always on the brink, trying never to show it...

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Hopefully, tomorrow I'll be recovering from a six-day work week.

I know that for some, many, far too many, that's normal. If you're reading this and shouting, "Welcome to my world!" at the screen, I apologize.

For me it's not. My kids? Also not so hot on the thought. My daughter cried for ten long minutes yesterday morning when she realized that we were not staying home together and that she had to go to daycare again. My son seems to enjoy the before school care and didn't seem too put out by it all. Of course, he knew he was coming with me to work today so it was probably a tad easier on him.

Me? I'm just worn out and exhausted. There's a reason I went to a four day week and took the 20% paycut. I don't want to work five days a week! It's really that simple. I like walking my son to school and picking him up after school, just that one time each week. I like chit-chatting with his teacher, joking with the principal and assistant principal. I like the connection. I want them to know I'm around, paying attention.

Yesterday we went to a family party and it was all I could do to keep myself from curling up on the couch and sleeping. This morning, about 4 a.m., I was attempting to lull myself back to sleep just so that I could get a little more time in before having to get up and get ready for work on a Saturday.

Now I'm trying to wind down. The work day wasn't long, I'm just exhausted. Doesn't help that we headed out to a theme park for the evening hours. I hate the feeling that work is consuming me. And these days I feel that more and more frequently.

I've been waking up in the middle of the night, running through scenarios, making mental lists of students to evaluate, teachers to speak with, phone calls to make.

I'm working at night--verboten until recently--every week, multiple evenings.

I'm stressed out, yelling at the kids, thinking evil thoughts about my husband, wishing all the neighbors would go back into their houses and leave me alone.

I'm hypervigilant to my environment. Jumping at every noise. Cringing at the television and stereo. I thought I was going to freak out in the grocery store the other night when I kept bumping into things, my daughter kept talking more loudly than I would have liked. It hurt my head, my ears, my eyes, my being.

I find myself dreaming of winning the lottery, starting a bookstore in the downtown area, anything other than this.

And I actually like my job.

But nobody should be this stressed out. stretched thin.

I can't wait until July.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Thursday, January 19, 2006

what do you want for your child? part two

So today, instead of dealing with special education teachers, I worked with general education teachers vying to move their kids out of their classrooms and into special education classrooms. This is otherwise known as Student Success Team in some schools and Student Study Team in others. I've also seen an acronym of ARC in states other than mine and it appears to be the same process but I have no idea what that stands for.

New teacher Gladys. First year fully credentialed and officially hired at my school. Not a young new teacher. A teacher who has raised her own three successful children and then went back to get her credential. Has already somehow managed to alienate the rest of the teachers at her grade level. Spends a lot of time telling people about her experience as a leader for the Cub Scouts and how that relates to teaching. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm just saying.

Four kids referred today. I knew they were coming. After first quarter conferences in November she gleefully sang out in my general direction that four of her students' parents are requesting special education. Imagine! Four of them! What are the odds that four separate sets of parents would request that in one sitting? I dunno, I'm thinking that probably the odds increase when the teacher suggests it? I'm not accusing, I'm merely alleging.

At any rate, when she told me that in November, I smiled back and said, "You know, I find that most of the time when parents ask something like that, what they're really asking for is help in general and they aren't really sure how to do that, or what the options are." She agreed, still smiling. Genuinely. Because I don't think she has a clue what she'd just told those parents.

That basically, she thinks that each of those children has a life long disabling condition that could never allow that child to function without the assistance of special services. At least in my opinion that's what she said. And I don't think that's something to say or determine lightly. There really are people out there with significant and severe learning disabilities and their experiences should not be watered down so glibly and without forethought. So anyway, she referred all four of them to the SST. And then she went on to tell our resource specialist that she had four kids who were "slam dunks" for testing.

Slam dunks.

I don't even really know what that means.

Slam dunk stupid? Slam dunk failing? Slam dunk disabled?

We didn't refer any of them for evaluation. Not that they aren't struggling. She's right about that.

Student A has significant family issues. I'm not privy to all of them apparently, but looks went around the room that I am smart enough to know meant "not good." And since I've already evaluated one of Student A's siblings and seen another sibling in last month's SST, I'm guessing those issues are big ones and that the family needs a something something other than special ed. And, he's in an intervention program already and improving! So that's great news. We'll be looking at him again later in the year to ensure he's still progressing.

Student B. Well, this is his fifth school and he's in fourth grade and his mom looked like she could kick my ass if she wanted to and she said a little something about kicking last year's anorexic (seriously, she said just this) teacher's ass if she ran into her on campus. Again, not sure this is so much a learning disability as it seems to be a restraining order kind of thing.

Student C. Parents didn't even come. I think one is in jail and the other didn't come and has made it clear she has no interest. Poor kid is already showing involvement in gangs and it's not looking good. I feel really badly for him.

Student D. Parents came. He has not turned in any homework since, oh, I think around October. Call me crazy, but it seems to me that if you don't attempt to do the work, it's a little bit hard to learn the material. And it didn't matter what we said, mom made it clear she's not going to be helping little D. And at the end, the parent wanted to know if she still has to take the child to the doctor like the teacher told her to. What the hell? Turns out she told the parents that doctors diagnose processing deficits (commonly referred to as learning disabilities) and that she should take the child there for...I'm not sure what for. A prescription maybe? LD Be Gone?

What I decided about new teacher Gladys is that she is very very good at identifying families in crisis. Not so much at the identifying which kids are suffering intolerably and unmistakably from learning disabilities, but she's definitely got the crisis thing going on. I'm glad she brought them. They need to be on my radar and our principal's radar. Their parents need to know they and their kids are on our radar. I know I'm on the principal's radar at the school my kid attends (but I'm pretty sure it's in an entirely different way). And I want these kids to do well. And succeed. And flourish. But I'm not going to make up some disabling condition and make things worse for them.

And you know, this always gets me hot in these meetings. It never fails that one of the moms comes in (not to blame it all on the moms, they just seem to be the ones to show up for things and I've also never really heard a dad say this next thing in my decade-plus of working in schools), and during the meeting while we're discussing her child, says, bold-faced right to me, "You know, I work!" Uh yeah. So do I. That's why I'm here right now. Talking to you. Not at home with my young child. Because I work.

I only get hot in my head about that. But I do usually give a polite retort along the lines of Yes, it's so difficult, isn't it? I think it is too. Today I think I got a little hot. It was the absolute refusal to help her kid out I think. Every suggestion we came up with, she shot down. She works from 7:00 a.m. and doesn't get home until almost 5:00. Yup, same here. My kids still do their homework. And we even start it on the weekends to get a little jump on the coming week. So I said, I work too! I have kids too. I'm here at seven in the morning and my children still do their homework! If you want your child's life to be better, easier--and we most of us want these things for our children--then you must help your child learn to read and do math!

oy. I'm glad today is over. I'm sure poor New Teacher Gladys is too.

Monday, January 16, 2006

I need the orange

My four-year-old daughter has had a bout of the croup and is now at the tail end of it. She has a mild cold. So last night and tonight we gave her some cough/cold medicine--nighttime kind, with an antihistamine in it. She can't stand the taste of it and continually lobbies for the "orange" medicine--plain old ibuprofen, which does nothing for the stuffy nose and mild cough...So this was our conversation before bed this evening...

Daughter: I'm still sick you know.

Me: I know. We should give you your medicine now before you go to bed.

Daughter (trotting behind me down the hall to the kitchen): But I only want the orange medicine. No red.

Me: Go ask Daddy what he thinks.

I hand her the "red" medicine and quickly run down the hall behind her, then stand behind her and mouth "THIS one" to my husband.

Daughter: Daddy, I need the orange medicine.

She hands him the red medicine, the one she doesn't want as she says this.

Daddy: Let me see...this says...If you are coughing and you are four years old--How old are you again?

Daughter, not missing a beat: 90

Friday, January 06, 2006

post vacation jet lag

We just returned from a week long vacation in sunny Orlando, Florida. We skipped Disney--don't even get me started on my annoyance with that corporation--and headed for the Universal Studios and Sea World theme parks instead, with a jaunt over to Cape Canaveral to visit the Kennedy Space Center. The kids were a little young for that, resulting in limited enjoyment for us as well. Next trip perhaps.

But what we really noticed throughout the week was the rudeness of people in general. We were pushed, we were jostled, we were ignored and all other sorts of ugliness by the other patrons of such parks. Adults attempting to push their way past our children for a photo op with Shrek. A woman pushing me while saying, "We are trying to get through!" on her way to a spot (where she was karmically soaked) for the Shamu show at Sea World. My loving spouse muttered back at her, "Everybody is trying to get through." I understand Shamu is a big deal when you don't have access to such things routinely. And truth told, we do. We have access to all these parks right near our home and so I suppose we are a bit more immune as adults. But our kids aren't. They are just as eager to feed the dolphins as the next person is and when a grown person shoves him/herself in front of my four year old to try to pet a dolphin, well, my blood just boils. (What would you want for your child?) Maybe people don't understand that what they're doing is rude. But I really think they do and that most of us suffer from insufferable rudeness and lack of proper etiquette and consideration for others.

Today for example. We were flying back home and were at the middle airport between flights. I was standing in line to buy some food for the family (an entirely separate rant; why don't airlines serve food anymore?!). A youngish man came walking up toward the counter, looked right at me, then inserted himself between me and the man actually paying at the counter. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Actually, it was more like I was in denial. Surely he wasn't cutting in front of me so blatantly, right? He must be with the other man. He must be his son! No. Just a dick. He began his order. I said, "Excuse me, but I was standing in line when you cut in front of me." No response. I repeated myself. No response. Meanwhile his order is completing and he has paid and moved to the side. I walked to the counter, made sure he made eye contact with me and said, "Hi. I was actually standing in line." Blank stare. "When you walked into line. Remember that? You looked right at me? You looked into my eyes? You cut right in front of me. I was in line." The clerk looked aghast. Why? Is it so wrong to confront him? I didn't actually tell him out loud that he's a dick. I didn't say anything insulting. I merely repeated the facts of the encounter. He muttered something back but it certainly wasn't remorseful and there was no apology. It was more that he acknowledged my truth. "Yeah. You're right." That just makes him a dick.

My son often comes home from school and comments that he and his teacher are the only people in his class who ever say "Bless you" when somebody sneezes. We aren't particularly religious. I believe we are spiritual, but not particularly faithful to any one religion. So we've taught bless you, salud as phrases of etiquette to our children. My son is particularly affronted that no one else uses either phrase or even appears to notice a sneeze. And evidently he's done some experimenting with it with some fake sneezes (that just makes me giggle a little bit to imagine). He keeps commenting that he's going to stop using the phrases and I keep encouraging him to take the higher moral ground. I firmly believe that joy begets joy. So I try to smile at everyone and thank everyone and please everyone. And it often works. I often get a big smile back and a Have a good day. But that's just the people who are being paid to interact with me. The rest of the people...well...let's just say there was a bit of relief to come home today. I was about to dispense with the thank yous and start in on the blows.