The Rough Road

I started graduate school in February with my alma mater UMUC. All the classes are online, which is how I did most of my Bachelor’s Degree, so I knew that it wouldn’t be an issue.

The way that the graduate program for education at this university is set up you take one class at a time. The classes are 6 credits and run for three months. I’m currently in week 8.

When I started the class, I was thinking to myself that this was going to be a piece of cake! I was taking 4, FOUR, English classes at the end of my undergrad, going through a divorce and finding a place to live and I still passed all of them. One class will be a breeze!

Instead:

See how the room looked around him? That’s my house.

Between class, hunting for a job, dealing with my youngest son’s horrible behavior and a myriad of house problems (like leaky pipes), I’m that guy that just went nuts.

On the upside, I’m pulling an A.

On the downside, it’s 10:22 pm and I’m writing this as I take a short break from working on my next project which is due in a week and for which I have no idea what I’m doing.

Yes, just like them - fabulous, but Clueless

Yes, just like them – fabulous, but Clueless

Yeah, it’s going to be a long week!

But even with all of the challenges and hurdles I have to jump, I’m in graduate school. That’s nuts to me. I never, truly, thought I would get here. I never thought that I would be on the road to earning my Masters in Education. I never thought that I would be able, for various reasons, to take the first step of achieving the dream that I have held since I was 12.

Yet, here I am.

Despite the divorce, three layoffs in the past two years, the fact that my trailer seems intent on falling apart around my ears, my son’s lackluster performance in school and his attitude issues, I am still on the road to my dreams.

reaching for dreamsI could have thrown in the towel, walked away from the kids and gone my own way in life because it was the easy thing to do. People do that all the time (i.e., my ex). But I didn’t. Sure I have had days where I just have curled up in a ball and bawled until my eyes felt like they were going to fall out.

I have had days where I just wanted to walk out the door and never come back. Who doesn’t?

But that’s the cowards way.

I’m a lot of things, many of them not favorable, but I’m not a coward. I’m not afraid of hard work and hard times to reach my goals. I’m not afraid of rolling up my sleeves and doing what needs to be done to make things work out the way I want them to.

socks Except for laundry. That’s why God created laundry baskets, so you wouldn’t have to fold the socks and they could still be considered clean and out of the way.

Where was I? Oh, that’s right. The rough road.

The easy road will seem so perfect. It will be filled with sunshine and light, and unicorns pooping rainbows overunicorn pooping your head. Angels will sing and all will be good.

Until you hit the bump in the road.

Because, it’s a fact, folks. You will always hit the bump in the road, no matter which road you take: easy or rough.

The difference between the easy road and the rough? On the rough road, you will learn to overcome and even greet your fears and your problems. You will develop coping skills that will allow you to not curl up in a ball and cry every single time something goes wrong.

rough roadThe rough road teaches you how to put on your big person britches and move on. It teaches you that a hurdle is just a hurdle and not the end of the road. It teaches you that you have the strength to move forward, even when all seems hopeless.

The easy road may get you to where you THINK you want to be with minimum challenges and everything coming up roses.

The rough road will allow you to prove to yourself, and everyone else, that you are worthy of the goal that you have reached.

And after a trip down a rough road, nothing in the world is sweeter than reaching the star that you had the audacity and courage to reach for.

Do a great job and get fired. Huh?

I am an advocate of public schooling.  I don’t believe in home schooling as I don’t believe that it is regulated enough. I speak from experience.  I knew some folks who “home schooled” their children but the dad could only count to 21 with both shoes off and his pants down.  His wife could manage 22, but she had to be shirtless.

You guffaw, but I’m not kidding.

I have also known parents that are amazing home schoolers and they do a terrific job with their kids.  But it’s seriously hit or miss.  And here, in New Jersey, there is almost NO regulation on who teaches their children. 

I have serious issues with that.

However, this post isn’t about that.  It’s about the public school system that is in serious need of an overhaul.  I’m not stating that I think that the public school system in this country (and especially in some states) isn’t in dire trouble. 

I know it is.

In fact, this story out of California illustrates this very fact.

*Before we start with the bashing of California, I wish to tell you all that I graduated High School out there and that my senior English teacher, Mrs. Baker, was responsible for my being able to write pretty well.  I’ve honed that talent since then, but she was my basis.  So, no bashing my public school education, K? (A little shout out to all my Wheatland High peeps~*muah*)

Everyone is broke these days, and I understand fully that budget cuts mean that jobs have to be cut.  I don’t agree with it and in a perfect world our schools would be a number one priority for everyone.  But this is just the reality of our country right now.

So, last hired, first fired, right?

Why?

This woman, Michelle Apperson,  was named Sacramento’s Teacher of the Year and she got FIRED.

Ready for why our schools are failing?  I’ll give it to you in a direct quote from the school district spokesperson:

School spokesperson Gabe Ross told News 10 that who gets laid off is mandated by state law and is based on seniority, not performance.   *underlining mine*

What the hell kind of thing is this?  Why is the person that performs the best laid off?  I understand it, but it logically doesn’t make any sense. 

Now, don’t start screaming about unions and stuff.  I don’t want this to devolve into a political discussion.

I just wanted to point out the absolute, utter lack of logic applied to this situation.

And there are laws to make this happen.

Wow.

The injustice of this, to the teacher and to the children that she could have been shaping, is palpable. 

I seriously have a bad taste in my mouth.

The fact is, the education system needs an overhaul.  And that won’t happen until the politicians in every single state house and in Congress understand, fully, that public school is where 90% of their country is being educated and assign it the importance that they seem to assign to my uterus or my BMI.

We need to make them hear what we are saying.  They need to understand that not all of us can afford to send our kids to the schools that they are sending their children on my dime.

I want my dime to go to MY children and to MY community for their education and their future.

I want teachers like Ms. Apperton to keep her job and influence so many little, maleable minds.

This is a disgusting shame.  Truly.

 

 

Don’t people move, or die???

I live in the middle of Nowhere, New Jersey.

Yes, I know.  When you think of New Jersey, you get images in your head:

But, sadly, this is not where I live.  Well, maybe not sadly.

No, I live in a place that looks like this:

We’re more likely to have dead deer on the side of the road than dead wiseguys.

What does that mean for me? 

It means a shortage of housing in the school district that I want my children to continue to attend.

When the asshole first asked me for a divorce, I searched for housing, but I wasn’t in any place, financially or legally, where I could move out and into my own place.  There were two houses available in 5 different school districts (the high school gets students from 5 feeder districts) that would allow me to keep the kids in the same schools that they had been attending for the past 6 school years.

Now there are zero.

Seriously, since January, there have been zero houses available for rent in the school district.  Where I live now would require them to go to a school that is crowded, ghetto and has a horrible graduation rate.  And with my oldest son having autism, I get sick just thinking about sending him there.

At this point, I’m just not sure what to do.  But, I’m staring down the barrel of the gun and it’s not getting any better.

If I wanted to purchase a house (oh, I want, but can’t afford to), that wouldn’t be a problem.  But my credit isn’t the best (it’s not horrible, just not great) and I really don’t make enough money for a house payment.

I’m just kind of at a loss as to what to do here.  I mean, we have a house and it’s nice.  But the schools are a HUGE issue for me.

Y’all send out some positive vibes for me to the universe, please.  I’d appreciate it.

Now, back to the internet to hunt something up.

 

Ummmm…..what?

I don’t usually use this blog for any kind of political postings.  I am bound and determine to stay as quiet as possible about the upcoming elections and the dirty deeds that are going on in Florida and Louisiana. 

I am a liberal and I have a feeling I would tick off some of my readers if I aired my political views here 🙂

But I couldn’t pass this one up at all.

As a student of American History, I am well aware of the roadblocks that women have faced, the hurdles they have jumped, to have the rights that they have today.  I understand what they were denied and how hard my ancestors worked to get me the right to vote and the right to hold jobs that were traditionally considered a man’s place.

I am not a hard core feminist, but I do believe that women are capable of doing most everything that a man can do.  To tar an entire gender with “Well, they can’t do that becuase they are women,” takes away the very sigular, individual element.  Maybe I can’t, but maybe that woman can.  I can’t lift 175lbs easily, but maybe the woman standing next to me can.  It is just as unfair to say that I can’t do something simply cause I have two X chromosomes as to say that someone can’t do it because of the color of their skin or the religion that they chose to practice.

Everyone should be judged on their capabilities individually and no doors should be closed because of gender, skin color, race, religion or sexual orientation.

This I believe to my core.

So it was very upsetting to me to read this story about a softball coach, of a winning program, being replaced simply because they wanted a female coach for the program.  They felt that the school not having any female coaches reflected badly upon the school.

And replacing a winning coach simply because he has a penis and not tits doesn’t?

Do we have the whole story here?  Maybe not.  But the fact that the parents of this program are supporting this coach says a lot to me.  Is he coaching a traditionally female sport?  Sure, but does that make him a bad coach?  I mean, basketball is traditionally a male sport, but someone tell Pat Summit (one of the winningest basketball coaches in all of history) that she shouldn’t coach that sport cause she isn’t male.

The superintendent of the school in question stated:

“I felt like it was an opportunity to fill that position with a female coach … because we don’t currently have any female coaches at Beauregard High School,” Lee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Stephen Nowlin told the News. “I think it’s important to have some.”

He then went on to state, with absolutely no irony:

“That’s just kind of the rationale, is that we need female coaches, too. We need a mixture. We need to have equality in our program for boys and girls in terms of sports that are offered, we need to have equality for them in terms of facilities, and then we need to have males and females among the coaching staff. That’s just what I believe and what I think we legally have to try to do.” (emphasis mine)

In order to show the children equality, you are going to remove a male coach because you think that you should have a female coach?  You are going to replace this gentleman based solely on his gender.  Because there is no word in there about him being incompetent.  There is nothing said about him being less than stellar at his job.  Just that he is male.

The irony is thick here….but I don’t think that the superintendent gets it.

The coach in question stated that he believed he was a victim of “reverse discrimination.”

Sir, there is no such thing as “reverse discrimination” any more than there is “reverse racism.”  There is just discrimination.  Once you discriminate against a person based solely on their gender, then you are discriminatory.

Period.

I think that this is incredibly unfair. Both for the coach and for the children who will see this happen and draw their own conclusions.  These are high schoolers we’re talking about.  They aren’t stupid children.  These are children that are going to see discrimination played out in their own backyard. 

Hopefully they will learn from it and not perpetuate the same mistakes that the adults in their life are making.

Because I think that’s all we can hope for in this situation.

I’m so angry!!!!

I have an autistic son who, luckily for me, is considered high functioning.  For those of you that are not familiar with autism, let me give you some basics:

– Autism is considered a spectrum disorder.  You have some that are like “Rainman,” and others that are considered high functioning where they can speak and act almost normally.

– Autism affects every single aspect of an affected child’s life, from the clothes that they will wear, to the food that they eat, to the situations that they will feel comfortable in.

– There is no cure for autism.  There are therapies that can mitigate the symptoms and can teach the child coping skills.  But there is no cure.

– Autism affects boys more than it affects girls, at a 3 – 1 ratio.

– Every day, 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with autism.

– If you have one child with autism, the odds are 50/50 that any subsequent children will also be diagnosed with the disorder.

Fact of the matter is, autism is a disability.  My son, J, was diagnosed when he was just shy of 2 years old.  I had taken him in for a well-baby check up and the pediatrican was worried about his lack of vocabulary.  J had had about 20 words, par for his age, until he was about 22 months old.  He then lost all of his words (a hallmark of autsim).  The pediatrician referred us to the Early Developmental Intervention Services (EDIS) in Italy (we were stationed overseas at the time) for a consult.

We met with the doctor there and we set up the appointment for J to be evaluated.  The evaluation was a series of games and tasks that would allow them to see where J was in his development.  The tests took about 2 hours and then we met with the doctor and other evaluators to hear what they had to say.  I remember the doctor said that it would be about 2 days before the official evaluation would be available, but then he said, “I can say with utmost certainty that your son has autism.”

I truly don’t remember another word he said for the next 30 minutes.

It was devastating.  All of the dreams I had for my son, it seemed, were destroyed with that one sentence.  I didn’t know what was in store for him, or us, and it seemed too much to take in.  I actually went through a grieving process, in mourning for all that I had expected his life to be.

Five days later, I found out I was pregnant with our youngest son.

Yeah, a banner week, it was not.  Why?  Because in my most basic research, I had discovered that 50/50 statistic.  And because the youngest was soooo not planned. 

Just a note here – I wouldn’t trade my youngest for the world, but I want to convey what it was like at that moment in my life.  I love both of my children very much and wouldn’t change a thing.

The diagnosis started us on a merry-go-round of therapies for J – speech, occupational and physical therapy three times a week.  The folks at EDIS were amazing and they educated me so thoroughly on what to expect when I got back to the States, and on J’s rights, that I have become a school’s worst nightmare – an educated parent.

We left Italy and moved to Mississippi, which was a living hell for all of us when it came to dealing with the school system.  I actually got in the principal’s grill, at one point, and told her that I would own her skinny ass if she didn’t do her job the right way. 

After Mississippi, we came to NJ.  Here it has been a lot easier, on J and me.  The school’s here in our district are amazing and the support has been second to none.  Not that we haven’t had our issues, but for the most part I’ve been very happy here.

But it’s not that way for everyone in New Jersey.

Just a little over 30 minutes away is a town called Cherry Hill.  Now, this is snob city – very rich, very pricey to live there (property taxes are anywhere from $8000-$10000 a year) and it is where all of the “good schools” are supposed to be. 

Imagine my surprise, anger and hurt when I read this article this morning:

http://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/stuart-chaifetz-secretly-tapes-autistic-son-school-discovers-220500111.html

This man, Stuart Chaifetz, has an autistic son who is not considered high functioning.  His son, Akian, cannot vocalize very well. He can’t tell his father about things that happen to him at school. 

And this is what the teachers and aides banked on.

In the article there is a video of the audio recording that Mr. Chaifetz acquired of a day in his son’s classroom after he wired his son for sound.  Why did he wire him?  Because he was getting reports that Akian was acting out in class, hitting the teachers and the aides, something that was very out of the ordinary for his son.

The resulting audio is one of the hardest things that I have ever listened to.

My heart literally hurt for this child, for his father.  Tears fell unashamedly down my face as I listened to these horrible women, these bullies, treat a child in such an awful way.  At one point, the aide says to the child, “Akian, you’re such a bastard.”

Who does that?????

This father handled the situation in entirely the correct way.  He turned the recordings over to the school district.  He asked that the teachers be fired (the aide that called his son a bastard was released, but the other teachers were reassigned), and then he made this video.  In the video he never once outed the teachers by last name (he did reveal their first names) and all he asked for was a public apology from these women.

Seems to me that that’s the least they can do.

Personally, I’d like to see them in the stocks in the public square.

A person that treats a child, especially a special needs child, in this manner should never be allowed to teach ANY child again.  They should not have been moved, reassigned or any such thing.  They should have been fired.

They should have been run out of town on a rail tie.

I have to applaud this father for having the bravery to stand up for his son in such a controlled and rational matter.  My “mommy” part wants to get in my car, drive 30 minutes and give the superintendent of these schools a piece of my mind. 

I’ve done that before and I’d happily do it again.

Bullying is bullying.  When it comes from someone that is supposed to protect a child it’s a special kind of betrayal of trust that should not be stood for by anyone.  The fact that a teacher was reassigned rather than fired, and that the school district will not tell the father about  any punishment meted out, is another betrayal of Akian.

It’s another breach of trust that the school has with the child.

Life with an autistic child is never easy.  Life with an autsitic teenager is enough to make you wonder if your future grandchildren are worth it. 

But I would never, ever treat my son (or any other child, for that matter) the way that these women treated Akian. 

I am still very, very angry about what Akian went through.  I’m even more angry about the fact that the school district is trying to cover up what has happened to these teachers and that they have not made public what punishment, if any, was handed out.  The school district should have come out publicly against this kind of behavior and used these teachers as an example to any other teacher that might be wanting to teach special needs students.

Let’s hope that these women have learned their lesson.  Let’s hope that the school district handles this in a manner that gives dignity back to Akian.

More than anything, I want this child to realize, in his own special way, that this behavior is not condone by any rational person in the world. 

I want Akian to know that he is special. 

Not because he has special needs, but because he is an amazing little boy.