I’m a believer in the concept of intellectual property. Of owning what I say in both senses of the word. Owning meaning it’s mine. It has a little JH trademark, instead of a TM or R. But, perhaps more importantly, owning in the sense that I say what I mean and mean what I say. No skirting issues, no backtracking, no caveats, no hesitation.
So, you don’t have to excuse me for a less-than-stellar, more than hopefully forgettable statement that slipped out of my mouth a few weeks ago. I’ve been reluctant to process it, to talk about it, and, yes, to own it. Sitting in an IEP meeting for a fifth-grader with AS with every possible therapist, educational professional, and school district figurehead, I became frustrated. No, I became annoyed first. 60 minutes, 75 minutes, then an hour-and-a-half of dancing in circles like we were all auditioning for Dancing with the Stars. Well, I have two left feet, so you might guess that my annoyance bred frustration that ultimately led to words sliding out of my mouth like Michael Jackson’s moon walk.
“Can we cut the crap?” I asked. Whoooooa, did that just happen? As I checked in with the special education director (yes, the big kahuna every parent wants in a child’s meeting until you have to sit and smell that fish) I realized that I didn’t need to pinch myself, her face provided the reality check. I began to think about the ways in which I could position this error, how I could make this meaningful for the team in relation to the child in some supremely deft manner. Fail. So, I was left with the emotions that had betrayed me and the trigger for those emotions: My inability to understand why a basic accommodation for dysgraphia– reduction of written output — was being met from the school district with such refusal.
The school district’s reasons were the usual song and dance I hear from uneducated educators (mind you, this is a VERY small percentage of educators): He’ll mis-use this accommodation; he’ll never write again; he can write when he wants to; he draws just fine; he NEEDS to be able to write SOMETHING. Well, I technically can knit, but you sure as hell don’t want to wear any of my creations.
And just when I thought the litany would never again, the big kahuna let the beans, though carefully not the crap, spill: “Well, Jeanne,” she carefully and condescendingly retorted, “We will have to write everything for him then.” This logic is an amazing form of educational catastrophic thinking. Good ole’ catastrophizing sounds more like, “Oh, I have an irregular spot on my skin? I have cancer!” So, when the big kahuna throws that dead fish at you, you don’t know whether to catch it — that fish is slipperier than it looks — or dodge it or, better yet, let it hit you in the chest and fall to the table with a smack for all to see, smell, and handle. That floppy fish is the crap.
I’d like to say that my ignorant comment brilliantly induced an AHA! moment in which everyone realized how ignorant and woefully unjust we were being to C.J. That an AlphaSmart, a visual cue card for a scribe, and a more caring and understanding attitude about the struggles of putting pen to paper suddenly and miraculously appeared.
All I can say is that I learned something, something sad. The passion and the dedication that spewed forth those words from my mouth was met by a can’t-do attitude that has ruined C.J.’s elementary school career. Unfortunately, that can’t-do-attitude piggybacked on my comment, my lack of professionalism, as an excuse to not make very basic modifications. This IEP team didn’t resemble a school of fish. No, it was a pack, with its members meant to be silent.
Now, that’s crap.
And so what if we did have to write every single word down for him?