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  1. #1
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    Problems with an ADD student

    I tutor on the side. One of my students (I have three) suffers from ADD and mild brain damage. He's 12. I've been tutoring him for close to two years now, and we've seen an improvment in his spelling and math. The problem is this. He lives with his mother, who is perpetually busy. She runs a local store. Hus father lives downstairs from him and his mother- he does occasional construction, and usually picks the kid up from school and drops him off at the library on tutoring days. Mom is the one who pays me.

    From my teaching experience and reading about ADD and other learning disabilities, I've seen that children with these problems need consistency and discipline. This kid gets very little of it. He's not expected to earn his allowance. He's not encouraged to buy presents for family members, even though he has money saved, and during the holiday, no one took him holiday shopping to teach him how to think about other people. The plibrarians where we study think he's very rude- he rarely says 'excuse me', 'please' or 'thank you' unless I prompt him. His parents haven't taught him how to cook, clean or sew- and his mother is a clothing maker and designer! His father does give him some disicpline, but the two parents disagree onthe proper way to raise him, and talk about that in front of him. Both parents will talk to me separately in front of the boy about how the other one isn't doing a great job.

    The kid is actually pretty smart, but he's grown lazy- he looks for the simplest way to finish assignments, doesn't want to check for errors, and argues with me at almost every turn over how to get his work done- until I force him to do it my way by standing my ground. Then he usually realizes I'm right- until the next go-round. The parents will 'speak' to him about his behavior, but privileges don't get withdrawn, he isn't sent to bed at an early time, and they don't take him anywhere or do anything fun with him. They don't even teach him crafting. He goes to his aunt's every weekend, and he's been acting up there, too.

    Is there anything I can do, short of kidnapping him and becoming his mother?

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  3. #2
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    Re: Problems with an ADD student

    Quote Originally Posted by anthrogirl
    Is there anything I can do, short of kidnapping him and becoming his mother?
    No, there's not really anything you can do, precisely for the reasons you already recognise - you aren't his parent.

    I teach Kindergarten and I often feel the way you are feeling now: incredibly frustrated, because the way the children I teach are parented has a big impact on their learning and many parents don't seem to understand or give themselves enough credit for that.

    As a teacher I have a bit of leeway and can use school rules to back me up to create a situation I think is best for the children, such as insisting a child be brought to school on time etc. Because this is often most families first experience with school, I can use that fact to phrase what I want positively, too.

    As this boy's tutor, you might find that the most positive thing you can do is insist on certain standards when he is with you eg. saying please and thankyou. Don't make it a big deal: model the behaviour, praise him when he does the right thing and expect to be frustrated sometimes when he forgets because the home is the most powerful influence on a child and parents are the most powerful role models. This little boy will most often do what he learns at home.

    Sometimes though, all you will be able to do is learn from this situation and let it strengthen your own ideas about parenting and what is important (and inflict those upon your own children, which is what I'm about to do :-) ).

    One of the best things I've learned through experiences similar to yours is touched on by your comment about the librarians who think this boy is rude and judge him because of his lack of manners. I think we need to keep remembering to be compassionate, most especially children, and realise that people's behaviour is guided by what they have learned. This boy isn't being rude to them, he is doing what he has been taught! Yet he probably can feel the reaction of the librarians and it probably affects how he feels about himself. It's the best thing I've learnt but the most frustrating.

    I'm sorry that my message is a bit bleak. I try to look at the positive aspect, which I think is the powerful nature of parenting. Depending on how close you are to his parents, you could start with them, but this could be a minefield. You would have to be very positive in your suggestions. Maybe you could have a chat with the boy about his mum's sewing. If he expresses an interest you could relay that to his mum and suggest he'd love to learn.

    But to be honest, as I read back over your post it sounds like there are other issues in the family which are bigger than you might be able to deal with. It's hard to feel a lack of control over the situation when you think you know how to help, isn't it? I'll be thinking of you. Best of luck.

  4. #3
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    It doesn't sound like there's anything unfixable with the boy. It's the parents that are the big issue here. You may want to put your foot down with the grown-ups. Tell them what you've written here and say you are through being this boys' tutor unless THEY start having structure and being consistent with their discipline. And he needs to be accountable at home for his actions, not just with his tutor. And YOU need to see progress in this area.

  5. #4
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    I'm with pudding on this one. I'm afraid taking such a confrontative approach would have the reverse effect. If they took offense and withdrew him from the tutoring situation, then the opportunities pudding mentioned would all be gone.

    You made some very good points, pudding. This boy has a chance to learn from anthrogirl, despite what he gets from his parents. That is an opportunity in itself.

    And you are right about how adults can really send the wrong message to kids. I will never forget being on the bus once and seeing an adult shove past a school kid (and sort of tut tut), as if he wasn't supposed to be there or something. I thought, "What kind of message is that sending to our youth? That it's OK to be rude to each other? That he isn't important?" They need to learn as much about good behaviour from us as possible.

    And although teachers are limited in the effect they can have - because they aren't the parents - don't ever discount the positive effect one person can have on another. Just think of all the stories (and movies!) about the one who made a difference!

  6. #5
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    Thanks for all the replies. I've been teaching in one form or another for years now- I taught high school for about 6 years, and I now teach college. I've taught a bit of grad school too, as well as tutoring.

    There are several things I've learned- that parents are important role models. I'm not planning on having children at all (in fact, I'm strongly in favor of zero population growth), but I have pearned a lot about parenting. Most children are badly parented, because their parents don't know any better. This kid has caring prents, but they don't perceive themselves as doing wrong. I try to be incredibly patient with him, although there are times I lose my temper and let him know that he is being incredibly rude to me and to others. Over time this has had some effect.

    While I have thought of just dropping him, I've also reminded myself of where this child would be without me. I'm reminded of what CS Lewis said about Christianity- that if wethink many people who call themselves Christians are bad, we should remind ourselves of what they would be like if they weren't Christians at all. I shudder to think of what this boy would be like without tutoring. Who else would be encouraging him to read Origin of Species at the age of twelve? Who would be praising him for almost being done with the Lemony Snicket books, books his old 5th grade teacher told him he wasn't capable of reading? Who else would have taught him how to make a grilled cheese sandwich and brownies? I did those things. He knows that I get angry at him because he's smarter than he sometimes acts, and he knows I'm disappointed because society in the US often tells black males that they are only good for prison or the military, and I don't want himto conform to those expectations. Right now, I'm the only thing standing between him and society. That's why the librarians, who are mostly women of color, feel angry at him too.

  7. #6
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    It sounds like they are letting him grow up himself. I think some people forget that kids need some kind of guidance. My husband's aunt is the same way, she lets her youngest three go to bed when they feel like it, last time I saw them they were 3 and still had bottles and diapers. She was letting them potty train themselves. Like they inherently know what a toilet is. WTF?

    It is hard not to just adopt kids like this. You seem to be getting through to him in some ways, so at least he has that. I wasn't taught manners from my parents - as far as sending thank you cards, or bringing a hostess gift to a dinner party. Not to the point that I'm rude. But I picked it up from other sources. Hopefully he will pick up the things his parents aren't teaching him from other places, like you.

    You probably can't do much with the parents, because they could get defensive and just get mad at you. But you could suggest that ADD kids need a LOT of consistency, that it helps them. Put it in a way that it sounds like you're helping them fix how he acts out at home rather than telling them what they're doing wrong.

    Also, you could help him out a little with the earning money part. Give him little jobs to do, if you can, so he can earn money. Even if he's just given money at home, maybe it'll help prepare him that money in the real world isn't just given to you. Unfortunately for the parents, he will likely still expect money from them for no work, but that's their problem right? ;)

  8. #7
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    I read the post and the replies, and even though I'm completely inexperienced in the field of education, I'm wondering if it would not be possible to incorporate a more non-academic section into your tutoring, which you seem to be doing to already, even more so. Perhaps you can talk to his parents about taking him Christmas shopping. Or you could have him do challenging puzzles that may not be related to his studies but will teach him that there is not always a shortcut. I don't know, just my two cents.

  9. #8
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    im very cynical on the matter. when i taught students with special needs (any thing... ADD, emotional disturbance, autism spectrum, etc) i saw some of them for up to two hours EVERY DAY, and i couldnt undo all the fucked up shit that happened to them at home. they are teenagers... whats learned is learned. i've since come to understand that not only is there nothing i can do to change their what their parents have taught them, but that is not even my business in the first place.

    the last discussion you want to find yourself in is the one where an angry mother snaps, "are YOU telling ME how to raise MY child?" ... this particular brand of defensiveness often stems from parents who KNOW they are being poor guides and role models.

    clink clink.
    -- eli, who is SO glad she is not teaching in that field any longer.

  10. #9
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    Again, thanks muchly. Elixirbeth, I hear you- this is really about the internal fights his parents are having with each other, with him inthe middle (and in part, pitting them against each other). His mother knows she's doing a shit job.
    Albert, I hear you, too. We've done things like go to museums, which he really likes. I've been thinking about doing the puzzle thing- I think the more hands-on activitiies he has, the better.

    Thank you all for the help!

    Also, an update- I saw the kidlet today. His grades are lousy right now, and we had a long talk. I made it clear to him that we have to work together to get his grades up. He agreed, and we'll see how it goes. The real problem is that he needs consistency in his life and he's not getting any- he really needs homework help every night.

  11. #10
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    Re: Problems with an ADD student

    Quote Originally Posted by anthrogirl
    <snipped>..... They don't even teach him crafting. He goes to his aunt's every weekend, and he's been acting up there, too.

    Is there anything I can do, short of kidnapping him and becoming his mother?
    Now there's something that you can do; my kid is a classic active boy (not ADD or ADHD, just an active kid that sometimes has the attention span of a distracted hamster) and has to some degree the same issues in both learning and attitude. Lecturing this kid again and again about homework, responsibility, manners, attitude, etc are NOT going to change anything-- seriously, it adds to the anxiety and makes the problems (and outward manifestations of those problems) worse.

    Give the kidlet a break and do some crafty stuff with him towards the end of each tutoring session, don't lecture but do point out to him *other peoples' actions*. Instead of telling my son "Your manners are awful!" I compliment him when he overrides the attitude and shortcutting stuff and I also point out to him "Wow, isn't that nice? That kid opened the door for us. When people are so nice I feel really good being around them."

    You need to drop the parents are crap parents line, even if its true its not helpful. You can't control what they do or don't do with their own kid, you can only control you and your actions. That child is already between his parents, he doesn't need to be between you and them as well. Every hour that this kid is with you for tutoring he's on a little vacation of sorts, feel good about giving him that attention and structure for that hour.


 
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