And On Third Thought...
October 26, 2011
So. Yeah...turns out that was nicely anticlimactic, in the end.
The best thing about about this whole...uh, thing (besides working itself out fairly quickly) was the fact that it rallied our mostly-dormant parent email distro list like nothing else in the world. What had previously only been used to send out links to special-needs talks and events and charity 5Ks suddenly came alive with the sound of HIGHLY ALARMED MOTHER BEARS.
Everyone quickly passed along whatever bits of conflicting or corroborating information we'd received from the school, the teacher, the administration. We compared notes and conspiracy theories and even a horror story or two. (It was a dark and stormy Tuesday after the first day of school when one child spent 40 goddamn minutes wandering around the school completely lost because neither his homeroom teacher nor special education teacher realized he was missing, holy shit, the end.) By late last night, we were virtually toasting each other's wine glasses over email and firming up final details on a class playdate next week and a mom's night out the week after. It was beautiful.
It was also interesting to see the different advocacy styles: Some go in with guns blazing. They argue, they hang up the phone, they say things like "if I find out you've pulled my child out of general education for even five minutes because of overcrowding, I will file a discrimination lawsuit." Others are more measured and willing to give the school the benefit of the doubt...but not too much benefit, because...you know. Some see conspiracies everywhere, or can always find a reason to be angry, while others have to get dragged kicking and screaming from their confrontation-adverse corners, and fight only when they absolutely have to. Some get amped up by the process, injected with nervous energy that keeps them up and emailing until midnight, while others get so emotionally wiped out by an afternoon IEP meeting that they have to go home and crawl back into bed for a few hours before they talk about it.
I'm sure for teachers and therapists and administrators it gets AWFULLY exhausting dealing with some of these personality types, and easy to point at a particular reaction and say YOU'RE GOING ABOUT THIS THE WRONG WAY, STOP. The thing is, though, that every one of these parents got to where they are -- to this X-Files-like point of TRUST NO ONE -- honestly. Usually the hard way. From the time they didn't fight back or argue or ask that one last pointed question because they didn't want to seem mean or be a bother. Or the time they DID fight and argue and question...and still were unable to get what their child needed. It doesn't make us right all the time, but just another imperfect part of an imperfect system.
Personally, I spent the bulk of my afternoon composing a (hopefully) polite yet undeniably pointed email to the involved parties. (Probably shouldn't come as a surprise that writing tends to be my best medium for confrontation, rather than the phone or in person.) I tossed around the proper acronyms and dissected my son's day, calling his service minutes into question while also attempting to appeal on a personal level, describing Noah's level of stress and anxiety about school in general and c'mon, dudes. Don't be dicks about this. LRE, man. LRE.
Within 15 minutes of the dismissal bell ringing at school, my phone was ringing and my email was replied to, with a good three or four other higher-ups from the school now CC'd on it.
Basically, what we all had here was a failure to communicate. Basically, this kerfluffle is what happens when a principal (who is actually an assistant principal filling in temporarily while the "real" principal is on maternity leave) makes a phone call that probably should have been made by the teacher, and with a lot more notice or lead time to prevent parents from feeling railroaded, or like someone was trying to pull a fast one on us.
Upshot: I thought Noah spent more time in his homeroom than he actually does, thanks to a misunderstanding at our last IEP meeting, some bungled information we received at Back To School Night and from...yeah, okay, I know...Noah himself, the most unreliable of narrators. He actually gets off the bus, goes to the gen-ed classroom, hangs up his coat and backpack, sits down to listen to about five minutes of all-school announcements via the Promethean Board...and then is immediately told to get his coat and backpack again, line up at the door, and head to his other classroom.
Would it be okay if he listened to the announcements in the other classroom instead, so he's not having to transition 10 minutes into the school day? Because the kids are so tightly scheduled down to the minute this year -- all because of statewide changes to the curriculum, which is why this is a new problem -- and the special ed teacher isn't able to get the new, longer math lesson in. So it would really help her if she could have the kids there from the beginning. Then they aren't running late to rejoin the gen-ed class for art and music and science, which is what's currently happening almost every day. The 10 additional minutes a day would not actually eat into his IEP-dictated gen-ed time, but would instead make sure he WASN'T missing more valuable peer interaction later in the day.
I have to admit, there was a part of me -- a small, petty part -- that wanted to stick to my original guns. To cling to Noah's five minutes of homeroom time no matter what. MY PRESHUS! HISSSSSS! To insist that those five minutes provide invaluable peer interaction that they will take from my COLD DEAD HANDS, just to stick it to them for handling this so badly and not explaining things well. To continue to nurture my pet theory that this was still some kind of fallout from the overcrowded kindergarten rooms.
But I had to admit that his teacher really had a point. Moving Noah around that much in the morning is kind of silly, and probably feels like transition-whiplash to him. For kids without transitioning difficulties, it's SUCH a nice idea to have everyone arrive on equal gen-ed footing before scattering out to special ed and ESOL and the resource room. I mean, I love the sound of that, because it's just so...up with integration! everybody is different and special but also the same! and stuff.
But for a kid like Noah, well, the reality is that it probably makes things harder for him.
Some of the other parents have decided to reject the schedule change and keep things as-is, and of course the school is bending over backwards to agree that yes! That is completely within your rights! We will of course honor your wishes! Our bad!
I asked Noah what he wanted. I assumed he'd pick the original homeroom option, since he likes that teacher a lot more. (Mostly just because he only sees that teacher for the fun, easier parts of the day.)
No, he said. He wants to start off in the smaller classroom. He doesn't like lining up to leave all the time, and he always forgets which room he's left his jacket in and then Mommy gets annoyed with him when he gets off the bus with no jacket. It was just too much moving around all the time.
As you wish, Noah. As you wish.
(Photo by Wendy at Blue Lily Photography, and HELL YES SQUEE I have dozens more to inflict on you guys, now that I'm done talking about the latest crisis of my own fool creation.)