I  am so tired of teachers! Yes, all of them. And I’m theoretically one of them. Just try, for just a bit, to see your students as something other than a job. Try to leave your personal issues at the door so they don’t bleed over into the classroom. Try to be an adult and not resort to shaming children to cover up your inadequacies and mistakes. Recognize that you are a role model and then act like one.

I know you’re overworked, underpaid and very underappreciated. But, you chose this profession. You made a conscious decision to impact lives through education. You can also choose to change. No one is forcing you to continuing teaching.

Consider the harm you are capable of unintentionally inflicted upon students with your careless words and blasé attitude. Your students think the world of you. And yet, these same kids get beaten down because you have too much else on your plate to see what they can accomplish. You don’t see their potential because you are too busy trying to point out their flaws.

I miss my village. I miss compassion, understanding and cooperative effort. I miss having people in my life that are willing to hold me accountable without tearing me to bits. Here’s to you Mrs. Dunning, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Cleckner,  Ms. McCray, Mr. Nissly and Ms. Fisher. Even Mr. Hashim who made me copy pages from the dictionary because I swore in class. Here’s to all the adults who watched over me and took the time to redirect my course when I strayed too far. Wherever you are, you are my heroes.

Change Should Happen, But…

Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.~ Edmund Burke

Another eye-opening day for me. I had the opportunity to visit the elementary school my children attended many years ago. This time I was the outsider, unknown to most of the staff. The school has had three principals and four assistant principals in the last eleven years. It went from being highly sought after as a placement to being on a watch list for poor performance. Not to inject too much politic…but my school mill levy has tripled in the last 11 years. My home state just shot down a state tax increase for education. And, surprise, our politicians can’t seem to understand why no one wants to give money to education.

But, I digress. After the meeting inside the school, I sat outside and observed recess for 4th and 5th grade. I was sitting in my parked vehicle. Lest you leap to the conclusion that I had some bizarre reason for watching, I was with a parent who wanted to see why her kid was being “written up” for inappropriate conduct during recess. What we saw was very enlightening.

The past…when my son was in 3rd grade at this school, two kids pinned him face down in the gravel and stomped n his back until he was bruised and peeing blood. The school insisted it could not have happened under their watch. I’m pretty sure I would have remembered if it had happened under my watch. He didn’t leave for school in that condition, he came home off the bus in that condition, ergo this happened at school. Oh no, I was told. Our students are supervised by four adults who each stand in a corner of the playground watching for these things. Well, I got mad and filed a complaint which was not well received, but was litigated out in favor of my son. The terms included increased playground supervision.

Today, I watched four women (3 teachers/ 1 para-professional) stand together in a cluster by the door with their backs to the playground. I saw students practicing what I can only assume was their form of martial arts – by hitting and kicking each other.  I watched a female student jump on a male student’s back for a piggy back ride. I saw 6 children attempting to build a human pyramid, only to have a seventh child come over and push the top child off so all came tumbling down. I watched a child fall off playground equipment and limp away in tears. A bit later, I watched as 4th grade girls jumped on their male teacher (two providing supervision for over 100 students) and he provided piggy back rides. I watched children throwing rocks at passing cars. I think you get the idea.

What I didn’t see was supervision. Yes, there were adults out on the playground. Most of the time, they had their backs to the students and were engaged with each other. The parent I was with wanted to know how many of these other students had been written up. I told her I would have to say none as the adults weren’t watching.

We all wonder where bullying comes from and how it goes so far, so fast. In 30 minutes of observation coupled with my prior experience and that of the parent with me, I can safely say that it’s because kids will be kids and if the environment is right, they will hurt each other. I have absolutely no doubt that what happened to my child could easily happen to another child at that school.

Before everyone berates me for being a helicopter parent, let me just point out that this was one snapshot, eleven years after my son’s incident, and nothing has changed. The school and the district have not held up their end of the bargain. It’s not a matter of what ifs. It’s only a matter of when. There is enough money in the district budget to send teachers on two-week fully paid “trainings” for curriculum in Canada but not enough to ensure adequate and appropriate supervision on the property. There is a cry for safety in schools and yet not even the most basic situational awareness was demonstrated today. I sat in a parked car for 30 minutes, outside an elementary school playground and no one questioned me. I saw children almost a quarter-mile from an adult and the adult wasn’t watching. We don’t need to wrap our kids in plastic bubbles, be we should expect that someone knows what’s going on.

So, I leave you with this thought: History does repeat itself. When we fail to learn from our mistakes, it repeats itself more frequently. Throwing money at the problem isn’t always the solution. Sometimes, you need to look at yourself and ask if you’re doing the best you can do at your job in life.

Wake up!

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today is, of course, a brand new day. An opportunity to “be all I can be” and to “seize the day.” I’m sure if I gave it more thought I cold come up with a whole string of clichés that have been used over the years to tell people to live in the present.

This week has been crazy busy so far. I’ve been helping families who have children in the public school system. These families are fighting for their children’s right to attend school unharrassed. To be engaged and included in activities. To have the same opportunities as their peers. Wow! It sounds like I just stepped back 50 years in time.

And it feels like it some days too. These children are affected by disabilities. Federal law mandates they be provided with a free and appropriate public education. The sticking point seems to be “appropriate.” Some schools deem that just allowing kids with disabilities to attend “their” school is sufficient. Other schools go above and beyond to meet the student’s needs. It’s a broad a spectrum as any disability.

My daughter told me last night that in one of her classes, students with significant needs are brought to class. The teacher makes a point of telling the group “Good Morning Special Friends” and then proceeds to have every student walk over and greet each of the “Special Friends.” My daughter is in high school. I know she would be mortified if someone called attention to her in this fashion. Why does this teacher insist on singling out the students with disabilities?

It’s most likely not mean spirited. It’s probably lack of awareness and assumptions. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s wrong. It’s legally wrong because the student’s right to education privacy, in this case being openly “outed” as having disabilities, is being violated. It’s also morally wrong. The founding fathers of the United States proclaimed that, at least in America, all men are created equal. We’ve fought wars of this ideal. We’ve been forced to open our minds and let go of long-held beliefs about various things. Now, we need to let go of segregating and labeling people with disabilities.

Yes, all of us. Stop seeing the wheelchair and start seeing the person. Stop whining about people parking in handicapped spots who seem to be “okay.” Stop assuming that a person who talks slower or not at all isn’t capable of communication. Stop believing that someone who is different from you is less than you.

It’s hard to let go of long-held beliefs. It’s been about 40 years since mainstreaming became law in the schools, yet “teams” still insist on separate classrooms for students with disabilities. It’s shouldn’t be about money, pride or personal beliefs. It’s about human beings. It’s about seeing beyond how something affects you and realizing that the effect on someone else is far greater than imagined.