87%… That is the result. I sit tonight on the brink of an abyss of sorts… and I stare into the darkness – with unknown demons on the move. It sounds like the setting for some cool video game that H would love – but this is no game. This is real life.
I pride myself on my self-regulation ability. I can keep my cool in the most stressful and tenuous of situations. I sometimes blow off some steam out of sight or earshot of others, or may perhaps write a scathing letter that will never be sent. My attitude generally has been when the going gets tough… it means there is work to be done.
This time however – I think I need to let fly and post about what I am feeling. My chest is tight… I am angry and frustrated and tired of the rhetoric. Our public schools are chronically underfunded and it is so easy for the government to dismiss the valid concerns raised by educators as being the laments of greedy teachers. I am not eloquent… and have no beautiful way to say these words. I am angry and resentful and weary of feeling targeted!
I, like 87% of my colleagues, have voted this past week to escalate our action and our opposition to the shameful direction the BC Government is moving with its self-serving legislation and lack of support for public education. Am I stressed? Yes! Am I worried? Yes! Am I afraid? Angry? Indignant? Outraged? Shocked? Yes! Yes! Yes!! YES!!
On Friday morning I heard the Premier, Christy Clark, on CBC Radio saying that she thought it was irresponsible of teachers to strike and have our students lose three days of school in the coming week. She suggests that teachers should think about this deeply and consider the effects it will have on our students’ education. She implies with her message that we are not acting with consideration of the effects of our actions…
Well, Ms. Clark – when I heard that in my drive on the way to school on Friday, I gave you quite an earful!! I ranted and raved about the narrowness of your tiresome dogma and your twisted rhetoric. I was alone in the car… and I suspect that my language may have been somewhat colourful. I would attempt to capture it in my writing – but I fear there is no way to infuse it with the dripping sarcasm and lovely tone of incensed outrage in order to really do it justice. You will just have to take my word for it!
3 days?? You have no idea!
As I am a teacher I feel it is necessary to help you with a little math. Ms. Clark, I am afraid you need a little schooling, so here are a few more numbers for your consideration:
22 is the age I was when I began my teaching career. 21 is the number of years I was a primary teacher. 3 is the number of years it took me to do my Master of Education Degree. 5 is the number of years I have been a Special Education Teacher. 8 is the number of years I have attended university.
3 is the age of my son when he had his first SLP evaluation. 4 is the number of years he had been on this earth when we began to realize that what we were dealing with was more than simply a language delay. After 12 months on the wait list, 4 SLP evaluations, and a myriad of tests and appointments, 17 is the number of reports we have in his file. 4 represents the pediatric visits we have annually, but 36 is the number of visits thus far in his life. 2 is the number of file drawers that hold the documentation of his interventions and other information. 5 was his age when we received the information that he was Autistic. 8 represents the number of IEPs he has had thus far. 13 is his years on this earth, and 7 is his grade. 5 was his grade when we moved him from our neighbourhood school. 2.5 years is the time he has been attending a Distance Education School.
3 days??? Really???
If you value the 3 days – explain to me why a child like mine is unable to get the services he needs to support him at his neighbourhood school, because I have to tell you – we are certainly keeping up our end of the deal! Explain to me how a child with a social disability is somehow expected to handle recess and lunch with an adult just watching him from afar at the same time as they are supervising two or three other children needing extra support? Tell me why a child like mine who has language – but has processing challenges, and needs support with developing social communication, is unable to get speech and language support at his school?
Explain to me why my child spent hour upon hour sitting in the hallway – unable to work at school as he was so stressed?
My kid would not have missed those 3 days!
Explain to me how he could get a report card with no grades because he was so anxious – he was unable to do the work – and the support that was scheduled to be there for him seldom lined up with the activities for which he truly needed assistance? I’d love to hear your take on the reason why a happy, sweet, and delightful boy on the Autism spectrum wound up feeling so badly about himself that we had to hire a child therapist, and finally put him in a distance education school to rescue him.
Actually Ms. Clark – don’t bother!! These questions are rhetorical!
The situation for my son is not representative of shortcomings of the school or the teachers or the education assistants. No – the shortcomings are systemic: our system is in poverty and schools are stressed with trying to service the intense and multiple needs of students with a myriad of challenges. The reality is – a child like mine needs extra support to be successful… and those supports (or lack thereof, because in many cases they no longer exist) were not able to meet the needs of my child.
However, my child with autism is fortunate. His dad quit his job as a teacher in order to be H’s Home Facilitator and give him the support he needs to learn important social and academic lessons in an emotionally safe environment. He has the opportunity to grow into a man as amazing as his father. This child is socially vulnerable, but now we are able to ensure his safety. I am a special education teacher, and well able to support this situation with practical knowledge, resources, and strategies. We have made financial sacrifices and changed our lives to do what is best for our boy. Sadly, most families with a child like ours are not in a position to consider this as an option!
The stresses faced by teachers to meet student needs in the classrooms of our public schools are untenable: increasingly large classes, students with multiple complex needs, special education students with little or no additional support, and fewer and fewer resources and specialists. On top of this struggle, teachers face the ongoing and disillusioning undermining of their morale by an unsupportive and short-sited government.
You want me to consider students?? That is exactly what I am doing!
I am considering my own child, and other children with special education needs. I am considering every child who is enrolled in the public education system, and those who are working to support them in their schools!
These students and those working to help them learn and develop are the future of British Columbia! The saddest thing is… this is their present!!
Children and families first you say?!? Exactly whose?? To whom are you referring??
1… 2… 3…
Ms. Clark, I think perhaps you need a time-out! I hope you and your party will get one very soon!!
Updated: March 6, 2012…
Kill Bill 22 is a petition to protect the children and teachers of British Columbia.
Your help is needed: please take a moment to sign the petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/kill-bill-22/?cid=FB_Share
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2012)