Friday, May 24, 2013
my hands are knot tied
Exactly a week ago from today, I posted one of my blog updates including my most recent communication to the superintendent. I wrote a very detailed advocacy letter in favor of H's Special Ed teacher (she is the one who helps him learn the core academics at HIS pace, & then he's mainstream Gen Ed for everything else). She is intended to be a consistent part of his curriculum every year, when other teachers will change as he progresses from grade-to-grade.
Because she is newer than other staff, & non-tenured, her job is in jeopardy. The superintendent, although she was receptive to my feedback, tried to assure me that anyone who took Miss B's place would absolutely be qualified & blah blah blah... & I was trying to tell her, to show her, that it's not just Miss B's certifications which make her an appropriate, effective teacher for my son & the other kids in that class. She does that all on her own.
H's former teacher (who taught him even before the current program was introduced at his school), was BCC'd on my letter. Not just because I mention her in my letter, so therefore I thought she should be copied on it, but for about 5 years now she has been my rock since Hayden was in preschool.
You see, whether you're a first-time parent or a new parent to a child, if you learn that your child has special needs there is much less time to absorb this news than you would think. You're busy with all of the various doctor & specialist appointments... busy with therapies... & as you're living through all of this & helping your child through each early developmental stage, you're simultaneously making preparations for the next one... & it's exhausting. But if you're lucky you have very strong family support & they literally help hold you up. And needless to say if your child's smile is anything like the one on my kid's face, his happiness certainly keeps you going, too.
But then before you know it, your child who was just a toddler ten seconds ago is now age-eligible for grade school... & you're once again faced with a transition. And you thought you had this whole parenting thing down, & then you realize this stage requires that you actually put trust in others.
And there is so much you do not yet know.
And challenges will arise... and laws won't make sense... and the advocating is endless... and you're scared you can't do this nearly as well as you need to... and if I could tell you what all of this felt like from my perspective, I would sum it up by saying and then there was Mrs. L.
She knew I could do this before I did.
And I honestly think it's because of her that I can easily distinguish between most teachers & then teachers like Miss B.
So when it's repeatedly explained to me that everyone's hands are tied & the law is the law, & the budget cuts are what they are, & Miss B is among the newest of the staff, & she is not tenured... I think it went in one ear & out the other, because all I heard was that her job was in jeopardy.
If the past five years have taught me one thing, it's that just when you think your efforts will be useless that's precisely when you should be motivated to put them forth. These are often the times when people do not expect you to speak up, so it's all the more reason why you should.
So I wrote my letter & I said everything I could think of... six pages worth. I didn't care if it made someone's eyes roll or if they skimmed it & then went on to the next thing, without even thinking about it for one second. It had to be said because it's for Hayden.
The Superintendent did offer a polite, albeit brief, reply: "I wanted to let you know that I received this and I really appreciate you taking the time to do it. I promise to share the information as well."
Days later when Mrs. L was still thinking about this (apparently I'm not the only one... <3 her), she called & said that she thought I should forward the letter to the Board of Ed. I told her two things: that I was informed I should direct my efforts to the Superintendent, & that she was going to share the letter with the Board.
She basically concurred that is correct, but this can't hurt. The next day I forwarded my letter to a couple members of the Board. (I offered an apology in advance in case it was a duplicate... blah blah blah)
Turns out, it wasn't a duplicate. That evening, one of the Board members wrote me back:
"Thank you so much for your heartfelt letter. Please know that we, as Board members, agonize over these types of decisions. I can promise you that I will contemplate all of the information you shared with me about Hayden. Do I have your permission to share your email with the rest of the Board?"
Needless to say I replied with an insanely eager yes. Because even if everyone's hands are tied & the law is the law, & the budget cuts are what they are, & Miss B is among the newest of the staff, & she is not tenured... the truth is I've always had a knack for untangling things.
I am a visual learner... I can follow lines well... this is how I am able to draw & able to paint... & incidentally having that kind of eye is also very useful for loosening knots.