Gearing up for Middle School

A new Landaff teacher in the 1940s watches as ...I met with The Boy’s special education teacher yesterday, who had just been handed his “file” a few hours previous to the meeting, and the county autism specialist who has 16 schools-worth of students on her caseload.  There are two special ed teachers at his school, and I had been told that The Boy would probably be assigned to the other, and he indeed had until a few hours before the meeting.  I can’t say exactly why, but after looking at their info on the school website, I was secretly pleased about the last minute switch.  Needless to say she hadn’t had any time to review his file, and come to find out, it didn’t have the copy of the IEP and testing that I had sent to the county autism specialist in it anyway…

So we talked about The Boy, about his strengths and areas of struggle, about what motivates him and what sets him off.  We talked about the similarities between the programs in our new state and our previous state, and the types of accommodations that could be made for him within his school day.  We talked about for which subjects inclusion was going to work, and for which he would need to be pulled out to the resource room.  We talked about computers, band, and lunch…

The autism consultant seemed overconfident, and the special ed teacher seemed overwhelmed (she was missing a portion of her own teachers’ meeting to meet with me), but both seemed receptive and open.

And I am, too.

I know that our new state’s education system ranks perilously near the bottom.  I knew that walking in. And when I pulled out the work samples I had brought with me, they asked, “Are there rubrics on all of these?  We don’t use those here.  Do they help him?”  I almost stumbled over my bottom lip, and I hope my incredulity didn’t show on my face as much as I felt it inside.  You see, I was taught from about day one in ED101 how to develop rubrics for every assignment, a way to clearly communicate your expectations for students.  And that was 20 years ago.  This county (and I’m assuming state) doesn’t even use them, probably hasn’t ever been trained in them, and it was a sucker-punch reminder that we are in one of those states, the ones with piss-poor funding and even crappier respect for its teachers, those teachers who haven’t gotten a raise in six years and are prit-near the bottom of the list when it comes to teacher pay, too…

But I also know that all the research says that the teacher has the most influence on how well a student does in school.  And in my son’s case, that will be his special ed teacher, making sure his accommodations are in place, remediating when necessary, building that long-term relationship and trust.  In this meeting, I witnessed how far behind this state is, but I also witnessed how willing his teacher is to be his everything while still pushing him as far as he can go.  I know that, between the two of us, he’s going to be OK, and that’s a relief.

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