Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Benign Neglect

Benign Neglect: A policy or attitude of ignoring a situation instead of assuming responsibility for managing or improving it.

I had a problem with a student this morning. It was not his fault. In fact, he was completely blameless. The class sat down to view a video about using atlases and he sat in the back. He was too old to be sucking his thumb, but it was buried in his mouth anyway. I set my chair in the back beside him, so I could keep an eye on the class and I immediately noticed an odor. I leaned closer to him and realized it was coming from his unwashed little body and hair. I don't think he had been bathed during the entire week we had been off school.

I hesitated. There was no other place for me to sit. I didn't want to make him move. It would seem like a punishment and he had done nothing wrong. So I went and got some of my scented hand sanitizer and drenched my hands. Then, sat there with one hand by my nose and mouth so I could smell that clean smell rather than the overpowering smell of him. And he wouldn't be punished for being an innocent victim.

His hair was ruffled and obviously dirty. His black sweat pants had a small hole. And this big, ten year old kid was busily sucking on his thumb. He was not obviously abused, although that sometimes is not obvious. He was just neglected. Nobody had brushed his hair, cut his nails, bathed him, checked to make sure his clothes had no holes.

We do our best with these kids. We try to help them. I told the Guidance Counselor who sighed sadly and said she was aware. We offer parenting classes, change the kid's clothes when we can, give money to help with overwhelming bills at home. Teachers visit homes and do their best to help those who want and need help.

As the class was leaving, I put my hand on his shoulder and told him what a good job he had done. What a good role model he was for the other students. So quiet and well-behaved. He smiled around his thumb.

But his hair was unwashed. His clothes were torn. He was neglected. What will become of him?


boo said...

Doesn't it break your heart! With all we do I always wish I could do a little bit more...

Heather said...

I know. I know. This used to break my heart when I was a daycare worker. All we could ever do was talk to the parents, and if that didn't help, sometimes call Social Services.