Monday, August 24, 2009

Media Mondays: a letter of opinion

Original article here.

NYC Educator's take here.

Read both first. Talk after the jump. It's a lot of reading, but reading is good for you.


Hm, after reading this, it seems like I once again went off topic a little. Oh well, it's still relevant. A little.

Dear educators, parents, students, and anyone else that cares:

First of all, I respect all of you. You all play vital roles in my life, but most of all, you are all human beings and that just by itself demands mutual respect.

That said, would you all quit being such morons?

*ahem* Let me clarify.

First, to the educators. We have a rough job. It doesn't pay very much when compared to other jobs that require an equivalent education/skill. It isn't respected very much when compared to the same. I too, am tempted to smack the next person who says, "Teachers have it good. They play for six hours a day and have summers and holidays off." And not just because of their grammar misuse.

But that doesn't mean we have to whine about it 24/7. It doesn't mean we have to fall into society's expectation that we are twin set wearing, pointer toting, passive aggressive push-overs. Likewise, we don't have to be so damn defensive about. Every. Single. Thing. Want to know why the profession isn't respected? You're looking at one reason right here.

Yes, it's scary when a student threatens to kill you. I don't know how many of us have been down that route, but I certainly have. And if I have, then there must be others too. Yes, we are blamed for students low performance on standardized tests. Our already miniscule salaries are threatened by this during each testing season, without any regard to factors such as student's home resources and background, English learner level, physical/cognitive/learning disabilities, or the fact that they may have up to three years less of formal education than their middle-to-upper class peers. All these things, and then some, are placed on our already weary backs.

That aside, when you see a student who is troubled, or angry, or violent, do act with humanity. Don't act with fear that grows to loathing. It may take forever until their needs are met - ok, truthfully, their needs may never be met within their school-age years. But try. Because not taking action will definitely get both you, and them, nowhere.

We may bend under the workload, but let's not allow ourselves to be crippled by any other thing. I know you have a pair, so use them. And do what is in your power to help your colleagues. There's no need for all this schadenfreude, or "you blame me, I blame you" games. "I need help." "Where can I find resources for the student and his or her family?" Those are the type of questions you can ask. "I don't want to help this student, nor do I want to take the effort to learn how," is inexcusable. If you find yourself saying this, seriously reconsider your choice of profession.

To parents, for goodness sake, curb your kid! Students need special education because of a variety of reasons. You are one of them. Did you think parenting was easy? Did you think it would be fun all the time? Even if you did, you will probably know by the time your kid begins school that you have a life-time of work ahead of you.

Do not rely on your child's teacher to be the first line of defense when it comes to disabilities. Your child's teacher WILL NOT EVEN SEE YOUR CHILD UNTIL THEY ARE FIVE or thereabouts. You will see your child from the moment that strawberry jello-covered body pops out of your collective womb. YOU are the first line of defense. Educate yourself. Sure, you may not have medical insurance, but there are other ways - free or inexpensive ways - to prevent, as well as to take the first steps in treatment (or even a cure, depending on the disability), for your child.

Do not assume that your child's teacher is an expert in handling special education situations. Yes, most teachers have some training and knowledge in identifying symptoms. We do not know, nor are qualified to unless with the proper certification, to diagnose. We can mostly just adjust our teaching methods to accommodate your child. This will not always cure, alleviate, nor do away with the original disability. For some cases, the student will have to live with the disability for the rest of their lives. What your child's teacher does is TEACH your child SOME (not all) strategies on how to cope with that in mainstream society.

Do inform the school and the teacher. Do this in person and in writing. Tell your child's teacher the general outline of treatment you have taken for your child. THE TEACHER WILL NOT KNOW THIS UNTIL YOU TELL THEM. We are not mind readers. But we are here for the benefit of your student as well. If you have any suspicion or concern for the behavior of your student, share it with your teacher. Even if your student does not officially get diagnosed and enter special education services, there are other things the teacher can do to help your student function well in school.

Do understand that your child's teacher has 20-40 other students under their care during the school day. Your child is mostly likely not their only special education case. You are not the only outside pressure that the teacher faces on a daily basis.

Do network with the other parents. If your child is not the only special education case that the school has, then you are not the only parent who is dealing with this sort of rough stuff. Like I said earlier, it's going to be a long journey so let's get together and ya-ya, folks.

To students, there are some things that are not your fault. There are other things that are. And then there are still other things that are no one's fault. This is life, and one of the reasons school is there for is to teach you this. You will not always create a perfect project. You will not always be satisfied with your work, be it an A+ or a D-. You will not always please everybody.

You will get angry sometimes. You will be frustrated, hurt. You might feel like getting violent - perhaps you have already been there and done that. You will hate and you will fear. You will feel like a complete loser. You will fail sometimes. These are all things that will happen because the exact opposite on the spectrum are also possible. You must accept these things when they happen, and you must not let them overtake you because then the exact opposites will never occur.

Your grades are NOT based on whether the teacher likes you or not. Your grades do NOT define who you are as a person. And if it currently does, then work to get yourself out of that dead-end rut. Don't worry, the rut is shallower than you think. You are still a kid, and I know your world view is currently skewed egotistical and that you might take perceived (or otherwise) slights as the end of the world as you know it. Thankfully, your world is very small and very impermanent.

But because it is small and impermanent, do take advantage of it. It's smallness means you can explore all the way out to the very corners and still be home in time for supper. The impermanence means you might want to spend your time in school wisely. This time where you have the protection of your guardians, the guidance of your teachers, and the friendship of your peers is very precious. Try not to blow it.

And when you do blow it, and you will - because we know you have tried your hardest not to and will try your hardest not to again - all those people in your world will forgive you. All those people are willing to help pick you up and dust you off and set you back towards where you want to go.

And if they don't, then they weren't worth a baboon's butt to begin with. Their abandonment speaks more of their flimsy characters than it does of anything about you. Yes, your teachers may think you are annoying at times. Haven't you thought the same of your teachers? We are still rooting for you, so work hard.

To any one else that cares, please continue to care. Thank you for caring.

Sincerely and with best wishes to all.


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