Did My Brain Fall Out?

Haven't we all asked ourselves this question? There are days I am quite sure my brain did fall out - I can barely put one foot in front of the other and I forget everything. I know you can relate!

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Pay as a Teacher Should Be Based On My Performance...

My pay as a teacher should be based on MY performance, so come into my classroom anytime you want and see what I do. I can control what I teach and how I teach it; this is my performance.  

What I cannot control is my students' lack of motivation to complete the assignments I work hard to prepare. I cannot control their apathy towards the standardized tests the state rolls out. It is unfair to evaluate me and base my pay or my "performance" on the performance of my students, especially based on ONE TEST that is four hours long - a test of endurance even for the highest achieving students. 

In the private sector is your raise or evaluation based on the performance of the guy in the cubicle next to you? The one who listens to his iPod all day, texts his friends, talks back to the boss, starts fights with his co-workers, is late to work every day, who never hands in a project by the deadline? I don't think so. Would you stay at a job where you haven't had even a basic cost of living raise in five years? In fact, where you received a pay cut? I didn't think so. Stop teacher bashing and listen to what we have to say.

I cannot force a child to take a stake in his education; I can provide engaging opportunities to learn and succeed. At some point the onus is on the student. I have upwards of 30 students in my classes for 90 minutes at a time, 3 classes a day, so I am responsible for at least 90 students each and every day for 180 days out of the year. I spend hours of unpaid time calling parents, preparing lessons, staying after school to help my students be the best they can be. I attend countless days of professional development to improve my strategies, to bridge the gap, to improve reading levels and various other "bandaids" that are thrown at us. I think the perception that the majority of teachers are incompetent is completely off base. Everyone I know works hard for YOUR children, as do I.

As a parent of two school-aged children, it is up to me to make sure they are well prepared and attend school every day. I wish I could say the same of the parents of all of my students. Don't make the teachers' job harder by teaching your children that the teachers are the enemy. Too many children are being taught that education holds no value.

Longer days? I leave home at 7am and get home around 5, if I'm lucky. I don't get paid for my 10 hour day. I don't get a lunch "break." I grade and plan for at least 6 hours each Sunday and for at least 2 hours every night. Unpaid. Phone calls home? That's in my "free time" too, on my own dime. But o.k, bring it on. A longer school year? Sure, but make sure your child has pencils and his completed homework everyday.

It takes a village to educate a child. This teacher is tired of being the village scapegoat, sacrificed to the parents, the media, the state and the Department of Education each and every day.

*This is MY OPINION and although some other teacher people I work with may agree with me, this OPINION is mine alone and does not reflect the opinion of my employer or anyone associated with my employer.

I hate that I had to write that.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I Know This Girl

I know this girl.

She’s pretty awesome.

You might know her, too.

In fact you probably know a lot of girls just like her. Smart. Sassy. Beautiful. Compassionate. Kind. Funny. Loyal. Honest.

Confused. Hurt. Lost.  Rejected. Silent.

The rejection is palpable. The hurt is tangible. The confusion makes us cry. The silence is heartbreaking. We all just want to find our way back home. 

It’s easy to shrug and just say “hrumph, teenagers!” because we all know growing up is hard. If you say that you had an awesome adolescence, I call bullshit. I don’t think there is such a thing. It is filled with heartbreak, awkward changes, impulsiveness, bad choices…a road littered with shit and more shit, usually left by friends who suddenly turn on you for no apparent or logical reason. It is pimples and periods and passive-aggressiveness. It is meanness and mourning and middle-school manic moods. It is little victories like a text from a boy you like and a reprieve on an assignment you missed.  It is moments where you are stuck between wanting to be a grown-up but needing your mom to take care of you.

These experiences are incontrovertible. They have been shared by teens around the world since the beginning of time. Cave girls who put on their best furs to lure their lovers. Girls from the 50’s who put on racy red lipstick in the school bathroom and dreamed of wearing Biff’s letterman’s jacket. Those of us from the eighties who rolled up our skirts and waited by the phone to find out who was meeting at the roller rink or movie theater.

Incontrovertible, for sure, but what has changed for our daughters and sons is the access to each other. They have never heard a busy signal, have never had to wait to use the phone or wait a whole day for an answer to the “Check-Yes-or-No-Do-You-Like-Me? note”. They text, they use Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and Kik to chat. They are instantly rewarded or rejected. And what these kids have to say to each other can be pure evil. Evil. And the words, there forever, easily read and reread, are deeply scarring. 

At my house we are trying to slow the flow of hatefulness and unseemliness by limiting access, by talking more and having “courageous” and very uncomfortable conversations. I thought I was savvy because I am friends with my kids on FB, I follow them on Twitter…but I underestimated the ability for a teenager to circumvent my “safeguards,” and now we are dealing with circumstances that are mind boggling, consequences that will last a lifetime for everyone involved.

The rejection is palpable. The hurt is tangible. The confusion makes us cry. The silence is heartbreaking. We all just want to find our way back home. We’re tired of stumbling around in the dark, looking for the light switch that someone moved while we weren't looking.

I know this girl. She’s pretty awesome. 

And she’s going to be ok. She’s smart, sassy, beautiful, compassionate, kind, funny, loyal, honest, strong and brave.

She’s mine. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Wishy-Washy Mojo?

C2’s therapist told me that I am wishy-washy. That hurt my feelings. We have some real crap happening here at the house and I HATE that I AM wishy-washy. So, am I wishy-washy because of the culture in the house or is the culture of the house because of my wishy-washiness? And can we come up with a better term than wishy-washy because it sounds awful when I use it 5 times in one paragraph?

For so many years I have walked around on egg shells, and autism parents can feel this; I’m sure I’m not alone. I avoided situations that would throw C1 into a meltdown. We stopped eating at our local Pizza Hut because the door squeaked and would set off her supersonic, bionic hearing, leading to an under-the-table-top-of-the-lungs tantrum. We swore off restaurants all together because she would pitch a tantrum every time we went out to eat.

And here is where I know that I have become complacent, or wishy-washy, that I have lost my mojo, because there was one night where we headed out to dinner for hubby’s birthday and C1 pulled her usual performance, and I sat in the car with her while the rest of the family went in and ate dinner. Now, I could probably have picked a better night than his birthday to try the tough-love-tough-shit strategy, but that night I was strong enough to do it. I sat in that car for 90 minutes while she screamed that she wanted to go in and eat (this was after the 30 minutes of screaming the entire way there that she didn’t want to go “there”!) until, finally, she stopped. And you know what? SHE NEVER THREW A TANTRUM ON THE WAY TO OR AT A RESTAURANT AGAIN!

So, knowing this, how have I become a lazy parent? Because it’s easier and faster to just give in, that’s why. This goes for both my kids. Giving in takes 2.3 seconds where toughing it out can take hours, sometimes even days. Who has that kind of time? 

And I hate conflict. I really do.

So now we’re going through non-autism issues with C2 and I am so ill-equipped for it. You know, part of me has always had that “it’s autism” excuse, but with C2 I don’t. There is no excuse other than the mansy-pansy parenting and rationalization I have employed…the self-speak of “I’m doing the best I can,” and honestly I thought I was. Now I see I could be doing better.

And I know it’s going to be hard. I need to go back to trusting my parenting instincts, to do what my head says is right, to not be ruled by worrying that I will hurt C2s feelings. I need to be a parent and to do that I need to trust myself again. I need to get my parenting mojo back, because somewhere, between IEP meetings, OT appointments, mama bear mode, my fears, my career and all the barnacles of life, I got scratched up, banged up and started to drown.

I’m coming up for air, so sorry kids; I’m washing off the wishy-washy. Mama is BACK. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Whoah...Freaky, Dude

So last night I had this really disturbing dream.

In the dream C2's friend was over with his dog but the dog didn't have a leash (somehow this child carried this squirmy, flea infested large Border Collie mix many miles to our house, which by the way is NOT the kind of dog he owns?!), so I sent C2 to the car to get the leash (yes, this is how we end up with all those wayward animals - we keep a leash in the car). It took her forever to come back, so I went out to the car only to see that the leash was still in there.

At this point I must mention that we suddenly weren't at our own home. I've never been in a house that looked remotely like this one. We were obviously transported to in order to have the next event occur. I went looking for C2 and found her in this barren family room that had a fireplace. My husband was there and C2 was on the ground. Hubby told me that C2 had hit her head on the fireplace and couldn't even crawl her way into the adjoining room to get help. C2 kept repeating "I don't feel right," so we decided to take her to the ER.

In the meantime, though, we can't manage to corral all the dogs (suddenly there were 15 dogs!) behind a kiddie gate with a hole in it so we can leave. At this point we managed to accumulate four of five more kids, the likes whom I have never seen before, who we can't corral into the car.

At this point I woke up.

So, when I picked C2 up this morning from her sleepover imagine my shock when she told me that at 3am she rolled over and hit her head on something!


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Lost It

I don't know why, but I was in a serious funk today. I knocked heads with the kids all day, and lucky for my husband he worked all day or he wouldn't have escaped unscathed. I am sitting here exhausted from my awfulness

I love my children more than life itself. That being said, I have been really struggling to keep those balls in the air (this sounds like my cardboard house post), picking up the kids on time and remembering where I'm supposed to pick them up, remembering to pay my bills and my mom's bills too. Remembering everything. Remembering. That's where the trouble lies because my memory is failing me. Honestly. I'm scared at how badly this is happening; I could be in the middle of sentence and completely forget what I was saying. This isn't a great trait for my career either.

I think I'm tired of remembering. It's exhausting.

Today was exceptionally bad - I yelled and screamed and cursed over a To Kill a Mockingbird Project. Because CL1 wasn't understanding, and I explained it, and then she deleted everything she had done over a two hour period. Atticus would be so ashamed of me. I'm ashamed of me.

You know it's pretty bad when CL2 goes out of her way to help CL1...true story. This phenomena happened today in the kitchen while I sat at the computer and cried my eyes out.

So reality hit home today when, locked in my room, I realized that I will never get a break from remembering. I will forever have to help CL1, reminding her to look at her calendar for due dates, reminding her to wash her belly button, reminding her to hang up her pants when they come out of the dryer, reminding her to rinse her bowl, reminding her to eat, reminding her that she needs her uniform on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Reminding her when I can't even remember myself. That is scary to me.

And I'm ok with all of that. I am, so please don't judge me any more harshly than I already judge myself. When we had to get guardianship because CL1 was turning 18 I had another moment like this.

So, having a child who is an adult and has autism is uncharted territory and we are out here alone, floating with no land in sight, like Pi and the tiger, and it reminds me oh so very much of when we started this journey into autism a short 18 years ago.

Monday, January 21, 2013


I  had forgotten that I already HAD a blog. I didn't have any followers, and I think I was the only reader...sigh.

 Anyway, I had written this poem about a certain someone in my life. We didn't really see eye to eye, and I never really knew WHY he hated me. As you can see in the poem, I just thought he didn't like women in authority. I was really affected by him, both by the years he hated me and by the year he started talking to me again. Notice I said HE started talking to ME because I never gave up talking to him. Never once when I saw him did I look the other way or ignore him. I am in the kill them with kindness camp.

I do know that I was so incredibly frustrated by the situation we were in. I was sad that I couldn't, no matter what I did, fix it. I am a fixer. I want people to like me. I am a people pleaser and I had never encountered someone as stubborn as this young man....except maybe myself. So maybe that was where the conflict came from, two stubborn people, both wanting control, both wanting what we wanted, our own way. And neither of us, in the end, got the ideal situation. It wasn't win-win and for me it was a failure on a personal and professional level.

I cannot even explain how much his death hurt me. As I reread this poem, I can remember exactly how awful I felt about the situation. And now I feel awful that I ever felt this way.

Death does that to us...we rethink and rehash and create do-overs in our head. If only, then. If only.

I am extremely thankful that I had the opportunity to know him. I am super blessed that we had spoken before his death. I believe that people are placed in our lives to teach us a lesson. For me the lesson was two-fold, to stand up for myself and to cherish everyone. He taught me that. I had to stand up for myself in order to be empowered. I have learned to cherish everyone, even a boy who made fun of me, who disliked me, who made me doubt myself.

and I have wasted my time
what a surprise
I pour myself into the
things that don’t
matter later,
and neglect the things that matter

and I have wasted my time with
the work
the laughter
the garbage
the meetings

what have I gained?
not respect,
but contempt
not equality,
but ridicule
a waste of my time

and who has taught you that
it’s ok to treat others
to your misogynistic charm?
to greet the men with Sir
and the women with scorn?

so I sit with the same turbulent feeling
in my stomach
when I think about you
the bile churning and
burning and not helping me feel
any better
running through the incidents in my head
self doubting my fairness
and actions

and I must stop myself
to remind myself
that I cannot grant you this power
by reacting and
thinking in circles
like a rabid dog chasing his tail
for when I travel on this warped speedway of thought
I give you the supremacy
and I will not waste my time

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cardboard House of Cards...splat

Hello Blog, it’s been so long. Oh, have I missed you. Every day as I get ready for work I have at least one great idea for a blog post, same when my head hits the pillow at night. I can’t remember any of them, but one stuck, so I am back, at least for today. 

I’ve been living in a house of complacent obliviousness for many, many months, and let me tell you,  when that house of wet cardboard comes crumbling down it’s smelly, and soggy and just a damn mess.

C1 graduated in June…doo doo doo, we skipped through the summer, not a care in the world, hanging out in the A/C, in the pool and just, in general, doing nothing. Who knew I was really just saving my strength for the most stressful, sad, and anxious year? And, jeez, it’s only been 6 months.

Because I am a failure as a parent, I waited too long to get C2 to the local community college to meet with the disability coordinator and take her placement exams, so enrollment for fall semester was out. Then my mom got really sick. I was in New York with mom for the first three weeks of school. This created issues at work, and thank God for my friends. I couldn't ask for better friends. They cooked for my family, they made lesson plans, they helped the substitute (let this act as a public apology to all of the subs my classes single handedly crushed) by ushering my badly behaved students out of the room. One even let me sleep in her bed for three weeks, let me drag her to the hospital with me at the crack ass of dawn each day and let me stay there long after her bedtime. My husband was amazing and my kids were on their best behavior. As a mom it is hard to be gone for three weeks; I often felt like I missed so much that I might as well have been gone for a year.

I think this was summer-karma, a direct payback for such a relaxing summer, don’t you?

So in the midst of trying to care for mom, find a place for mom and otherwise coordinate everything you would need to accomplish in order to move 700 miles into two months, I completely let the college thing fall by the wayside. I woke up in a panic the Friday before New Year’s. While C1 was sleeping, I enrolled her in English 085, arranged for people (Ksmooth-she’s the best kind of people) to attend classes with her on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and coordinated with C1s 6th grade Special Education teacher to take her on Fridays (God really does put people in your path; sometimes He can hit you over the head with a gift. It was divine intervention when we ran into C1’s old teacher volunteering at mom’s facility).

Oh and C1 has a part time job too. That’s a lot of balls in the air, Lance.

It’s all too much. Not for her. For me. Well maybe for her, too, but this is my blog, so we’ll make it about me. This week was tough. C1 gave poor Ksmooth a really hard time, yelling and screaming and throwing her out of the house repeatedly (she didn’t go, thank God). The best part? When I had to leave work to get C1 because she was in the middle of a full-out meltdown, of nuclear proportions. Sigh. Haven’t done that in a while.

I’m just out of practice. I was trained so well to look for pitfalls and obstacles. My oblivious complacency has come back to bite me in the ass and now I’m covered in wet, smelly cardboard.