Year: 1996-1997
Month: October
Leader: Group E

Situation/Case Study:
STUDENT/TEACHER/FAMILY ISSUE

Description:
I have a first grade girl who sleeps in class. I brought it up with dad at conference and he says she and her sister stayed up until 3 am on school night and she probably was tired. Dad thought it was funny the kids were still up. The girl is struggling with reading and math. How do I communicate with the parents that girl must get more sleep? Where are the boundaries for talking about parenting issues? The girl's reading and math are not at the average standard yet. Parents have four other kids; girl is the second youngest. She has a fifth grade sister who is off the charts. Parents know this girl is not doing well. I wonder how much they value school. Mom is a day care provider and seems tired. I get the impression that the fifth grader takes care of the house and other kids. The young girl falls asleep in class from time to time. She is tired. At conference the dad said that she and her middle sister like to stay up late talking in their room. It makes me mad that the parents won't lay down the law about an earlier bedtime. I feel angry with them for not helping this girl more. Parents seem to put off my attempts to make communication with them. The student is not on medication. She sometimes comes to school poorly dressed, without a warm coat, without socks, a couple of times she has forgotten her lunch or was not provided with one--although we were able to charge a hot lunch for her. I think the girl could be doing better. She seems to lack energy. I am concerned about going too far with the parents and crossing the line of their parenting rights.

Hypotheses:
The teacher is irritated because she spent a lot of time getting her lessons together and here is a student sleeping through them and needing special help afterwards. The teacher is frustrated because the parents seem to dismiss the seriousness of the girl's sleeping in class and missing her lessons. The teacher is frustrated by the need to have more information about what is happening in this girl's life. The teacher feels obligated to have each student be as prepared as possible and this student is not fitting into that plan. The teacher feels conflicted about not knowing what is going on. The teacher feels it is not her right to teach parenting skills but she should be able to count on the parents to do a better job. The teacher feels limited by respecting the parents' rights in this situation. The teacher feels frustrated because the teacher/parent partnership is broken. The teacher feels like the home is not doing enough and the teacher must make up for it and solve the problem. The teacher feels the responsibility to help the student develop good habits. The teacher feels frustrated because the parenting skills teachers take for granted are missing in these parents and they seem to have the attitude that school is not important. The teacher has a sense of fear that sleeping in class may become an escape mechanism for the girl when she meets with difficult class work. The teacher was angry with the father who was disrespectful in the conference and kept looking at his watch like he had something more important to do. The teacher is frustrated by not knowing more about the mom's side in all of this. The teacher feels concerned that the oldest girl may be caring for the other kids and there may be an abuse/neglect issue in this situation

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Comments:
This is a social worker and nurse issue. You do not need to go this alone. Get some input from last year's teacher of this girl. What did she experience? Make sure you document these episodes and your contacts with the parents. Call parents and remind them its cold and the girl doesn't have a lunch. Use a class newsletter to remind all parents about proper dress and lunches for kids. Try to build the girl's responsibility to get herself to bed earlier. Remind all the kids that they need 10 hours of sleep each night. Have a project where they keep track of how much they sleep each night. Remember the nurse has extra clothing available. Maybe you can arrange for the girl to sleep a bit during the day at a more appropriate time. Get the nurse involved from the health point of view. Thank the older sister for her helping the younger. Try to remain non-judgmental about the family. Don't put the parents on the defensive with you. Call the parents with more positive information and see if the mom warms to you.