I got two different emails in the same week, and it made me sad to read them together. One was a link to an article titled “Tips for Teachers: How To Deal with Upset Parents.” The other email was from a group I belong to, a parent support group. While it sometimes is a good place to exchange information, but sometimes…not so much.
Now, first off, let me say that I will not name any names, and the person who wrote this legitimately believes it, and, as such, I don’t want to mock her or make fun or her in any way. Instead, I want to sympathize with her, and I wonder what it took to make her believe this.
Here’s a quick quote from the post:
“They [the school districts] think we should be grateful they even allow SE kids in school and parents should just be happy for a ‘break.’
“Advocacy of SE kids can be draining. You win one battle and they will hate you. You think if you win one battle the school will change, but they never will until some powerful force forces them to do so. I’d put the Office of Civil rights on speed dial. Don’t look to the state education board to be in your corner. The first thing they do is ask you what district you are talking about, and then they give the district a heads up.
“Each year, they have teachers and several school personnel go to a seminar put on by district lawyers who teach them how to get around the law.”
Now, I can understand her feelings, to some extent. Many years ago, we had a problem with my son’s school district. And we found out, after the “fight,” that the whole reason it was even a fight at all was because of one person – one person who was probably too scared to admit that she had made a mistake. People below her were willing to work with us. She, however, seemed unable to let them because it would undermine her perceived authority. It was a bad experience, and if we had continued to have bad experiences like that, we probably would feel like the person who posted the above message.
But…I have to say, I don’t believe that school districts are bad and evil. I don’t believe that schools seriously send their teachers to a session to learn “how to get around the law.”
What I believe is that there are bad people everywhere. You can have a bad director of special education. You can have a bad teacher. You can have a bad lawyer. You can have a bad police officer. You can have a bad barista. (Sorry, coffee is an important part of almost every SE parent’s life, amIright?)
As someone who “won a battle” against a district, I have to say that I have not felt hated. I have not felt like the school refuses to change. I have not felt like I need to constantly be in touch with the Office of Civil Rights. Maybe it’s because I’m lucky. But I don’t think that’s it. I think there’s something else there.
I think most people who are in special education are there because they care. Because they want to make a difference. They share things like the article written by Dave Wilson where he advises teachers to reflect on what parents say and what they mean, be open to ideas, ask for help, and communicate the positives. Does that sound like something that would be out there if these teachers and other professionals didn’t care? If they really went to training to learn how to avoid the law, why would they care about connecting with parents?
If you, as a parent, honestly feel that the school, the teachers, the district, even the state education agency is out to get you, you may need to stop. You may need to read that article and see if you can apply it to yourself. Do you need to learn how to deal with the school and its reps? Are you actually the problem?
I’d like to begin by thanking the school for being kind enough to give the kids a whole week off. A week of unstructured insanity. Three days without school and without Thanksgiving, so that kids who are totally focused on Thanksgiving get to spend those three days talking about it over and over and over again.
Then I’d like to look at all my Tuesday failings…
First: I left Simon unsupervised for a good five minutes at the library. Now, when I say unsupervised, I don’t mean alone. No. He was lying on the floor, reading the book he wanted to get in the children’s section, and I was sitting in the rocking chair about five feet away. I had books of my own I was going to check out, and I was distracted. I didn’t watch him every second of those five minutes. I just looked up to make sure he was still there, still happy, and not getting in the way of any of the other kids in the area.
And that’s my mistake.
I should have been watching both him and the other kids. Because while my eyes were turned away, one of those obnoxious little snot-nosed thieves stole Simon’s Blue’s Clues notebook!
Admittedly, he didn’t notice either. He was too engrossed in his book, a board book with bright colors that has a number of different animals in it. He’s borrowed it from the library at least a dozen times now.
So after a search of the area, with my loud “Do you see your notebook anywhere, Simon? Where did your Blue’s Clues notebook go?” (foolishly hoping a parent would notice their child had run off with it), we gave up, checked out our books and immediately came home so that I could grab a new notebook from its hiding place in the closet where we have a secret stash for moments like that.
Second: I let Simon talk too loudly in the dollar store. Well, maybe it wasn’t really too loud. But it was pretty loud. We got a lot of stares. But it *was* the dollar store. We’re not talking about high quality items or a generally upscale shopping experience. And it wasn’t that bad for most of the store, although he definitely shocked a few people when he kept telling them that the front door was big enough (Winnie the Pooh getting stuck at Rabbit’s house).
It wasn’t until we were in line that he started getting really loud and really echolaliac – yes, that’s a word because I said it was.
In line, with the cashier looking on, he told me repeatedly that we needed to go hide in the shower. I wouldn’t say she stared, but she did look like she might be interested in where the rest of that conversation was going. I went with the TV-talk, telling him that we didn’t need to go play hide and go seek and didn’t need to hide in the shower (Max and Ruby), but I’m not sure if she believed that was where it was going.
So if you happen to be the cashier from the store who was giving me funny looks while I paid for my items, please know – really, I swear, it’s from TV.
Third: I listened to seriously inappropriate music in front of Simon. I try to avoid doing that. I know that he likes to repeat words. And I don’t want to write those words in this blog, either. So I’ll just leave it at this: yes, I like my Lords of Acids station on Pandora. And, no, Simon hasn’t repeated anything from it.