I don’t know what to think. I have had two weeks of meeting with school personnel, parents of kids with IEPs, and observing others interact with students with special needs.
I am exhausted. I am full of self doubt. I am depressed. I am anxious. I am worried. I have hope. Then I don’t. I believe what I talk and walk. And then I don’t. I want pie. I want a nap. Then I can’t eat or sleep. I have a lot to say. Then I am rendered speechless and withdraw.
First the good stuff. Because it wasn’t all bad and stressful.
I sat in an IEP meeting with an incredible school social worker who was so gracious, concerned, genuine, and totally committed to understanding the mom whose kiddo we were meeting about. This social worker is young, fairly new to the job. But everything about her was exactly what one would hope to find in a highly effective school social worker. She was child-centered, humble, intent on making sure everyone at the table had a voice. She is a keeper. I am grateful for her demeanor, her kindness, her efforts to make sure we stayed focused on the student.
I heard from three former university students this week. There isn’t much in this world I enjoy more. And they give me hope. They are incredible teachers. They are in it all the way. Their energy is remarkable. They understand each of their students and that is admirable. It means they are paying attention to each kiddo and seeing them as whole beings. Two of these former students/now teachers called on me for some help. They are not getting the support they need. They don’t have mentors or coaches who can provide progressive ideas and model best practice. They feel the same desperation I feel about how we better get our act together in our schools.
We problem solved and generated some great ideas, all worth a try. And when I heard back from each of them, I was a brought to tears. They tried what we talked about and they got incredible results. They are courageous! They are righteous! They are passionate risk takers. I am grateful to each one of them.
We had an IEP for Drawman. Wow. All I can say is his team is such a blessing. The special education administrator who has been a driving force in both of my kids’ IEPs was open to every possible option, encouraged even more exploration on behalf of Drawman and she spoke directly with him so he was heard. He was validated. The immediate plan to get him through the rest of the year brought great relief to my kid. And that means relief here at home. The discussion about next year was really good. Again, Drawman was encouraged and found glimmers of hope where prior to the meeting he saw none. Drawman’s social needs were considered and value was placed on those needs and incorporated into some creative class choices for next year.
Drawman’s IEP team is strong, highly effective. His speech and language teacher is gifted! I mean GIFTED! I cannot even find words to adequately describe all her talents, her passion, her creativity and her effectiveness. Drawman also has a wonderful Autism teacher. Boy, does she work hard. And she gets my kid. She enjoys him, works with him, supports him in such caring ways. She is always smiling, and there is no way I could do her job with the genuine smile she wears all day long. I do worry for her, though. Her load is heavy and complicated.
So, there is reason for hope, right?
I am not so sure. Although I saw some really good things these last two weeks, I saw some brutal truths about how often we are ineffective with students. I saw behaviorism used inappropriately AGAIN. I watched a diagnostician and Autism teacher make some really poor decisions about a student. Those decisions made an already fragile kiddo miserable and, in fact, they triggered him repeatedly. And these are people their school district sees as effective and knowledgable. Not by a long shot. What I watched was two adults with a very narrow view of how kids should be treated bungle even the most basic of support.
I sat in a meeting with an EBD teacher in such need of mentoring and coaching about behavior management, lesson and program development and maintenance, that I had a mild panic attack.
I drove away desperate to help, feeling such urgency to fix this, to empower this teacher with strategies that work. Those poor kids. That poor young teacher.
There is just so much to do. So much to know. So much to share. While we sit around focusing on formal assessment, unsupported teachers are burning out, kids’ needs are being neglected, feelings ignored. We are missing way too much. Our students are not being served as well as they deserve. And some aren’t being served well at all.
So, I will walk away from it all this weekend. Find some way to put distance between all that needs fixing and myself. I need perspective so I can remain objective enough to be useful.
Who am I kidding? This is all I think about no matter what I do.