken.
I'm feeling terribly for Jack.
I'm feeling frustrated with his teacher.
Jack is supposed to remember to carry his diabetes kit (a.k.a. his survival kit) with him everywhere he goes on his school campus and to bring it home at the end of the day. However, it is ultimately his teacher's responsibility to make sure that happens.
When I say "teacher," I mean all of his teachers: classroom, PE, library, music, art, etc. They are supposed to be aware of whether Jack remembers to take his kit when he leaves the classroom, the cafeteria, the library, etc. They are to serve as his back-up and remind him when he forgets.
So Monday, when I went to pick up the kids from school, I was walking across the school campus, and I ran into Jack. He was heading over to the nurse's office with a classmate. Their class was being treated to Oreo cookies in honor of a student's birthday, and Jack was going to get an insulin injection from the nurse. I noticed he didn't have his D kit with him. I stopped him in his tracks, sent him back to class, since it was five minutes before the end of the school day, and told him that I'd take care of the shot rather than the nurse.
I was concerned that he didn't have his D kit. What if he went low on his way to or from the nurse's office? What if a lockdown occured while he was in the nurse's office? There's a reason why his kit needs to accompany him at all times. That kit contains everything he needs to manage his diabetes and survive not just an average school day, but an emergency as well.
Later on that afternoon, I discovered that Jack hadn't taken his D kit home from school with him. Okay, mistakes happen. Jack had been focused on his Oreos and his insulin shot. Gregg and I didn't get riled up. We simply sent him into school on Tuesday with a bag of supplies to replenish his kit and reminded him to take his kit wherever he ventured at school.
Guess what happened on Tuesday? He failed to bring home his kit yet again.
When we talked about it with Jack this morning before school, Jack told us how yesterday, during school, he forgot to take his kit from the library back to his classroom, after his library session had ended.
Apparently, when the librarian saw the kit left in the library, she picked it up and kindly delivered it to Jack's classroom.
Jack said this got him into trouble. He said his teacher said in front of the whole class, "Jack, look at what you did! You made Ms. S [the librarian] have to walk all the way across campus to bring this to you."
When telling us this story and mimicking his teacher, Jack's tone of voice was ugly. It was obvious that his teacher had shamed him.
It was also obvious that we have a problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Jack's kit is not accompanying him at all times, as it should.
So this morning, Gregg walked Jack to school and went into his classroom to restock his kit and speak with his teacher.
The teacher acknowledged that the kit didn't go home on either Monday or Tuesday, but said nothing of the library incident, and she blamed Jack. Yes, you read that correctly. She blamed Jack! Jack and only Jack!
Next, she said that she and Gregg needed to address this with Jack and needed to present "a united front" to Jack. Without saying anything further or giving Gregg a chance to respond, she called Jack over to join the conversation. Mind you, this happened while other students were in the classroom, and this was NOT Gregg's idea of a united front. Gregg did NOT appreciate the way she was handling this. But before Gregg could interject, she told Jack that he needs to make sure that his kit goes home with him, and she asked Jack what he thought he should do to ensure that happens. Her tone was condescending. She reprimanded Jack and again placed all blame on him.
Gregg watched Jack's face. He saw his reaction and could tell that Jack felt as though he were getting in trouble again.
The teacher then abruptly ended the conversation by excusing herself to move onto her morning routine.
Gregg felt so badly for Jack. He didn't want Jack to think he was in trouble. He didn't want Jack starting his school day feeling upset over something that ultimately is not his responsibility. So he told Jack that he wasn't in trouble and that he shouldn't worry.
Gregg returned home with steam blowing from his ears. He was annoyed with the way the teacher shirked her responsibility and placed all fault and accountability on Jack.
Now, I'm steamed, too. That's just wrong!
It bugs me that his teacher has shown no remorse. I don't necessarily think she needed to apologize to us, but she could have simply said something like, "I'll work with him to try to prevent this from happening." Or, "It's apparent that we can't rely on Jack to remember. I'll do my best to make sure he has his kit with him at all times."
Jack came home from school today and told me what happened when Gregg was in the classroom this morning. "Mom, it was so embarrassing," he said. "Miss B told me that she was disappointed in me. Dad told me I wasn't in trouble, but Miss B sure made it seem like I was."
Jack is seven. He already faces more responsiblity than his peers. Yet, he needs to be more mindful. We do expect him to remember to carry his kit with him at all times. However, we also expect his teachers to help him remember. His teachers are his back-up. His teachers are in charge.
Moreover, we do not expect him to get in trouble or feel as though he's in trouble. He is not to blame when there is a lapse in his diabetes care. He is not to be used as his teacher's scapegoat.
It's not easy to be a kid with a grown-up disease. We realize it's not easy to be an adult caring for a kid with this disease either, but we expect compassion and understanding. If his teacher is unwilling to take on the demands of diabetes, then she never should have accepted him into her class in the first place.
So, we're in this catch 22.
It's only October. We have a long way to go until the end of the school year. We need to work with this teacher. We need her to treat Jack with kindness. We don't want to piss her off. We don't want Jack to be considered "a problem child." We don't want to be considered "pain-in-the-ass parents" either. But we can't allow the teacher to treat Jack like this, and we need her to accept and handle the responsibility that is hers.
Moreover, we need to know that Jack is safe at school.
We feel as if we're damned if we say something, and we're damned if we don't.
If we say something, we'll undboutedly annoy the teacher. No matter how softly we step around the issue or how tactful we are, we are bound to annoy her, because she thinks Jack was in the wrong and she was in the right. If we say something, we risk a rocky road ahead.
If we don't say something, then we will put Jack's safety at risk. Silence would also convey that we condone her behavior, and silence would impart the message that we agree the responsiblity is all Jack's and that it's okay for her to reprimand him for his forgetfulness.
We must say something. We can't let this go on. Jack depends on us to ensure his well-being, and when he's at school, we must rely on his teachers and the school administration to ensure his well-being for us. Not only that, but we don't want her scolding him, embarrassing him or making him feel as though he's done something wrong when he hasn't.
We are not willing to let something happen to him because a teacher refuses to do her job properly. We're not willing to let something happen to him, because we don't want to make waves.
We also want to protect his emotions. He shouldn't carry around the fear that he'll get into trouble if he forgets his D kit, forgets to test his blood sugar, or do something else related to his diabetes. He shouldn't shoulder any shame.
The question is though: how much do we say and how do we say it?
It's so upsetting and frustrating that we're dealing with this. It's heart-breaking that his teacher has humiliated Jack and made him feel as though he's done something terribly wrong.
Jack said to me this afternoon, "Mom, she just doesn't get diabetes." He's right. She doesn't understand.
This whole issue brings up the invisible aspects of this disease. Jack looks healthy. He acts like the other kids at school, if not more mature. Sure, he has to test his blood sugar level. Sure, he has lows and highs that need to be treated, but he usually handles those lows and highs with ease. He rolls with the punches and rarely complains. He just deals and generally seems okay. He keeps up with his school work. He's a smart cookie, who consistently earns high grades.
He makes it seem as if diabetes doesn't get in the way. He makes it seem as though he's "normal."
The reality is that he's a special needs kid. Diabetes is a serious condition. It can be deadly, if mishandled, and it affects every part of his life, including school. He has to handle the physical and emotional aspects of the disease, all the while keeping up with everything else that comes with school and childhood in general.
Though Jack appears to be living life to its fullest and appears as "normal" as any other kid at the school, he's not. He has a disease that no other student there has. He's the token diabetic in a school of more than 1000 students.
We work hard to make sure diabetes doesn't stop him from doing anything he wants or needs to do. Still, at times, diabetes gets in the way. It creates inconveniences and problems. It must be dealt with. It can't be ignored.
We can NOT take chances with Jack. We can NOT expect him, as a seven-year-old little boy, no matter how much more mature than his peers he appears to be, to be entirely responsible for his diabetes management.
Can you imagine if Gregg and I put his diabetes care on his shoulders? His health would suffer. The State's Child Protective Services would be after us in a heartbeat.
Expecting him to take on his diabetes alone is like leaving a young child at home alone. Kids can not be held responsible for themselves. That's why when we need to leave our children, we leave them under the supervision of a babysitter. Kids do stupid things. They don't think things through. They don't realize consequences. They don't see the big picture. They're forgetful. They don't have the wisdom or common sense of an adult. The bottom line is that they're not mini-adults.
Plus, I firmly believe that kids should be allowed to be kids. They're only young for such a short time, and during that time, they're learning and growing. They have enough challenges simply being kids. They have the rest of their lifetimes to face responsiblities and deal with grown-up issues. Diabetes is a grown-up issue.
In the school's weekly newsletter, the principal is often asking parents not to stop at school and deliver forgotten homework, lunches or instruments. He asserts that the students must learn from their mistakes, and that they will never learn, if their parents repeatedly bail them out.
I agree. When my kids forget their homework, they must suffer the consequences. And they must be treated like every other kid at the school.
However, a diabetes kit is a survival kit. Jack forgetting his diabetes kit can become a matter of life and death. Jack can't just suffer the consequences in order to learn a lesson. Gregg and I are unwilling to risk his well-being, because of a simple error on his part.
If Jack forgets his kit, and if on the way home from school, his blood sugar level crashes fast and hard, and if something happened to him, who would be responsible? The school! They'd be liable. Not us and not Jack.
We've informed the school of Jack's diabetes. We've placed a 504 plan on him. We've conducted diabetes training sessions. We've conveyed the seriousness of this disease. We have made it clear in no uncertain terms that Jack is ultimately not responsible for his own welfare.
If his teachers (or school administrators) choose to ignore the 504 plan and the information we present in training sessions, and if something happened to Jack as the result of his teacher's (or school administrator's)neglect, we could sue the pants off the school district. Does his teacher not realize that?
Jack is supposed to test his blood sugar level before he leaves school at the end of the school day. His teacher is supposed to look at his meter and determine whether he's good to go as is, whether he needs to boost his blood sugar if it's low, or whether he needs to see the nurse if it's high. She's supposed to be the one who makes the judgment call. At that point, if he's forgotten, why can't she remind him to place the kit in his back pack to ensure it goes home with him? Is that really such a big deal? Is that asking too much of her?
This is so troubling. Why is it that I have a tale to tell here? Why can't we depend on Jack's teacher? Why can't she own up to her mistakes? Why is she embarrassing Jack? Why is it that once again we find ourselves in this uncomfortable position of having to confront the school with a diabetes issue? Why is this so difficult?
This is a long post. I'm upset and I have rambled. Thanks for being there!!! Thanks for reading!!!!