Thursday, April 26, 2012

Field Trip Heartbreak

Earlier this week, I took my class on a highly-anticipated CBI (field trip) to our nearby garden/sculpture park for their annual butterfly exhibit. My kids love this every year - an entire room full of beautiful butterflies, flying around and even, sometimes, if we're very lucky and stay very still, landing on someone's arm or knee! The butterflies did not disappoint - even though we did not get any "landers" this year, it was a sunny day which the butterflies love, and they were so active and fun to watch!
my favorite butterfly, the Common Blue Morpho

Unfortunately, I decided to usher my kids out of the butterfly exhibit sooner than usual (thankfully it was a nice day and we could walk outside at the rest of the gardens)...not because of my students' behavior, as I might have expected (those of you who were at the Michigan Blogger Meetup might remember my field trip horror story about feeding the birds at the zoo!), but because of some of the other kids from other school groups who were there.

Most of my students have very visible disabilities, and we are used to stares and questions when we go out into the community. I don't mind other kids looking and asking questions about and to my students - they are usually just very genuinely curious and it's a good opportunity to do a little education about disabilities. My students are used to this, as well, and generally like it when other kids ask questions about their wheelchairs, braces, etc.

This time, though, we got the stares, sure. But - and this is a first in my 8 years of teaching - we didn't get questions...instead, we got rude, hurtful comments. One of my students has some scars and sores on his face due to some pretty severe self-injury behaviors. And instead of just ignoring this, or whatever, several other kids we encountered felt it was appropriate to very loudly make comments like, "Eeeewwwww!" and "Look at that!" and "That's so gross!!!" while pointing at my student (who, by the way, understands perfectly everything everyone else says, even though he is nonverbal himself).

What made it worse was the teachers/parent chaperones who were with these kids did not address the issue at all. It seemed to be a non-issue with them. And they had to have heard their little darlings being so rude and hurtful. It's not like it was just one kid, either; it was several. I was appalled! If one of my students had been speaking so rudely about another child, I'd have sat them down right then and there and let them know it was unacceptable. Maybe even had them apologize, if I didn't think that would make the situation worse for the other child. I just don't get it! The kids were old enough (probably first or second graders?) to know better, and at the very least, the adults in charge of them could have said something. I was furious! And offended for my student, whose feelings were (very understandably) hurt.

I kind of wish I would have said something myself, but I was just focused on getting my kids out of there (and what I would have said "in the moment" probably wouldn't have been a good example of gracious correcting, anyway). I do wish I would have noted what school the kids were from...

Regular ed teachers: do you think I was expecting too much in thinking the kids should have known better? In thinking the adults should have addressed the issue as it happened? How do you prepare your students, if at all, for "different" kids they may encounter while out and about?

Special ed teachers: Have you ever encountered anything like this? What, if anything, do you think I should have done or said? Even a few days later, my heart is still hurting over this...

12 comments:

  1. Oh no, our first graders were there earlier this week!! I really hope it wasn't them!! If I had heard them I would have definitely corrected them.I know some of our first graders who may not have known better because they really lack that kind of teaching from home but as their teacher It would have been addressed immediately! I am sorry your kids faced this, I am glad they enjoyed the butterflies!
    Amy

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    1. Thanks, Amy...Part of the reason I was so shocked is I really had believed any teacher would have immediately corrected their students!! And I understand some kids don't get that teaching at home, but I'd hope by first grade they've learned common courtesy at school, at least.

      Hope your firsties enjoyed the Gardens :)

      Kara

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  2. That is horrible. I would have done the same thing as you but probably gone back and talked with the teacher about this once my kids were out of there. That is awful and just shows what kind of people are raising and teaching our kids today! That just makes me sick; I have a brother with cerebral palsy so I know that I wouldn't have been able to just let it go! LOL,

    Hats off to you!

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    1. It was one of those things that I thought of what I'd have liked to say after it was too late...I hate that! I'm not sure I could have found the group later...there were about 20 buses of kids there that day! But yeah, it definitely makes me sick, too.

      Kara

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  3. GRR, Im sad/heart broken just reading this! I probably would have said something to the teacher and chaperone of their group. I would have had to move my kiddos as well, I probably would have been really "fiery", I get so sad when that stuff happens. Similar things have happened to us too and typically it's adults, but they don't say anything just stare and stare. Frustrating. Sorry this happened!!

    How was the rest of the field trip? I wish we could get down there!

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    1. Oh yes, we get the adults who stare, too. I don't mind it when kids stare, since they are usually just curious, but when the adults do...I usually stare right back! Hah.

      The rest of the field trip went well. It was a really nice day so we enjoyed walking in the gardens outside and playing in the children's garden. If you ever get your kids down here, let me know - we have a school pass to Meijer Gardens so I can get my kids in for free - it'd be cool to do a joint trip sometime ;)

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  4. That's terrible! It makes me so sad when teachers allow things like that to go on... or do it themselves when we're trying to raise kind and contentious citizens!

    Sounds like you handled it well!

    :)
    Christina
    Mrs. Bainbridge's Blog

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    1. Thanks, Christina...it makes me sad, too. Those adults are just doing their own students a disservice!

      Kara

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  5. Oh, I would have had a terrible time handling that one! I teach students with special needs, but their disabilities are often "hidden" so other students have a very difficult time understanding why my kids do most of the things they do. Hang in there. Keep teaching your guys how to handle those sticky situations and keep your head up.

    LifeInSpecialEducation

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    1. Thanks, Karla. I think "hidden" disabilities would sometimes be even harder to deal with, because of others' misunderstanding.

      Kara

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  6. I am so sorry that happened! If I had heard one of my students say something like that I think I would have had a fit right then! I definitely would have addressed the issue immediately. That is inexcusable.

    That said, we don't have anyone with visible disabilities at our school, even though we have 2 self-contained special ed classes. I am sure my kiddos would be very curious if they saw another child in a wheel chair etc. I would hope that they would remember their manners though. You have just giving me food for thought and I will be sure to cover this issue in a lesson when I teach community.

    Jennifer @ Herding Kats In Kindergarten

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer - I'm glad you're considering addressing this with your kiddos! Like I said, I don't mind the curiosity - I actually think it's pretty cool when kids come ask questions about my students. It's the rudeness/disrespect I just can't handle.

      You might want to check out the "Understanding Differences" book series - they'd be great for kinders who are learning about disabilities. I talked about them in this post. :)

      Kara

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