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.


  1. It is unprofessional for teachers to sit in class and do anything other than pay attention. These individuals need to be called out for their rudeness.
    I wish that the public school system was different, that it could meet the individual needs of every student. It is not at this time so you have to do what is right by your own kids. I know of teachers who have decided to leave education and home school their kids. It makes me sad and frustrated.
    It seems to me as if you are going to need to move forward day by day (maybe hour by hour) in order to keep your sanity with your ideals, classes, family and future plans. It is an uphill climb to be sure. Chin up, the support and love of your family and friends will get you through.

  2. Years back (9 years ago!) a higher-up in the district told me that autism was overtaking LD as the most common disability. It bothers me no end that there have been no changes in the system to reflect that major change in students' needs. Meanwhile, we fight to get our high school senior properly served.... if you have to move, I'll miss you terribly, but I'll understand completely.


Although I am dangerously opinionated, I am a flexible thinker and welcome your thoughts.