I’ve spent days in torturous reflective thought. Far too many things have gone through my head in the past couple weeks and I’ve had far too little time to write. I find myself questioning things about my life lately. Scary when things just don’t feel right. One issue I’m not ready to broach publicly. The other has to do with my job and whether I’m in the right field.
A couple weeks ago, I went to my nephew’s school to help my sister deal with some issues there. They had an initial referral meeting and I basically went to make sure they did things correctly. As someone with experience not just with teaching, but teaching children with autism, I thought I could help. They had already ignored her verbal request for testing she made before Christmas and it was past the 90 day timeline. They had a pre-prepared letter written for her with her name on it stating that she wanted testing and had the date of April 1st as the date of the request. They told her that basically only written requests counted, and I told them that that wasn’t true.
Their EC Team Lead stated that she wasn’t there when the request was made, and yadda yadda yadda (excuses) and she was there to fix it, but she wasn’t trying to fix it. She was trying to gloss over it all by changing the date of the request to give them more time. I write at the bottom that this request was in addition to the request she had already made back in December. I had already gotten someone from The Autism Society involved and she’ll be at the next meeting my sister goes to, but there hasn’t been any progress on getting them to acknowledge the original date of the referral.
Additionally, he has Asperger’s Syndrome and they showed no signs of understanding that the things he does at school were all symptoms of that disorder. They had no strategies for dealing with it, either. He is consistently being bullied at school and they’re doing nothing to help him with that. All of these things are happening in another county away from my own…and it sucks. I hate that things like this happen. In my daily life, I find myself wanting to advocate. Part of my job, when it gets down to it, is to advocate for my students and help them advocate for themselves. When I look at my own child and project into the future, I wonder who will advocate for him when I’m not there. I hope someone will. I come across people every single day that have no tolerance for children with behavioral difficulties.
Today I saw this quote on Pinterest that said “Every child in your class is someone’s whole world.” It’s so true. Yes, some children require more support and more instruction in social skills than others. Some children need to learn strategies for managing anger and frustration. Sometimes we must adjust expectations for children with deficits in these areas. This doesn’t mean allowing them to simply run amok. They should have rules just like everyone else, but we must also keep in mind that those rules should also come with a lot of structure, consistency, and, many times, a reward system to reinforce the rules. But shouldn’t they learn that they won’t get rewarded for behaving in the rule world? Won’t they, though? How do you keep a job? You follow the rules and routines and structure set forth by your employer and then you earn a paycheck, right? That’s a tangible reward. It’s not a grade or a pat on the back. It’s a tangible reward that you can use to purchase something that you want or need. We often forget that the reason we don’t go off on the people we work with is because we want to keep our jobs. Why is that? Money.
We expect children to behave just because we say so, and that’s great. Most children are able to see the value in building relationships, getting good grades, and all that jazz. Some children see the value in it and still find that hard to attain. Other children need more than that to work towards because it’s just hard for them. These ideas seem like foreign concepts to so many people. For others, telling them to adjust expectations would be like telling them to throw away a prized possession. They just won’t do it.
As I continue to work to help the children whose behaviors need modified and give strategies to the adults that work with them, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. I love working with the kids. I won’t lie, some children are more challenging than others, but many times I find the adults more challenging than the children. Perhaps my strong sense of justice combined with my compassion makes it more difficult for me to let things go at the end of the day. Some people say it’s just a J-O-B, but it’s not for me. I want to do the right thing, always. If I make a mistake, I want to fix it. I have someone’s whole world in my hands, and that someone has a disability. And yet, I find that I often wonder whether I’m doing what I should do. I teach, I document, I advocate, and I support.
Then, at the end of the day, what is my fundamental job? To advocate for children or to teach? I think it’s both, but maybe I’m wrong. Advocating feels wrong sometimes because it just pisses people off. I really try not to make waves, but some people refuse to listen or don’t understand, like in the case of my nephew, and I push a little harder than I normally would. I wish I knew whether I should or I shouldn’t. Do I educate others or step back? What if they don’t want to listen? What can I really do? You can’t change the way people think. Am I really doing what I should or do I search for a field where I feel less powerless? It’s like every day I feel the reminder that I have no power to make any real changes. I mean, I can change a child’s whole life and that’s something incredible, but what if I want to do something more awesome? What if I want to make things better for a whole bunch of children all at once? Or, what if I don’t want the reminder that perhaps when my child gets older, he, like my nephew, will have teachers that act like they don’t want him in their classrooms or won’t understand him or take the time to. It’s all a big mish-mosh in my mind. In the end, I continue doing what I do because I care deeply about the children I work with. Every year brings a new caseload and new challenges, but I carry all of the students before them in my heart forever. I hope that somehow, in some way, I’ve made a positive impact. What’s just a J-O-B to some people means much, much more to me.