Big Meeting, the Second Time Around

Our rescheduled IEP meeting is today, and let me tell you, I feel so much more prepared this time around.  I am so glad that I was able to call them out on a technicality and give myself some more time to gather my wits and my resources.  Today, I’m bringing our regional rep from the Autism Society in our state.  I’ve talked with her a bunch over the last couple of weeks, and she will be there to advise me, and be an extra pair of ears.

They will still have a passel of personnel in attendance, but they don’t scare me anymore.  I have data from his previous school that supports everything that I say he needs and isn’t getting.  I have documentation in the form of emails from his current teachers that supports everything I say he needs and isn’t getting.  And I have a better understanding of their intentions, as well as the process, and my rights.

And my focus now is on the IEP, even though we will be discussing placement, as well.  He needs and aide, he needs autism-savvy teachers, and he needs help with organization.  Period.  I would like to see him go to a school that is better equipped for his needs, but I’m not as steadfast in that as I was, because I’m not sure I want him in a school where they so obviously are against him being there.  When it comes down to it, no matter where he is placed, we will continue to have a fight on our hands, and now that I know that, I am better prepared to roll with the punches (Inner Biker Chick is present and accounted for, thankyouverymuch).

What a difference a couple of weeks makes.  Let’s ride!

Laura & Margie - biker chicks

Laura & Margie – biker chicks, mslaura

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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.

A Solo Venture

The Boy has been anxiously awaiting the opening of the pool at the big park near us, and it finally opened Memorial Day weekend.  Except it was cold that weekend.  And then we’ve had lots and lots of rain.  So he’s been a bit focused about being able to go to the pool.  I suggested we do it last week for Fun Friday, and he was all for it.  And then it rained, again.

I told him we could go the next morning, so we did.  We stepped outside and realized it was not altogether warm, mainly due to the wind, and there were some gray clouds looming, but I couldn’t put him off any longer.

We arrived, paid our admission, and went to get a locker and put on sunscreen.  We emerged to the pool area to realize that we were the only ones there, and were rousting the teenage lifeguards from huddling in their sweats in the “office”…

deserted pool

I set the timer, and he gadded about, going down the slide, jumping off the diving board, all while five lifeguards looked on.  And I felt kind of bad for them, and then I stopped – they were getting paid, so they could sit and watch my kid for awhile!

After a good half hour, a few more people straggled in, and then a few more.  By the time we left there were maybe 11 people in the pool, but it was all good.  It was warm when the sun came out from behind the clouds, The Boy had a great time, and had no problem leaving when it was time to go, except to say, “Maybe we can come when it’s warmer next time…”

🙂

stormy sunny

Remembering on Memorial Day

English: WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 7, 2010) Music...My bands used to do our local Memorial Day Parade.  It took us a long time to prepare for it (we started in February), it was always scorching hot, and parents often complained about it.  After being accused of exposing their children to heat stroke for making them wear blue jeans a few years back, I decided that this gig wasn’t really all it was cracked up to be.

As always, when breaking with longstanding tradition in the education community, it is best to simultaneously propose a replacement activity.  Instead, we decided to visit a local nursing home and perform for real veterans.

This will be our third year, and I think it serves our elders well.  They really enjoy seeing the huge group come in and play for them.  Many end up in tears because it brings back memories of their own or their children’s experiences with school music programs.  They insist on shaking my hand, and tearfully thanking me, which always gets me.

It also serves the kids well, to remember these elders, to see how much they enjoy their performance, to understand what it must be like to have to wait for your entertainment to come to you.

On this Memorial Day, I’m thankful for the service of our veterans, and also the elder community who supported those veterans.

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.

The Curse (or is it Gift?) of the Middle School Teacher

After teaching middle schoolers for almost half my life, I can see what kids will look like as teenagers.  If I really look at a child that still has some baby fat, baby teeth, braces, and that awkward, gawky way of trying to hold their body just so, I can picture him or her after 4 years or so, taller, more self-assured, straighter teeth.

I looked at The Boy today and realized he is no longer a boy.  He is quickly on his way to becoming a teen.  He had just woken up, and was still a little out of it, staring into space, allowing me a moment to really study him.  And I blinked, looked at the pictures all around us in our living room, at that little boy in kindergarten, then after he’d lost a few teeth, looking like that beautiful, typical American boy…  “Where did my baby go?” I said.  “He’s in the pictures, Mom,” The Boy replied as I hugged him tight.  I watched him amble off, down the hall, and I pictured him, taller, broader shoulders, and a little more self-assured (I mean, after all, he can even make his own bagels, now!), and I had two simultaneous emotions: sadness that I’m losing my little boy, and hope for the man he will become.

And here come the tears…

breakfast