Hostile

tuba practiceMany of The Boy’s teachers have admittedly low exposure to students with autism.  We’ve already mentioned the social studies teacher and her issues, several times.  One of the teachers who has admitted from day one that he doesn’t know what he’s doing has been The Boy’s band teacher.

Now having been a band teacher, I have been more than willing to help, offering suggestions, explaining things to him, and we have had a pretty good relationship because I know he is trying.  We had gotten into a routine of communicating via email, and he would let me know the assignments, and I would send him the practice log.

A few weeks ago, he didn’t let us know that the assignment had changed, and in fact, didn’t email me until after The Boy had taken a test on material he had never practiced.  The teacher had realized his mistake, and emailed me with the week’s assignment, and that he would let The Boy re-take the test the following week.

That meant that the following week, we were practicing what the rest of the class had already finished the week before, and started to put The Boy behind the ball in this class.

And now this week, we have taken a different turn.  I’ve been emailed several times, with efforts to “document” what the teacher feels is a disciplinary issue, with The Boy “refusing” to play.  I explained that we were behind because of the earlier issue, and that we would try to get him caught up as soon as possible.  And I continue to get emails, like the one this morning, asking me to “explain a discrepancy”: The Boy is struggling in class with pieces that I indicated on the practice log that he could play without difficulty.

Turns out, after closer inspection, I was using his symbol system wrong, and that in his minus, check, plus system, the check is the highest score…  Mea culpa.

But this leaves me to wonder.  Is the lack of knowledge of autism leading these teachers to act in this way?  To want to kick The Boy out of their classes, or to prove that he “can’t” do what everyone else does?  As a former teacher myself, I can’t identify with this, and I don’t understand it.  The knowledge of a diagnosis in one of my students immediately caused me to be more compassionate, more flexible, and often spurred me to do my own research on the condition.

I suppose its root is fear.  Maybe, with training, these teachers can be led away from their hostile instincts.  Or maybe not.  In either case, this is what we’re dealing with, and it’s confusing, it hurts, it angers.  And I only have so much patience for teachers like this who should never, ever hold a child’s issues against them.

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Thoughts on Homeschooling from a Former Public School Teacher

There has been a recent trend, especially for those on the spectrum, to consider homeschooling and online schooling as an alternative to public school.  For the very reason that teachers make mistakes and don’t leave their personal lives at home is why real-live teachers will never and should never be replaced by online classes.  One of the lasting lessons that teaching for almost 20 years taught me was that relationships were everything.  If the teacher and student can build a relationship, the chances for successful learning (by both parties) grows exponentially.  And this is especially true in the case of students with special needs.

However, homeschooling is a different story.

I was against homeschooling for most of my career.  I saw the effects of inconsistent homeschooling on a daily basis.  Mom would get upset at the school for something, pull her kid out, “homeschool” for awhile until she got tired of it, and return him back to public school, months behind, and a behavior problem to boot because he’d been away from rules and routine for so long.  My ex-sister-in-law was a classic example of a mother who “homeschooled” – Her 12 kids “taught” each other with the end result being two boys nearing the age of 20, starting to work as carpenters with their father, and neither of whom knew the correct answer to 8×7…

But…

English: .. Dansk: Naturhistorisk Privatunderv...

I have changed my tune pretty quickly.  Over the past few years, I have encountered people who have the intelligence and organization to handle it, as well as compelling reasons to homeschool.  I was still stuck on the “socialization” issue – how would kids who homeschooled have any social skills if they only interacted with their siblings and parents all day long?  But, I have found that Necessity really is the Mother of Invention, and due to the very real needs of kids with autism and other disorders that aren’t being met by the public schools, some very sophisticated networks exist in our region for those who homeschool.  Co-ops have been formed so that homeschooled kids can get that socialization, participate in field trips, and even have co-curricular activities like band.

And when public schools are increasingly heading toward a business mentality, and one-size-fits-all curriculum, I think this trend will only increase.  I never would have even considered it for my own son, but I look at my skills, and what passes for education here, and let’s just say I am keeping my options open.

Addendum to My Last Post

Let me assure you that when I wrote my last post, there were several drafts, and I let time pass so that it wasn’t the rant it started out as.  The problem here is not his teacher, as it rarely is.  Could she have been more proactive? Could she (still) be better using her resources?  Yes, and yes.

However.

The real problem is part of a much larger problem with education everywhere in our country.  Too often, teachers and students are made to “get by” with what they have.  Sometimes fault lies with local administrators and school boards.  Sometimes, fault lies with the state and federal governments.  It doesn’t really matter.  The fact is that we say we care about education in this country, and we just don’t.  When millages come up, we vote them down in fear of higher taxes.  When politicians run for office, we care only about our own personal hot-button issues and where each candidate stands on those – their records on education are often a secondary consideration (if not further down).  Very few people ever attend a school board meeting, let alone parent-teacher conferences.

In my son’s case, there are two special education teachers for about 40 students in the school.  They have one aide.  They just started a self-contained classroom and hired a brand new teacher for that program – excellent!  But that doesn’t help those kids who are higher functioning, and need adult supports in the classroom like my son.

The Boy and I met with his teacher at the school yesterday – on the holiday weekend.  She spent the day there working on setting up schedules and supports for my son – how could we not go in to help?  She still doesn’t quite get it, but she’s trying.  I can’t ask much more from her.

But you had better believe I won’t stop asking those with hiring power.

Teacher Appreciation

If you weren’t aware, this week is teacher appreciation week.  And I have a few things to say about teachers – a few blog posts-worth.  I’ll start with this…

My HomeworkTeachers work hard.  I know because I am one.  I also know because I watch others do it, and because I know my own son.  I remember my friends as students from my own time in school, and I have been immersed in the culture of education for the past 33 years.  I have also come to realize that teaching is one of the most difficult gigs out there.  I have only recently learned this from speaking to colleagues who have worked in other sectors before teaching (and some after teaching, as well).  And I can tell you that it has only gotten harder as the years have gone by.

Teachers, lately, have started verbalizing how difficult the job is, primarily because the demands have increased while the rewards have decreased.  And there has been considerable backlash.  No one goes into teaching because they get summers off (because we don’t, really) and will make loads of money, but neither should teachers qualify for public assistance, yet they do.  Neither should they have their names printed in the local paper, labeled “ineffective” based on their students’ test scores, yet they do.  Teachers are sometimes expected to produce miracles, and when they don’t they are vilified.

I consider myself a good teacher, and I don’t think it’s conceited to say so.  One knows when one is good at one’s job.  Notice I didn’t say “great”.  But over my career, I have been called a racist, a “favoritist”, I have had countless parents berate me over the phone, swear at me, and question me on why I didn’t let her daughter fill out her birthday invitations in class, or why I was upset that their son threw pencils at my office door.

Those aren’t typical days, but increasingly I am incredulous at  the things we deal with, from all sides.  It’s a really hard job.  And parents who really know their children usually get it.  It’s too bad so many don’t have a clue who their own children are (“My son doesn’t lie!”).

So take a moment this week, and think about the people who have taught you, and the people who are teaching the children of today.  Send them good thoughts and/or prayers that they will continue to have the strength to do the job they do, because that’s what they really need, so much more than the trinkets from the dollar store, and the cookies.  They need your support in the classroom, in the community, and at the polls.  They sacrifice so much and work so hard for our kids, and will never be appreciated enough for doing so.

Just a Parent Now…

Now that I am “just a parent” as opposed to a teacher/parent, I thought I would re-post a post I wrote in the spring during teacher appreciation week.  Especially because we are starting at a new school, and a new level of school, I have questions.  LOTS of questions.  And I have this impatient need to get answers quickly.  I have decided to reign myself in, because I remember the first week of school, and The Boy’s teachers could use one less email from me this week if I don’t really need the answer today.

 

Why I Love Field Day

Most teachers aren’t very fond of field day.  In fact, in my district it was even the source of a fierce battle about prep time awhile back.  But I love it.  At least I love it when my kid has it.

His field day was last week.  I think he even chose a special “athletic-themed” outfit for that day, choosing to wear his T-shirt from the special needs baseball camp he has been to the past two summers.  It doesn’t hurt that he loves his gym teacher, and wants to be one when he grows up.

His school gives each kid a long ticket-type thing that lists the various activities, that get punched as they visit the stations, and they can also be recognized on the ticket for showing good sportsmanship (or having an “oops!” moment, but The Boy has never earned an “oops!” he is proud to tell me).

field day '13

Here’s why I love it so much: I often have no clue about what happens at school, because he just chooses not to tell me (thank goodness his ASD teacher sends home a daily communication log to let me know about highlights, or I’d be completely in the dark!).  But on field day, we have a nice long conversation. When I pick The Boy up from Kids Club, and with the ticket in hand, I ask him about each one with a punch next to it.  I ask him to explain how it works, and whether or not he liked it (he always likes them all).  And he does tell me — at length!  I have a guide that tells me what to ask him about his day, and I do, and he responds.  That’s a big thing for us.   And I enjoy it a great deal.

Teacher Appreciation

If you weren’t aware, this week is teacher appreciation week.  And I have a few things to say about teachers – a few blog posts-worth.  I’ll start with this…

My HomeworkTeachers work hard.  I know because I am one.  I also know because I watch others do it, and because I know my own son.  I remember my friends as students from my own time in school, and I have been immersed in the culture of education for the past 33 years.  I have also come to realize that teaching is one of the most difficult gigs out there.  I have only recently learned this from speaking to colleagues who have worked in other sectors before teaching (and some after teaching, as well).  And I can tell you that it has only gotten harder as the years have gone by.

Teachers, lately, have started verbalizing how difficult the job is, primarily because the demands have increased while the rewards have decreased.  And there has been considerable backlash.  No one goes into teaching because they get summers off (because we don’t, really) and will make loads of money, but neither should teachers qualify for public assistance, yet they do.  Neither should they have their names printed in the local paper, labeled “ineffective” based on their students’ test scores, yet they do.  Teachers are sometimes expected to produce miracles, and when they don’t they are vilified.

I consider myself a good teacher, and I don’t think it’s conceited to say so.  One knows when one is good at one’s job.  Notice I didn’t say “great”.  But over my career, I have been called a racist, a “favoritist”, I have had countless parents berate me over the phone, swear at me, and question me on why I didn’t let her daughter fill out her birthday invitations in class, or why I was upset that their son threw pencils at my office door.

Those aren’t typical days, but increasingly I am incredulous at  the things we deal with, from all sides.  It’s a really hard job.  And parents who really know their children usually get it.  It’s too bad so many don’t have a clue who their own children are (“My son doesn’t lie!”).

So take a moment this week, and think about the people who have taught you, and the people who are teaching the children of today.  Send them good thoughts and/or prayers that they will continue to have the strength to do the job they do, because that’s what they really need, so much more than the trinkets from the dollar store, and the cookies.  They need your support in the classroom, in the community, and at the polls.  They sacrifice so much and work so hard for our kids, and will never be appreciated enough for doing so.