When Government Tries to Make Decisions About Education

It’s an unmitigated disaster. You have people whose only experience in the classroom was as a student, people who don’t understand the depth and breadth of education philosophy or pedagogy, people who bring their own agendas and axes that they would like to grind.

I just finished reading an article that applies to the senate in our state considering a sweeping bill that would make sweeping changes to high school requirements for students with disabilities. You see, my state has already created a quasi-legal situation students with disabilities, creating a separate but equal “track” to “train” kids with cognitive disabilities or learning disabilities in an occupational course of study, with the idea of getting them prepared for the workforce rather than college. And due to the lack of availability for accommodations, modifications, and supports in the traditional course of study, many like my son, have no real choice to make.

calculator-scientificNow they have decided, these wonderfully removed legislators without a lick of educational background, that the provision that allows for the integrated math course taken over the course of the occupation program is insufficient, and that disabilities be damned, no student will graduate without taking four consecutive and specific years of math. You can’t do your times tables? Screw you kid. A statement from the nonprofit Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center said in an alert they sent out Tuesday, “Under this law, if a student – any student – cannot master a math course even more challenging than Algebra II, they cannot earn a high school diploma.”

And we are back to discriminating, folks. Kids who are not allowed to earn a diploma based on the way they were born, based on their neurology. “Here’s an alternative to a diploma, a certificate of completion, which is like a participation award. That should make you happy,” they seem to say. It’s a case of “raising the standards” to look like you are trying to make things better, rather than addressing the very real issues of poor teacher pay, and lack of funding for even textbooks. It’s a case of caring more about your image than the kids of your state. It’s a case of politicians being so completely arrogant in their righteousness that they are literally doing harm to children.

I couldn’t be more disgusted or enraged.

 

Today is the Day

Today is The Boy’s last day of 8th grade, of middle school, of being anything but a teenager. He’s excited. I’m excited. We’re all excited. And a little wistful, too. Even The Boy exclaims, “How did we get here?” and “How did this happen?” I tell him time flies, and if you blink, you miss it. I tell him all those old cliches, those that have been around so long they must be true. It sure feels that way.

Where is the 5 pound 6 ounce baby I was holding in my arms yesterday?

Where is the toddler who got away from me in the department store and hid in the middle of a clothes rack?

Where is the preschooler who couldn’t wait for the water to warm up to get into the small pool we had bought, and whose smiling lips turned blue?

Where is the 2nd grader who kicked his classmates?

Where is the 4th grader who sang the Star Spangled Banner at the high school football game with his choir?

Where is my 7th grader who began to have crushes on girls?

Who is this extra man in my house who is taller than me, requires shaving at regular intervals, and has hands and feet bigger than his dad’s? Who can barely fit on the couch if he stretches out on it? Who “practices” driving every time we get into the car?

Ah, yes. He’s my son, even though I can’t possibly be old enough for it to be true. My son. And me over here? The one with a bit of dust in her eye? I’m one proud mom.

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Battle over Band

In a week, I’ll meet with the high school band director and the high school special education teacher, and hopefully walk away with a plan for The Boy to be able to continue participating in band.

If you recall, after missing a meeting with me, the band director told me at orientation that he didn’t think The Boy should be in marching band, but there was a possibility that concert band in the spring could work out for him.

When I mentioned this to the Director of Special Ed for the district, a phone call was made to the high school principal to discuss it, apparently. Why? Because it is against the law to deny a special education student access to curricular, extra-curricular or co-curricular programs.  Which law? IDEA is pretty explicit, and in fact, if The Boy wanted to, he should be afforded all supports for the extra- and/or co-curricular programs that he is afforded in his regular classes (i.e. if he has an aide in class, then he should have an aide on the field in marching band, helping him learn his drill).

In fact, marching bands across the country have embraced their roll as an opportunity for students with disabilities. Kids with autism, kids with CP, kids in wheelchairs, and there is even an entire drum corps made up of kids with special needs.

Yet, this guy thinks he can tell my kid no. Or rather, he thought he could until I squeaked.

Now, will The Boy be up for all of the summer, evening, and weekend rehearsals that often entail grueling hours in the sun? Probably not. Will he be able to learn an entire drill and carry a sousaphone that whole time? Probably not. But there has to be a place for kids like mine, and if there isn’t one, we’ll create it.

You can’t just say no, sorryboutchya. And why would you?

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Middle School Reflections

We went to lunch at the beach on Saturday after cleaning up all the chunks of drywall left by the drywall hangers at the new house. We ate outside at a picnic table, and were talking about The Boy being almost done with middle school. The Man and I both agreed that not too many people would like to re-live middle school, and that he had much to look forward to in high school.

“Why don’t people want to go back to middle school?” The Boy asked.

“Well, I can tell you that kids were kind of mean to me when I was in middle school,” I said. “I don’t have very many good memories.”

“And I don’t have too many memories of it at all,” The Man said. “Nothing really great happened.”

The Boy took a moment, and then said, “I think it’s different now.”

“It is?” I asked carefully.

“The kids at my school are nice. There aren’t too many mean ones. I have good memories of middle school,” he said.

I touched The Man’s hand and gave him a look. He raised his eyebrows back at me.

That is something that every special needs parent wants to hear. That her child has good memories of middle school, and judges his classmates to be nice people.

Just a bit of dust in my eye…

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