Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thankful Even Though.....

So sorry it has been so long since I last posted.  I have been pondering.

University called stating that I will get a full refund.  However, that has not shown up yet.
One professor really wants me to come back.  Free of charge.  Just to be there to share and contribute.  Nice guy.  Nice offer.  Nice vote of confidence.  Much appreciated.  Not gonna happen.  I think the snitch is in that class.

At this moment in time, and I emphasize THIS MOMENT, I have come to the conclusion that I don't have what it takes to become a school administrator.  And here is why.  I have a brain.  I use my brain.  I am a free thinker.  I care about people's feelings. I care about working conditions.  I am interested in the highest quality of performance.  I hate suits and I refuse to wear panty hose and pumps.  I prefer a backpack over a brief case.  I don't think I could defend a crappy teacher. I know I would die, go to jail, or get fired for a good teacher.

As I mentioned earlier, I sat in my classes with many (far too many) stupid people who I know with certainty would be hired as administrators before I ever got an interview.  

Thanksgiving brought many troubling variable into my life.  My niece came home from college weighing under 100 pounds.  Very scary.  At bedtime and in private, Superman asked what happened to her face.  I explained anorexia as best I could to a 10 year old with autism and he said her could fix her by getting into her brain and yelling louder than her anorexia voice, "It's OK to eat!  Have a brownie!  It won't hurt you!"  Well said, Superman.  I love your heart. Anyway, she did not go back to her college.  She is in day treatment.  I love her so.

My father was also diagnosed Sunday evening with lymphoma.  The doc actually showed up at their house at 8 PM to tell him in person.  Gotta love that.  We have oncology appointments starting next week.  I will be in attendance.  With questions.  With a notebook for recording.  With a box of tissues for my mother.   Cripes, this is going to be a tough winter.

Last Tuesday I took some Lego and an electronic car building kit to two of my students in need.  I had cleaned out my own kiddos' closets and lightened the load.  I dropped said items off in principal's office suggesting she just hand the goods off to the boys right before they got into their cab for home. (Yes, I said cab.  They are so rambunctious the bus is problematic and innocents were getting hurt.)  Principal was very excited and grabbed the phone quickly to call the boys in to her office so they could see me.  It was a great little reunion. I visited my colleagues for a bit in the lounge and left feeling warm and fuzzy. And then the call came.  At 4 that afternoon, I get a call from principal who was stammering and apologizing for having to make this call....but she was asking that I not bring my kids gifts any more.  What the hell!!!!!  Something is up and I think it has to do with my replacement's insecurity and cold, cold heart.  I felt really gross after that call.  Like I did something wrong.  Like I crossed a boundary.  So I pondered.  I fumed.  I ranted.  And by this morning I realize my principal is young, impulsive and not sure of how to handle many situations.  Also, thinking this is perhaps yet another two by four over the head as I was considering going back to my room next fall and make it work.  
Thank you Universe.  I received that message loud and clear.

Watch for more posts this week regarding best practice thoughts I am having.  Need to get them a bit clearer in my head before I subject you to my radical ideas.

The good news is that my first grand baby is due any time now and I can hardly wait!  The cycle of life continues.  We keep insisting on survival of our species despite war, global warming, the slow death of the Arctic Circle, financial crisis, mean people doing mean things.

Now that evening is dark so early, take time to be still and ponder. I find a bowl of a variety of chocolates nearby helps.

Monday, November 23, 2009

And Here I am

So, it's Monday.

I am not in school.

I am not teaching.

What to do, what to do.....

I broke out all my art supplies and created an awesome wall hanging.  Well, maybe it isn't awesome.  I cannot decide.  No matter.  I got in that feesense zone I have not been in for months and I think it is having therapeutic effects.  

No word form university yet.  Not sure when to start nagging about my refund.  My ability to earn a living in a non-hostile work environment or advance to an administrative position in my district have been dashed due to this breach.  I hope to hell whomever breached confidentiality is found out and kicked out.  But we all know that person will be the first to get hired and will be a bullying unethical administrator.  And so it goes.
And of course I haven't heard back from the sup regarding the bullying behavior of one of his/her assistants.  Isn't that the case with bullies?  Once someone stands up to them, they retreat to a corner.

Love Thanksgiving and so thankful to be able to put all I have into it this year.  We will be a family of 15 on Thursday and I feel honored that everyone is coming to the warmth of our home in the belief that they will be cared for, fed well, and allowed to let their guards down for a whole day.

It is my goal to take at least one box or bag full of stuff from my house to Goodwill every day until Christmas.  I am working hard to convince my kids to let go of stuff they never use.  So much is in great, almost new, condition and others should be able to enjoy it.

I am at peace most of the time.  However this is an adjustment and I have experienced some truly wicked panic attacks between those moments of peace.  

I am formulating my campaign for a position on the school board election ballot.  I am not done.  Not by a long shot.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Day Dawning

As of today I have the following.

  • No response from downtown suits.
  • No response form university registrar about a tuition refund.
  • Wonderful response (in writing, by the way) from a professor and ex superintendent of schools stating I was mistreated by the suit and that he was way out of line.  He also takes responsibility for the breach even though he isn't even the prof that required the message board entires.  Imagine!  Someone willing, actually wanting, to take some responsibility for his institution!   

I am feeling free as a bird, validated, committed to contributing to making things better for teachers working in hostile work environments due to bullying, and becoming a school board member.  Even if I don't win, imagine downtown squirming while I am running my campaign!  I am also feeling very sad that someone was so motivated by a dislike of me that they breached confidentiality to a suit!

I had a great experience yesterday observing a practicum student and sharing my notes with the person in charge of hiring supervisors for practicum students and student teachers.  Our notes and points of issue matched, so I think an offer is forthcoming.  I love, loved, loved, watching, analyzing and problem solving. I know how to teach and love helping others be quality classroom leaders.  I cannot wait to find my way in this venue.

Also shopping for a good Ed.D program.  I think my emphasis will be all about advocating for teachers. Now, don't get me wrong.  Crap teachers need to go and go fast.  I say we advocate for the best, work with an supervise the weaker ones, and counsel the crap ones right on out of education.

Superman's new AUT teacher starts Monday!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Reaction Updates

First I want to thank each and every one of you who have supported me in the last few days as I sort this out.  I woke today with an even stronger conviction that I need to leave this particular program.  I don't feel safe.  There is a mole out there and they have a direct line to the knee jerk reacting suit downtown.

I am still puzzling over the suit's reaction.  He doth protest too much. AND must be not so sharp as he used the bullying and intimidation techniques exemplified and explored in the very study I was sharing with my classmates.

The professor finally responded to me this morning and said I should come to class this weekend (yeah, right) and not make any rash decisions.  Are you kidding me?

I have sent an email to the very top suit in my district attaching the email by the lower suit as well as the entry I made to the message board.  I included a very well drafted letter stating my position and ever-so professionally blasted the suit in question.  I want to publicly thank Hubs for that.  He nailed it and is always my first pick when I need help drafting letters in these intensely charged situations.

I am mailing my withdraw (with no intent to return) form in with a letter requesting a full refund by the university.  I am copying in provost, department chair and class professor and sending it registered mail.

I still feel violated and certainly unsafe to return to any of my classes.  I feel my work environment has become hostile and not sure I can even return to my class next year.  This has deeply effected me.  I am very saddened.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Big Brother Won

I hope I can get through this entry without xanax or a breakdown.  The last 24 hours have been absolutely grueling and I think I am still in a bit of shock.
While I was sitting in Sister's Values class yesterday, I received an email on my home email address.  At break I referred to my iPhone to check for messages and any new emails.
This is what I found from a higher level administrator in my district.

           Recently I was forwarded an email that you sent to some individuals who are probably involved with a course you are taking.  The communication referenced a national study of the mistreated teacher.  You obviously can send whatever you want from your personal email accounts.  However, it is disappointing when an individual uses sabbatical time granted by our Board of Education to communicate the following statements to others - "I can count myself as a teacher who has suffered through some abuse at the hands of administration from time to time"
To sate that you have suffered abuse by administration is a very disturbing accusation.
Please do not contact me regarding your statement because there is nothing to discuss.

Read that again.  

What this higher level administrator is referring to is a post I made on a 'confidential' message board set up by one of my professors.  As a student in this class I am required to post my thoughts, observations as well as encouraged to submit any interesting articles I bump into and open those for discussion. So, being the ever compliant student, I posted the following regarding a national study of mistreated teachers.

As we find our way into leadership positions, I think this survey can
help us keep another's perspective in mind.  Our actions may not
always be perceived as intended.  Although I find this group to be a
bit rabid and fatalistic, there are some truths in what they
represent.  I can count myself as a teacher who has suffered through
some abuse at the hands of administration from time to time.
I am interested to see what others think.

The following is what ran through my head (stampede-like) all night long.
  • What jerk classmate is serving as mole and breaking confidentiality by sending my employer this out of context email?
  • What did I state that was incriminating specifically to my district?  I have taught in 6 districts for 18 years, and in my current district only a handful of years.
  • Was I not clear that the purpose of the post was to help us all be more mindful leaders so that we are not misinterpreted as abusive?
  • Who does this 'leader' think he/she is by emailing me, intimidating me, bullying me, ABUSING me while I am on an UNPAID leave (not a sabbatical as he stated)?  They just did exactly what the whole survey was about!
  • I did not email anyone, as he/she states... this was a message board posting.
  • What in the world is this person hiding, feeling guilty about, or feeling threatened by in my statements?
  • Who is this person to tell me they are disappointed in how I use my time while on leave?
  • What kind of leadership blames the abused instead of inquiring about how they can help stop such behavior or at the minimum, ask if this happened during my tenure within this district? 
  • Let's be honest, to direct someone not to respond is abusive and ignores the whole principle of due process.
At this point I am withdrawing from the program and asking for a refund as I feel that my ability to earn an income in my district has been severely jeopardized.  I certainly have no hope of ever using this license in my current district and to be honest, feel unsafe in all of my classes and cannot possibly fully participate as there is someone there clearly not honoring confidentiality.

I have emailed the professor who is responsible for the message board to make him/her aware of this significant breach of confidentiality.  No response yet.

I have no desire to join administration. I no longer have any delusions about my ability to change anything in education.  

On a personal note, I feel so very hurt that someone hates me so much they feel compelled to put me in harm's way. This person will make a great administrator.  They are already on the Dark Side.

You will find my name on the school board election ballot next term.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Outsider Perspective

Just got back from a lovely lunch meeting with the person in charge of hiring student teacher supervisors.  We chatted about present day school administration, university teacher training programs and the difference between a PhD and an EdD.

Her perspective was interesting. She was emphatic about how ineffective most school administrators are and that she felt they were mostly in it as they were not very good in the classroom.  She also said of the few good ones she deals with, they are on a fast road to burnout because the fight is just too big and the obstacles are too many.

I really need to figure out if I could live with myself if I dropped out of this program and focused on an EdD and supervised student teachers.  

I asked if she thought one could effect more change as a member of a teacher training program, or public school administrator.   She said there are so very many variables to consider.  I agree. 

But where will I be able to get done what I think needs to be done and stay sane while doing it?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Which Bus is the Clue Bus?

Oh Dear.   
I am once again in a quandary.  Since our trip to NY and VT, I have had a horrible time getting motivated to do any school work.  It feels like torture.  I am trying to figure out if I shouldn't be doing this, or if I should be doing this, but while doing it, take note and commit to not inflicting bullshit busy work on others.

Here are the the items on my to do list:

  • Values timesheet... log what I am doing every minute of every day for a week, match each activity with one of 125 values listed, look for patterns and strive for balance. Then reflect and determine if I am  spending enough time on what I value.  DUH!  I am a parent of two special ed kids, taking too many classes. What I value is napping, reading for pleasure, loving up my kids instead of riding them about homework.
  • Take personality type inventory. It turns out I am an INFJ.
  • Write a 2 page philosophy paper.  OK, I have written about 100 of these in my career.
  • Do another case study and cite theorists in APA style.  I am horrible at that!
  • Email my part of the strategic planning project.  OK, this one is a really stupid assignment. I already did one like this when getting my alternative ed project.  We pretend we have all we need and design a school....  Which might be useful if it required real, dig down deep information gathering and  practical research based information.  But, no, we just skim the surface and have no obstacles to work through.  My kids could do this!  It is just busy work.
  • Study leadership theorists in prep for the final exam/case scenario.
  • Turn in a final 250 word philosophy paper for another class.
  • Write a two page paper expressing my beliefs about school choice.
  • Complete my budget planning project.... tailored to building principals, not special ed personnel.
  • Write a collective bargaining paper based on a neighboring school district's contract.
  • Schedule social thinking therapy for Superman
  • Find a therapist for Movie Man who seems to be in some sort of pre-adolescence, significant LD awareness, need to control something in my life phase.
  • research and order diapers and diaper covers for grandchild
  • Figure out math tutoring for Movie Man

I am getting sick, so have no energy and, really, when you look at the list above, none of what I am being asked to do has any relevance to what is important in school leadership.  It is very disheartening.

So, I get this interesting message from a neighboring university.  They need student teacher supervisors next semester!  I so badly want to do this!  I so want this to turn into teaching a university class or two.  If that came to be, I would drop this administrative licensure crap instantly and find a doctoral program and work on my true passions while doing university work part time.

As I watch for clue busses, one drove by last night while in a conversation with a dear friend and colleague.  I will end today's entry with her direct quote.

"Liberty Rose, you are so not an administrator.  You don't fit in with all the stupidity that goes on. You have strong opposing opinions and you will be fired within your first year!  What are you thinking?  You need to teach teachers in training!"

Saturday, November 7, 2009


As of yesterday at 3:54 PM Superman's Autism teacher's position was posted.  She packed up and is gone.

We are sleeping better for a night or two.

We hope against all hope that the district will take time to recruit a quality teacher for the position.

Stay tuned as this gets resolved.  I don't have much faith in The Dark Side.

Monday, November 2, 2009

APA and Busy Work, A Leader Do Not Make

OK, got some papers back from one of my professors.  I have yet to satisfy his very high expectation for using APA referencing protocol.  Oh brother.  This will probably net me a B in the class.  It has been years since I received a B in a class.  Somehow I cannot conjure up the motivation to care.

I thought I nailed it in my last two papers.  I used citation machine, I was very careful.  I used the professor's template.... and still didn't get it quite right.  I cite the references correctly. But this time I numbered the pages and screwed up the header a bit.  BIG F-ing DEAL!  I just want to get this license so I can make things right for special education students and their families by being involved in program development and teacher evaluation.  Does it matter I numbered the pages (correctly, I might add) and he didn't want the pages numbered?

What's coming up?  Let's see.  As I take a quick look at my calendar I see I have a values journal to do for Sister Donna.  When she assigned this she pointed out what category sexual play fell into.  Twice she explained this.  HMMMM.  This assignment is a tool for us to use in reflection about making sure we spend time doing what we value.  I don't need to keep a journal for that.  
I need to do my part for a group project ( I really hate group projects for class).  I need to figure out staffing for our make believe charter school.  Oh brother.  I am all for teamwork and collaborative work.  In real life.  This contrived make-your-own-dream-school-with-a-group-of-people-from-other-schools-and-disciplines-and-interests-and-present-it-to-the-class is a useless exercise.  I already did this in another program.  I have never used one single component of that one and won't from this one.  If you want to start a charter school, get online.  Get together with like mined people.
Let's see.  I also have a budget plan book to put together.  I can get some use from this as this project makes you really internalize all the doing a budget entails and how important following a timeline and sharing that with others is.  I also need to outline and review chapter 9 in a text for my classmates.  Hey.  Whatever happened to everyone reading the whole text book?  I don't want someone else's outline.  Just read the damn text. Oh yeah, I also have to find some inspirational tidbit to read to the class.  We all then reflect on these tidbits.  For a grade.
I need to do one more case study for the citation police as well as turn in my little black book.  This little black book is supposed to be full of bits of info and thoughts and references.  NOT a journal.  This is just supposed to be a book we can flip through and reference as needed.  

So, of all these assignments, which ones will make me an effective leader?  I think leaders are born and then fine tuned through experience, trial and error.  I think there are way too many education 'leaders' out there that are clueless, worthless, and harmful.  The good ones didn't need formal coursework to be good leaders.  The good ones intrinsically know how to treat people, how to inspire, how to keep their eyes on  what is best for kids.  They never lose sight of that.  They don't let us lose sight of that.

So, with all that school work to do, I think I will trip off to the kitchen to bake cookies and the laundry room to wash all our vacation clothes. 

Not sure I should keep on in this program.  I have always wanted to design furniture.  Should I do that instead?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pray for Objectivity and Clarity of Thought

Hub and I just got back from Vermont and NY where we visited an incredible school for Superman and Movie Man.  One of the main perks was rubbing the pregnant belly of my first grandchild's mother.

 I am scared to death.  Hub and I are scared to death.

 For our boys.

We cannot continue to subject them to the education they are currently enduring. Both boys are problematic learners in their public school setting.  Although an IEP is a good thing (theoretically) it is only as good as the people implementing it.

And they are not very good.

So, we fly out of Happy Valley and land in Albany, NY all without a hitch. We drive to Saratoga Springs, NY and check it out in prep for our meeting with the Waldorf school the next morning.

AMAZING!  Wow, the very gracious and articulate hostess was the admissions lady.  We had time to personally meet with the 4th and 6th grade teachers.  We were never rushed.  They took time to genuinely communicate with us.  I was very impressed.  As was Hub.  As was Superman when he heard they are dismissed at 2:00 PM.  As was (well, sort of) Movie Man when he saw the way the kids are taught.  Why, oh, why can't all schools embrace at least some of this stuff?

Anyway, after 2 hours... yes, I said 2 HOURS, of unrushed, very informative quality time, we left ready to continue on with the application process.  They did not even flinch when they met our kids and heard about their IEPs.  Movie Man would be slow to adjust, but he would eventually take to it with gusto.

Superman was quite engaging with our admissions lady and even tried to explain being in the dark (autism) to her.  He got a little more autistic-like in observable behaviors at about the 90 minute mark, but he did pretty well.

Guess what?  Not one computer in the classrooms.  (Do not misread me here!  I believe in technology.  We are a family with 4 computers, many video gaming stations and Beatles Rock Band) But there were no computers beckoning to the teacher from his/her desk.  No learning time taken up by keyboarding class.

But more impressive than that is that the kids have AT LEAST 2 recesses a day!  Gee, recess?  Recess?  Isn't cramming more reading minutes in every day more important than unstructured play?  What on earth does play have to do with readin', writin' and 'rithmetic?

Art and music were evident at every turn of our tour.  They use cursive writing, they don't have text books, the teachers stay with the kids 1st - 8th grades!  You read that right.  1st - 8th grades!  Can you believe that any teacher would want to be with the same 15 kids for that many years?  Can you believe that any teacher would want to know the curriculum for that many grade levels?  I say that takes huge commitment and dedication.

Waldorf has been around for a long time.  Around the world.  Are they a bit extreme as far as technology avoidance?  Maybe by today's standards.  But are they accessing and exercising a part of the brain that could use a bit more attention?  Yep.  Do I think that would be best for my kids?  So far, I do.

But to relocate from the midwest to NY will take a huge amount of effort, googahs of cash and a few miracles, employment for both parents, a sold house, a new house secured... well, you get it.

So, do parents do this for their kids?  Is that reasonable?  Expected?  Advisable?

Hub is wearing his NY warm up jersey this afternoon.  I think he's there.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rendered Speechless!

Anyone out there use PECS?  (picture exchange communication system)
It is a tool used to communicate with kids who struggle on various levels with communication.
Superman benefits from using very limited PECS symbols to remind him what is expected when the teacher is lecturing or when the assignment has multi steps.  Using PECS symbols lined up in order of directions helps him move along and stay focused and successful in reg ed.

Well, Superman's AUT teacher this year is lacking.  Very seriously lacking.  Not just because she doesn't get it.  I don't think she cares to get it.  She is teaching so she can coach. She is a poor writer, communicates minimally, and has no teaching skills.  

Anyway, last week I suggested she start using PECS to help keep Superman on task.  The following day I got her interpretation of my suggestions.
You will not believe this! (Actually, sadly, many of you will)

A full page titled "Math class with Ms. Jones"
She wrote step by step, word by word expectations and directives.  At first glance I wanted to throw it out.  It was busy, overwhelming visually.   

Ms. Jones certainly did not take time to review her finished document. She simply typed her directions into the PECS program, hit print, and moved on.  

Let me remind all of you that children with Autism are literal in their interpretations of the world. 

So, over the word assignment is a picture of an ass.  Yes, you read that right.  An ASS!  (the animal, not the bum)

Over the word date ( as in put the date on your paper) is a couple.  Yep, a male and female holding hands!

Over the word board (as in start the practice problem on the board), is a cutting board!  A cutting board!

Over the word open (as in open your notebook), is a hand removing a lid from a jar.  

First of all, Superman is very bright and can read at grade level.  Superman does not need these types of directions... he just needs periodic visual cues to keep him moving along.  He does not need to be told, "Open your notebook to an empty page" written in PECS.  

Anyway, I was so angry about this...  frustrated, hopeless, borderline outraged,  I took four days to process and hid all things that could be used as weapons  (knitting needles included).

Monday morning I attacked.  I copied the document, wrote all over it, attached notes of explanation and attached it to a formal letter to the principal and the special education coordinator (both of whom I have met with regarding my concerns) stating this was absolutely unacceptable and it is not my job as a parent to correct the teacher, patiently walk her through this stuff, or teach her what to do.  

I then hand delivered these to each of them.

Haven't heard a word from either of them but I noticed in the back of Superman's assignment notebook yesterday was 4 PECS pictures of what to do when you listen.  Also was met outside the building by Superman's reg ed teacher (who is a saint).  She tells me that she won't be communicating with me as much as she has in the past as Ms. Jones needs to be the person communicating with me more.  


I am still not sure what to do with this.  She was clearly directed to do this as this is not her nature.  Is this really all the dark side could come up with for remediation?????  

Dear God.  We are in so much trouble.

Hub and I are fervently looking for good alternative schools.  

Anyone have any suggestions?


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Where Did the Time Go?

Oh. My. Goodness.

There are some darn good blogs out there, people!  I love reading bogs and that is how I start my day.  Every single day.  

But, man, does that eat up my time!  The laundry is piling up, the sink is full of dirty dishes, the pet hair has taken over, my course work is kicking my ass, my kids are neglected.

But I get so much from peeking into other people's blogs.  I find that I am NOT the only angry one,  the only ineffective parent, the only one on leave, the only one with three sons, the only one with an annoying husband, the only one with bad habits, the only one with a messy house, the only sick of stupid people, the only one with a son with Autism, the only one with extra poundage, the only one blogging about her life (as boring as it may be), or the only one whose writing pales in comparison to so many other blogs.  

I bet if we put every teacher blogger in a room (it would have to be an auditorium) with President Obama, we could fix education from California to New York, from North Dakota to Texas in about a month.  It would be done in a month and then we could all get on with it.

So, to all the bloggers out there... I love what you have to say.  I love the way you say it.  

And I don't feel guilty spending time checking in on all of you.  Not even a little.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quandary and Odd Juxtapositions

It's a dreary Sunday morning.  I am glad.  I need to think.  I need the world to stop.  A dark day feels like a blanket is over us which means there are no expectations to get outside and put the yard to bed for winter or take on any chores other than putting a slow simmer dinner on the stove and doing some laundry.

Good thing.  I have lots on my mind.  I spent a long day yesterday in a values class.

With Sister Donna.

With 11 other students in the leadership program, 4 of whom had their laptops up and running so they could keep track of various scores all day. 

Very rude, very disrespectful and very scary.  These are people who expect to become leaders in our public schools!  I was so pissed off it was hard to listen to Sister Donna.  She was very distracted by these clowns looking at their screens rather than her.  She asked me during a late break if I knew what they were doing.  She had a hunch they were keeping up with sports...but didn't want to accuse them of something they weren't doing.  Sister Donna is a very bright and dedicated woman.  I am not catholic, don't get the whole catholic gig, but I respect her.  She is quite accomplished.  She decided to instruct them to leave the laptops at home next time we meet.

If that was not distracting enough, I kept getting texts from Hub who was desperately researching alternative schools out east for Movie Man and Superman.  The gap is widening between them and their peers and it is glaringly clear we need to find alternative education options for them.   We had a disturbingly  frustrating meeting at their school regarding Superman's Autism teacher's lack of ability and motivation.  The leadership present basically said they couldn't do much because of the contract language and the union.  Bullshit!  They said they understood and were very aware of the issues and would proceed as best they could, but these things take time.


Anyway, yesterday I kept getting texts and it all ended with airline tickets to Foodie's house where I can bond with my grandchild by rubbing his/her mother's belly, eat really well, and tour a few alternative schools.  Although Foodie is in Vermont, we will be checking out schools in Saratoga Springs, NY and thereabouts.

So I now sit in conflict with myself.  I have been a public education champion for my entire adult life.  I believe in it, am proud to live in a country that believed in it and supported it since early on, and have dedicated my career to it.  

But my kids aren't benefiting from it.  I realized late yesterday that I am really pissed off about it.  Really, really pissed off that public school can't be everything that every kid needs.   You would think by the age of 52 I would have already acknowledged and accepted this.  I am bitterly disappointed.

But worse than that, I think I may have hung in there too long pushing and pulling, resizing, and insisting on my kid's behalf that things be better, services more appropriate... and maybe that has done them more harm.   Maybe my hope and denial has ONCE AGAIN prohibited my kids from accessing an alternative that would have served them better.

But isn't public school supposed to work for all kids?  Isn't that the line?  We know so much about learning and what kids need, why can't we apply all that good stuff in our public schools?  Don't get me wrong.  There are some exceptional teachers who do these things (we are fortunate this year in that Superman's reg ed teacher is gifted, a true master teacher), but the systems in schools get in the way of doing some really good stuff that would help those fringe kids.  

And all the NCLB policy and emphasis on high stakes testing to make teachers accountable has tied creative teacher's hands even more.  When we take away recesses in primary schools so we can get a few more reading minutes in each day, we are totally ignoring what we know about child development and the importance of play and moving around.  I might mention here that this also increases the referrals to special education because the kiddos slower to develop their learning readiness start to look speical ed. They aren't special ed!  We just need to honor their developmental clocks.  Sometimes those kids look EBD as they act out in frustration to not being honored.

So I intend to sit and ponder today.  What does this mean for me and my career?  If my kids go to private alternative schools, can I still work in public schools?  I think I can, as my mission will remain the same.  All kids deserve a free and appropriate education that truly meets their needs as individuals.  Although I have to give up on public education for my own kids, I have to remain in the ring and fight it out for the kids whose parents can't relocate or shop around for a better fit.

Laundry and an empty pot await me.  Cincinnati Chili Mac for dinner, fresh laundry flopping in the dryer... that's about all I can handle today.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Why does it feel like I am recovering from a long term illness?

I think my body is adjusting to the lack of hourly adrenaline rushes.

I think my psyche is recovering from compassion fatigue.

I think I have more time to observe how stupid people are.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I Just Have a Few Questions

Last week was full of people in education using bad judgment.  Really bad judgment.  My problem is that it looks as if it will all go by without correction.  I don't want anyone strung up by their privates. (not entirely true, but for the sake of this post I can make that statement) I don't want teachers fired for making minor mistakes.  

Unless what they are doing is harmful to kids and their families as well as their colleagues.  

And that is what happened.

  • Should principals be trained in de-escalating children in crisis?
  • When a kiddo has an IEP and is showing signs of distress in reg ed class, should the special ed staff be called in to help out?
  • When a kid is in distress and it escalates, should administrator ask a parent, who just happens to be in the office at the time, to hold on to the upset child so he/she can make a phone call?
  • Should administrators ever yell at a kid in distress that the next time the police will be called?
  • Should special ed teachers be allowed to continue to practicing when they are so absolutely clueless as well as unmotivated and are teaching just so they can coach?
  • Should the bulk of the responsibility for making accommodations for special ed kiddos fall on the reg ed teacher... or on the special ed teacher who is supposed to have the knowledge and expertise to do this?
  • When teachers demonstrate incompetence and their colleagues see it, why are they so damn loyal and not bring it to the administrator's attention? Should special education teachers be allowed to continue after repeated issues with poorly written (at times with illegal components) IEPs.
  • Why do professors think it is good teaching to powerpoint every chapter in the text and read it to you for class...but then for good measure assign a chapter of the same text to the each member of the class to present again?
  • Why is it considered good practice for professors to have the students teach the class by brining in articles and presenting, bringing in bits of inspiration and presenting, bringing in artifacts and presenting while they themselves sit in back watching and asking "probing" (not) questions thinking that is prompting deeper reflection?
  • And what the hell is the point of all these damn portfolios?  Cripes, I already have three and now have to do another one?  And get this... this one has to be done electronically.

I propose we clean house in our schools.  Let's quit protecting the incompetence that seems to be seeping into every level of schools. 

We are in shark infested waters... and the sharks are the incompetent, unmotivated, mediocre people teaching our kids and running our schools.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Anxiety Prevails and The Lines Blur

Yikes.  Went to an after school theater activity with my kids.  Movie Man tried to skate past me to get out of attending.  He went last week and participated only after I caught him trying to leave the building without attending. So what's the big deal?  Why not let him skip out?  What is my problem? Well, I paid 85 bucks per kid to do this for a semester, and Movie Man begged me repeatedly to sign him up.  By early December, they put on a production.  He wanted to be on stage. Now, a handful of schools are included and my guess is a total of about 125 kids are involved.  Obviously the prime parts are out of reach for my two kiddies.  Thank God.  We don't need any more stress from having to MEMORIZE! lines.  

Anyway, as the rapidly paced activities were taking place, I glanced up from my ed leadership text to see how my kids were doing.  I really wish I had not.  It was this large circle activity where the kids take turns running up to another kiddo and say their name, that kid says their name back, then runs across the circle to say their name to another kid.  Guess whose kids NEVER got approached?  I watched them get smaller and smaller and could read their faces quite clearly.  They were hurt and they were withdrawing.

OK.  My kids are introverts, but they are not what other kids would identify as weird by appearance.  They dress hip, have hip hair cuts, but they exude introvertism.  They  are not jump- into- the- crowd- and- make- it- work kind of kids.  Even after that, Superman got up and auditioned!  My props to Superman!  

However, Movie Man told me on the walk home he almost threw up while we were there and he really does not want to go back.  He was miserable.  Really miserable.  So, even though he raised a HUGE stink and insisted I sign him up, and even though I paid, I am going to let him out of it.  He has an anxiety disorder and this serves no purpose.

Parenting with grace means I need to truly embrace all that my children are and are not.  They don't like sports, but they kick ass in Beatles Rock Band.  They don't invite friends over and friends don't invite them over, but they are good and caring little men.  They like their time at home left to their own devices.  This is hard in our society; having this kind of kid.  So, that excruciatingly painful hour of watching my kids in activities that others thrive in was yet another parent smack down.

Now about school...or continuing the sage.  RT (replacement teacher) has done more dirty dog things to younger teachers and I now see that my administrator is between a rock and hard place.  RT is evil.  My parapros are afraid of her, my old students are afraid of her. This not good.  My principal sent a message to me through one of my dearest friends who still works at my school.  The message was that she adored me and wanted me back next year.

I guess that you don't need to be an administrator to be on The Dark Side. Maybe, just maybe, some of the teachers are on a dark side of sorts and put the administrators in really difficult positions that require certain action and that can interpreted as Dark Side moves.

Oh dear, the lines are starting to blur already and I am only in this admin program 5 weeks.

Monday, October 5, 2009

And Yet Another Adjustment in My Thinking

I spent time with my best fiend, Wayne Dyer, this weekend.  I had to travel an hour each way to class and back so popped him in my CD player and soaked it up.  I like to just blindly pick a CD and pop it in hoping to catch a really pertinent topic.  I caught a good one.  I am a control freak.  Yep.  Big time.  I go into regular anxiety attacks lately as I cannot visualize where this year off and administrator license will lead me, where I will be next fall, what I will be doing to earn a living.  

Just a second.  Excuse me while I go take another xanax.  Can't even blog about it without having an anxiety attack.

OK.  I am back.  Anyway, Wayne tells me to find time to sit in stillness and trust that my Source has a plan and that as soon as I let go, that plan will be there for me.  Like catching a wave.  I listened to that segment 5 times over the weekend.  I feel better.  I realize that by not resigning and instead asking for a leave, I have prolonged the time until my purpose reveals itself.  So, in my mind I have to make adjustments.  I have always pictured myself returning to my district.  I now believe that is not in my future.  It can't be.  

I have been a bit lost lately.  Angry and feeling betrayed by my old leadership, not sure I have it in me to be an administrator, and certainly suffering form power point overload! Really, does every professor have to assign a power point presentation?  You all know me well enough by now.  I am not using power point.  Just because.

And what is up with all this emphasis on portfolios? I have already done three in my career and am quite tired of the whole format.  I have NEVER had a prospective employer even ask about my portfolios let alone actually take the time to look through one.  But this time it needs to be done electronically.  Oh brother!  Hoops, hoops, hoops.  At least none of them are ringed in fire, huh?

On the home front.  

As the mother of two special needs kiddos, I am overwhelmed by the amount of work they are expected to do.  As a teacher I always felt we moved through content way too fast, that the amount of work was too much.  There is no time for stillness, digestion.  Every minute of every school day has to have an academic purpose, and yet we are expected to cover a broader spectrum of interpersonal, parenting, social and technological skills than ever before.  I am overwhelmed by the amount of work my own kids bring home.  Imagine how overwhelmed they feel.

Perhaps what bothers me the most is having to reteach as often as I do.  I have to start from the ground up many times which means pulling out graphic organizers and manipulatives.  But by the end of the day my kids are spent, so the push and pull starts and every weekday evening is fairly unpleasant.  

I am so frustrated that so many people NOT in education are making policies and controlling the purse.  I am increasingly concerned about special education teacher evaluation ... really, the lack of such..., the lack of administrator knowledge and time that would allow for better staff development and program monitoring.  The Dark Side has a strong hold.  And don't get me started on the push for merit pay based on test scores!  What the hell is that all about?

Time to recharge my light saber.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Weenie Leadership

Oh brother.  It turns out my administrator is very nervous about me remaining in communication with my students and paraprofessionals (who are also close friends) while on this one year leave. She and I enjoyed what I thought was a decent professional relationship last year.  She confided much to me, sought me for advice and had me help her clean up some messes.  This year she has called me a few times to help with some documentation.  However, as of late, the Dark Side has taken hold.  For reasons none of us understand, it has been strongly recommended that I not reach out and contact those with whom I have enjoyed intimate and personal relationships for 4 years. WTF?

I have not stirred any pots (since on leave), have not inserted myself where not wanted, have not used email inappropriately, have not visited school.  Have not contacted students except once the first days of school when their classroom teacher thought they needed to hear from me... and then it was three sentence... How are you, be good, if you need anything let me know.

After about three days of total paranoia and questioning myself, masturbating the issue, if you will, I decided this has nothing to do with me.  It has everything to do with my replacement's insecurities, my administrator's lack of leadership (so disappointing as I thought she was a keeper).  I also hear through the grapevine that my replacement is not working out so well.  HMMMM.  Really not working out.

So, let's explore the realities of taking a one year leave and the lasting consequences.  There are all sorts of emotional and logistical challenges.  It is a mess.  Like, Replacement Teacher (RT) has to struggle with how much to invest as one year means he/she will be moving on at the end of the school year and be reassigned to another position.  Do they move in all their teaching stuff?  Do they try to adopt enough of Teacher on Leave (TOL) philosophy and practice to help kids transition for that one year?  Or do they erase all traces of TOL and do their own thing?  Reminder, we are talking about a special ed resource position here.  Does TOL pack up all his/her materials and move out completely?  Do they server all ties with friends and students while on leave?  Do they try to keep those relationships up to date so coming back in one year is not like starting all over again?  Do they keep up relationships with kids so kids don't feel abandoned?  Should or should not the two teachers be in contact throughout the year keeping kids' interests in the forefront?  What is best for the kids? 

WHAT IS BEST FOR KIDS???  Oh, I forgot.  Kids last, not first.  

And why the hell is my administrator such a weenie that she can't be direct with me?  I have decided not to bother even approaching her.  Trust has been broken.  Not likely to be restored.

On a personal note.  Anyone else out there have special ed kids of their own? Do you find going in to school to volunteer in your kid's classroom a heart wrenching reality smack down?  Dear God.  My Superman (Autism) is a joy at home.  Verbal, happy, creative, engaged.  At school he looks sooo autistic!  He demonstrates all sorts of strange behaviors we never see at home. I find it unsettling and depressing.  I came home yesterday after 45 minutes in his classroom and slept for 3 hours!  Maybe inclusion is not the answer.  Perhaps alternative ed is. He can't access the curriculum when he is at school because for whatever reasons, his Autism takes over!  When we review at home or I reteach he gets it.  What to do?  

Which brings me to my biggest concern and a main theme of this blog.  Why are so many special ed teachers so damn ineffective and just stupid????  Forgive me.  But really, as a group, we are pretty disappointing.  Is it the system?  Is it weak teacher prep in college?  Are the wrong people entering speical ed for the wrong reason?  Why isn't someone counseling them out?  

Geez.  I am heading back to bed so I can escape.  This is just too much to have in my head all at once.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Note Changes!

To my few loyal readers.  

In the last few days or so I have experienced some angst filled hours.  Sitting in my skin uncomfortably.  Wondering why things weren't fitting.  An inner voice screaming at me, but the harder I listened the fainter the voice got.  Some really intense and strange dreams that stay with me all day.  Some really great conversations with friends, old and new that reminded me who I am.

Note, readers, that some things have changed on this page.  Since its beginning a month ago it has become quite obvious this blog needs to morph into my real voice, my true heart, explore the personal as well as the professional.  I cannot carry on without really exploring the personal, and stupidly, at the onset I thought I could.  So, each entry was a struggle to stay professional enough, to stay on education based topic.  

Well, this blog is taking on a different voice.  My professional is very personal. My personal wraps around my professional.  This journey would not be complete without real personal reflection (yeah, I am sick of that word too).  Not just the relatively tame personal reflective bullshit I was spitting out before, but the real gut wrenching, goofy, eating fried things dipped in chocolate because I am in such turmoil about so many things stuff... all the professional and personal gunk that makes up my life.  

I have taken control again.  I have made accommodations in my course work.  I am adapting assignments to fit MY needs.  And get this.  I am not even asking for permission from my professors.  I am just handing the stuff in and hoping for the best, suspecting I will get the worst.  It's OK.  I am doing all of this for me, so it better be more about me.

I have nothing to prove.  I am tired of dancing around incompetent, inexperienced colleagues and administrators who negatively impact my life.  Public education has become a model of mediocrity for a reason.  I am a mad mom, a mad teacher, and mad tax payer.  I celebrate the good stuff.  I do.  But the negative stuff has way too big a voice.  We need to get this right.  I need to get right with myself.  

So, enjoy the new voice.  If you don't enjoy it, please don't feel compelled to keep checking in.  


Shoulda, woulda, coulda!

Big AHA! moment late yesterday.

Shoulda...not asked for a one year leave and simply let go to free fall.

Woulda...been a lot further along in figuring out my future role.

Coulda...spent the last 6 months totally open to all possibilities instead of limiting myself.

Perhaps I won't work in a school system any more.  Perhaps I will be a consultant.  Perhaps I will lead workshops.  Perhaps I will write a book. Perhaps I will start a school based on MY philosophy.  Perhaps I will develop an incredibly useful special education teacher evaluation tool.  Perhaps I will  become a child and family advocate.

Perhaps I will run for the school board... now wouldn't that be interesting?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Heart and Head are not Mutually Exclusive

I think my courses thus far are doing a good job of helping me develop a better sense of what an administrator has to consider when making even the seemingly simplest of decisions. It's not really news to me, but practicing that perspective and making it the primary filter will be my challenge.  I am not sure changing roles like this after 18 years in direct practice was a good idea!  But I am up for it.  I think.

It is my belief that in all this administrator muck and emphasis on crossing t's and dotting i's, there is a HUGE need to explore one's interpersonal skills.  Which I believe to be crucial to effective, healthy, supportive leadership.  Which I believe helps one sift through all the nuances of human nature.  Which I believe is the essence of managing people.  Which is essential to demonstrating support.

I just read an article published by CEC about the effects of a lack of administrative support on special educators.  That one factor is the biggest contributor to special education teacher attrition.  Think about that.  We special education teachers work with the most difficult in our schools.  We love it, we thrive on it, our work feeds us.  We were born to do it.  We can't help ourselves.  Right?  The kids don't drive us out.  Unsupportive leadership does.  

So what does that look like?

By now you have all read about my rhythmic loom project.  A big deal.  A BIG deal.  Three TV stations, and several interviews, publications, and presentations documented that this is a BIG deal.  Did a single member of my special education leadership team initiate acknowledgement of it?  Nope.  Not one.  The first year my building principal barely acknowledged it. Our new principal last year was a huge supporter, protector and promoter, an genuine fan.  A prominent school board member is a huge fan and follower and has even hooked us up to a research center in our state.  Those supports and fans are great...but the fact there is no attention paid by my own department is devastating.

When another EBD teacher suffered a few broken toes from a student in her program, did a special education administrator offer support or comfort?  Nope.  She said, "Well, that's just part of the job.  You knew what you were signing up for."  Really.  That happened.  

When an AUT teacher has 15 kids in her program ranging from K-6 on all points on the spectrum, including a few that are not toilet trained and a few that are runners has chest pains which necessitate several doctor and hospital visits, did any leader in her district reach out, see that she was being asked to do the impossible, help her with solutions, empathize, sympathize, show support?  Nope.  Will she be gone in a year?  Yep.

When special education teachers don't get preps or lunch or potty time, does leadership note that and insist that teacher gets down time? Nope.  Most often they are just glad the teacher is doing what they are doing and honestly, it is commonly expected.

When special educators are laid off, programs are cut, or teachers are moved from one certification area they love and are really good at to another area they have little interest or experience in, is that showing support?  When you tell them to quit crying and that in tough times, good teachers just get creative and make it work, or to just suck it up and be glad they have a job, is that OK?  Is it respectful? Is it professional?  No.

Is an end of the week email from a special education leader to all of his teachers simply saying, "Good work this week!  Enjoy our well deserved weekend!"  along with a stupid smiley face and cheery, cutesy moving graphic genuine support?  No.  It is insulting.  We all wanted to shove that moving graphic right up his pooper.  Those weekly emails showed no support.  They were an afterthought.  A way for him to feel like he connected with us.  The man could not tell you a thing about how your week really went.

Stacking intense middle school EBD kids in an already crowded program and expecting the teacher to make it work is bad enough, but to bring a severe EBD student back to the home school out of a day treatment program before he was ready all because the district wanted to save some cash is the kid and the teacher.  To bully that teacher and tell her she WILL make it work with what she has or else, is is the kid and the teacher.  To keep telling the teacher after several days of the teacher being physically and verbally attacked by this student causes irreparable the kid and the teacher.  In the end she was driven away in an ambulance never to return to her classroom.  And she was a gifted EBD teacher.  It has taken over a year of therapy while on disability for PTSD to get to the place where she can sleep, not cry all day and actually engage in good girlfriend chats again.

The missing element in all of these examples is the human one.  What is so threatening about reaching out and being kind, human, understanding, appreciative?  What is so damn hard about being human, demonstrating human qualities, appreciating that we are all human.

One leadership theorist came to the conclusion that to be effective you have to lead with hands, heart, and head.  A balance of the three.  Somehow, all the special education leaders I have worked with have lead with the head only.  They have all been so guarded, so aloof, so distanced, that they served no purpose for me.  If you can't support me, just stay out of my way.  But know that by not supporting me, you are chasing me away.  And you need me.  

If I become an administrator I hope to be able to keep that balance.  As a teacher, I think I do.  I use my head and analytic abilities while considering the human factor.  I only come to action when I am able to keep both those as part of the solution.