Perspective

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It continues

Published March 16, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

(This is the rant, continued.)

So what else is 610 going to do?

I’m so glad you asked. Bill 610 will repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  Let’s break it down a bit further. This Act  is the main K-12 law. (For those of you who don’t know, this means kindergarten through twelfth grade. This law affects students from the ages of five to eighteen.)

The latest version of this Act is called Every Student Succeeds.   If this law is repealed, equal opportunity protections for students would go away. This would largely affect Special Education students.

How would this madness happen? Well, under the current law, any school that receives federal funding, which is every public school in the United States, must have resources available for Special Needs students.  This includes Individual Education Plans. This means that every student who has a disability as designated by their school would be affected by the removal of this law.

For the uninitiated, disabilities range from the obvious, like a wheel-chair bound student, to a high functioning student with Asperger’s Syndrome.  There are also 504 designations which covers just about everything else in the alphabet soup of diagnoses. With out this funding the programs in place could suffer by losing qualified staff to dissolving completely.

In my school  of 81 students we have two students who are directly being served as a result of Special Education funding. One of them, let’s call him Marcus, has Tourette’s Syndrome. He also has several cognitive and developmental delays. This means in addition to being a squirrelly 12 year old, because all 12 year olds are squirrelly, he also has the Tourette’s ticks  and motor control issues. He also is on the academic level of a third grader.  His under-education is a direct result of of the mishandling of his case at his previous schools, meaning he was lost in the crowd and was too difficult to handle in a classroom of thirty-five students.  So instead of educating him, his previous schools isolated him.

Now that he is in smaller school, his disabilities were easy to spot and deal with. Fortunately many of our students are kind and welcome him into their large group activities. Marcus has a teacher whose sole job is to work with him as a result he has mastered the sight words of a grade level very close to where the rest of his classmates . He can already out perform many of them in basic math.

I mentioned Carl in an earlier blog. We are awaiting  a specific diagnosis for him, but for the time being he is also working with our Special Ed teacher. Carl is on grade level, slightly above it actually, but emotionally he has regressed to a five year old.  When he gets overwhelmed he gets violent.   (I can totally understand this; there are days when I want to get violent with some of my students.)

With out Special Education funding, both of these students would be isolated, possibly institutionalized. Neither of these students’ families can afford private education. Bill 610 would effectively doom these children to a life behind grey walls where they would be managed by indifferent under trained staff.

It is a head shaker, especially when you consider how many kids will be damaged by this.

Damaged kids become damaged adults.  I don’t want to know what will happen after that.

 

 

Oh for crying out . . .

Published November 19, 2016 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I try not to cry too much, mainly because I don’t want to be misjudged as weak or whiny. Unfortunately, I am one of those who cries when angry or outraged. This is where the real problem lies.

You see, I have been teetering on the edge of hysteria for the last week or so. There is a lot going on in my world and in The World and it is quite upsetting. I am terrified of what is going to happen next as the big and little pictures are both becoming wavy and unsettling.  I drove to work crying the other day because of the state of the world (ok, our Union) but had to quickly pull it together to be the voice of reason (I know, I think it’s funny, too.) for the students who look to me for guidance and I don’t think it’s my turn to corral that barrel of monkeys.

And there are other things.

As I have said, there are things for which I thought I was ready that I clearly not.

Actor Boy has called me three times since election day. Actor Boy didn’t call me when he broke his tooth, or when he had been jumped in a mall parking lot or when he broke his sternum. He called because he feels the hate and tension and fear building up around him. He is a white male living in a liberal state and he is scared.

Batman held me on the morning after the election while I cried tears of real terror. I’m not sure he understands the depths of my fear.

I have a responsibility to ensure the safety of 21 students for nine hours a day. I hear things that some of the older students say to each other in ways that are hurtful.  I am actively trying to stop hate speech from springing up. All around me I hear the rumblings of a future that, quite frankly, terrifies me.

A few older students have made jokes that aren’t funny to anyone, except maybe Brock Turner and Donald Trump. I have real fear for the sweet little girls in my charge. I can’t do anything about it tonight but cry a little.

And be very proud that Actor Boy is enough of a man to feel the fear, too

A little wild in the kingdom

Published October 2, 2016 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

We had parent-teacher conferences yesterday.  I know that teachers world-wide sigh and groan at the concept of being held hostage in your classroom playing  mind checkers with parents who defend/explain/ threaten as you discuss their cherub’s progress in your class.

My school is pretty amazing. Our conferences are fairly low key; we meet with the parent and students in a designated section of the cafeteria. We have at least 2 teachers per grade so the parent and student get more than one set of feedback. Our administrator is usually at the ready to answer the difficulty questions.

The faculty meets in teams, two by two if you will, to reinforce  the notion that we are all in this together.

Yesterday I failed in the most spectacular way.

We have a student who has been hamstrung by his disability and  inferior school systems that have failed to meet his needs. After a great deal of discussion and many trials, this student now has an aide who works on his core subjects.  This student also attends our classes for presentations and projects.

This student’s parent is very outspoken and, quite frankly, is a bully. The plan for this conference was for all  three teachers, the aide and an administrator to meet all together and have a quick discussion before moving on to the  meeting with the parent.

The bully (picture a lumbering water buffalo) arrived early. The other teacher and I (picture one calmly grazing gazelle and a twitchy meerkat, guess which one I am.) watched the slow approach.  The gazelle looked at his notes and said calmly, “We don’t have you scheduled for another thirty minutes.” The meerkat said, “garrble blarkity thirty minutes.”  The last of this sentence was said as I glanced over to the main table where the counselor had been sitting just moments before. She was not there;I hopped up with my meerkat arms in the air and zipped over to another conference table where two other teachers, one of whom is a former football player and is well over 6’5″. (Picture these two as large, kind animals, friendly rhinos perhaps.) I popped my meerkat head in between the two of them and said, in what I hoped was a calm voice, but probably wasn’t, “I need one of you to come over to our conference.” I was rewarded with a kindly, “We are just wrapping up here.”  I said something akin to, “No time, Sabu! Beast at watering hole.” I zinged out of the cafeteria and down the hall where the counselor, the aide and the sweet secretary were waiting. At this point everything was starting to look like an horrifying documentary. The counselor (a small, wise owl) and the aide (a very patient mama bear) and the secretary (a friendly bird, like the ones that helped Snow White) all looked at my wild giant meerkat eyes and asked me what was going on. I began to explain and then realized what my flight must have looked like. And the result is that I left a calm gazelle alone at the watering hole.  And then I started to laugh. I couldn’t stop laughing for several minutes but got it together long enough to have that conference. It went fine.

And then I lost it. I laughed so hard I was sent out into the hall. When I came back the student asked me, “Did you ever get your toaster problem worked out?”

That is a story for another time.

Fortunately this student’s parents think I’m just the right kind of crazy to teach their child.

 

Stuck in the middle with . . .

Published September 28, 2016 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I have been crazy busy teaching the sixth grade. I am now officially certified to teach all of the core subjects for grades 4-8, but right now I’m only teaching English and Science. I love my job and I love my students.  I have the unique opportunity to actually get to know my students. The entire sixth grade consists of less than 22 students. This is smaller than most of one of my classes when I was teaching for a large public school.

I get to know my students and I am seeing a lot of echoes of my own Middle School experiences. Did anyone have a fabulous time as a 6th-8th grader? I certainly didn’t.  I was a very awkward kid at the best of times and during the worst of times I was smarter but felt less appealing than most of my fellow students.  When I was in the seventh grade most of the class just decided to stop talking to me.  I have no idea why, but I suspect it was mean girl related. I went to Catholic school, but there are cliques everywhere.  Fortunately at that point in my life I had the best teacher I would ever have, Sister Collette Ross. She kept me busy and kind of above all of that. But it still hurt to be excluded, so I know how some of my kids feel.

Especially after last weekend. I was invited to a bachelorette evening for a member of the book club I am a part of.  I know the Maid of Honor very well as some of the other attendants, and I have a close acquaintanceship with the Bride. As the evening developed I started to realize that I was the only one at this celebration who wasn’t also invited to the wedding. I understand having to keep numbers down and all and I wasn’t taking it too personally until further conversations revealed that certain fringe members of the group had also been invited. Suddenly I felt like that awkward chubby seventh grader except now I don’t have a mouthful of braces and no one is calling my fat to my face.  The lost, lonely and left out feeling was sealed when everyone began talking about going home to their respective partners and sweeties.  My sweetie and I are in the relatively new-ish part of our relationship, but we will be getting a shared cellular plan when he returns from his Wild West tour of the Virginia State Fair. Which of course means that he wasn’t home to welcome me and pat me and hold me until I coo with delight and forget that I for a few hours I spent a total of $65 dollars and five hours and a face full of make-up to feel like I was twelve years old.

But now I remember what feels like to be left out and I can keep that from happening to any of the handful of kids I see on a regular basis.

I started my day with a recap of last night’s Presidential Debate. I really just wanted to see if I needed to carry my passport with me or which horseman of the apocalypse would be stampeding over the horizon first.  I saw an interview with a Middle School teacher.  When asked what she would say to the Nominees she said, “Answer the question and stop talking.”

Sometimes the middle is the place with the best view