Archive for May, 2009

What the Zell?

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Okay, just trying to figure out why the LA Times needs to bash public schools. Here’s what Muckety comes up with (click on the boxes):


Helen, wife of Sam Zell, LA Times owner, is what we call a Chicago venture philanthropist. According to Mike Klonsky:

This collection of equity-fund millionaires, corporate lobbyists and downtown real estate developers, each have their favorite charter schools or vertically-integrated programs that they contribute to.

Could it be that Helen is taking her show on the road?  The LA Times seems to be eager to help with this piece that extolls the virtues of the American Indian Public Charter without checking the facts (props to Oakland’s Perimeter Primate for her hard work):

By the way, when the figures of his three American Indian Model schools are combined, their average enrollment of students w/disabilities was 1.3% in 2007-08. The district average was 10%. Their combined enrollment of English Learners in was 3% in 2007-08. The district average for that subgroup was 30%.

Guessing the Zells wouldn’t care if my autie son got the boot at such an esteemed institution.  Don’t want anything to interfere with the self-congratulatory yacht club patter, especially the facts.

PLEASE Read

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Wanted to post this as soon as possible, the best, most concise and nuanced look at Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s vision for education and why it will mean disaster for public education and our kids.  Here’s a little excerpt:

But Chicago Public Schools (CPS) policies are not really about Duncan or his successor. The biggest threat to finally achieving equitable and quality education in Chicago’s low-income African American and Latino/a schools is not the individual who carries out the policy but a system of mayoral control and corporate power that locks out democracy. The impact of those policies includes thousands of children displaced by school closings, spiked violence as they transferred to other schools, and the deterioration of public education in many neighborhoods into a crisis situation.

Focus, Focus

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

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Okay.  I will.  Right after this post, which has nothing to do with California, fatherhood or autism, the alleged subjects of this blog.  Just had to share this tome-like post by John Lawhead about the charterization of NYC:

Leonie Haimson, a parent and school advocate, writing on the New York City Public School Parents blog, wrote that the Tweed strategy seemed like an effort to “create such incompetent, dysfunctional government that the public will no longer support the notion that the government can provide useful public services, leading to further privatization and the undermining of the whole notion of the public good.” Teachers who never wanted to be part of any lousy schools wonder, who wins from the closings and reorganizations? Concerned about “failing” schools? Poverty schools are like the overmedicated patient that eventually needs a different pill for every function. How will the dizzy, disordered, hysterical, somnolent, depressed school ever get “fixed” when it is such a lucrative prospect for the education companies? Profits are predicated on students and teachers’ lack of control over the institutions where they work and learn. How many of the products, the packaged teacher-proof lessons, the training and consulting, interim assessments would be exposed as unnecessary if school communities could find a way to use their own judgment and solve their own problems?

Autism Sunglasses

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

What did you do today?

Say hello to the lady.

What’s your favorite kind of food?

No wonder my son sometimes just tells us to shut up.

But he’s autistic, right? Aren’t we supposed to encourage him to socialize? To interact? Doesn’t it break our hearts when we take him to a birthday party and he stands alone and stims? That he doesn’t voluntarily greet anyone, even his mom and dad? Haven’t we insisted that his IEP include goals that “initiate play” and “close circles of communication?”

Yes Xs 5.

But could our insistence that he interact all the time also be making it harder for him to cope on his own?

Play by yourself.

He doesn’t know how.

Do something that doesn’t include your parents or TiVo.

Not possible.

Been thinking a lot about this thing: parenting. Am I raising a strong, resilient boy, or coddling a spoiled little kid? Hard to tell when everything is filtered through Autism sunglasses, when the child is playing the same game by different rules.

Okay: I recently found out the bus company was busing my four-year-old in the same bus with middle-school kids. (My tip-off, S telling me he was riding with big kids with cellphones. When I met his bus the next day, there they were, their cellphones concealed, but two times his size and three times his age.) Now that is DUMB. Even the bus company admitted it, a mistake that they would rectify the next day (we’ll see about that!)

But what happens when there are big mellon-sized tears in your son’s eyes? When he says that he doesn’t want to go to school because kids are making fun of him and he wants to go to work with you? When the problems in his life are grayer, impossible to fix or explain, when his IEP can’t protect him and neither can you?

You say, “Suck it up,” even when sucking it up isn’t exactly in his repertoire. You hope you can help him be brave.

Tenure

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

I got into an exchange in the edublogosphere about tenure, whether it was a basic right, as one commentator claimed it wasn’t, or a way of keeping minority workers down (last hired, first fired) as another commentator claimed it was.  All I can say is that I have tenure for the time being and hope to hold onto it as long as I can.  Some of these comments came from the Windy City where I guess a lot of teachers don’t have crap. What’re you LA guys complaining about? they seemed to be saying. At least you have bargaining rights. So since Green Dot has “given” those rights to the teachers at schools like Locke (after axing the teachers who were already there) should I feel greedy that I don’t want them coming after my school (and tenure) too?  As Caroline Grannan puts it in a recent post:

Those (media) voices constantly cite teacher “tenure” as the evil to end all evils. Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines tenure:

“…a status granted after a trial period to a teacher that gives protection from summary dismissal.”

It seems to me that anyone who has ever worked for an employer would view “protection from summary dismissal” as a reasonable right for workers. That would include most every employee of the mainstream media corporations –- who I have a feeling haven’t thought this through when they do all that bashing, blaming and demonizing of teachers.

So if tenure isn’t a basic right, so be it.  But it is a reasonable right, which I think every teacher should have.

Autism Stereotypes

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

I found this recording of Mark Osteen on Dan Marino’s new autism site.  I think it’s good to be mindful of autism stereotypes, especially if you’re a writer.  They make for confusion, ignorance, and crappy literature-none of which are good things.

Teachers In Trouble

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

…I love the title of that book.  It’s an examination of the moral pressures brought to bear on schoolteachers, like yours truly:

monkey-in-the-middle1

Kind of like Monkey in the Middle.  Not that I’m paranoid or anything (I am) but the following explanation of moral and other restrictions placed upon teachers helps me understand the shortness of breath every morning I walk into school (please excuse the softness of the screen grab here; Google Books doesn’t allow you to select and copy):

teachers-in-trouble

Podcast 21

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Talk to You Later: Notes to My Son, May 15, 2009,
“Walkout!”

In this episode I discuss the walkout that never happened.

What I’m Used To

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

“I don’t think I’d change anything, ’cause this is my life and this is what I’m used to. Andrew wouldn’t be like the Andrew I know and love if he was different, because autism is his whole personality.”

Was researching my novel (and life) and came upon this, the words of a teenage girl who can’t stand living with her little autistic brother, but can’t imagine living without him.  I also read this about science’s ability to predict autism someday in the same way it can predict Down’s and the implications for future parents:

Termination of fetuses with Down syndrome is routine today; given the fear that autism inspires in parents, why wouldn’t it follow? And what would our world be like without autism? The vast differences among individuals on the spectrum make the notion even thornier: will parents start demanding to know whether their fetus will be low- or high-functioning? But it’s also impossible to ignore the parents who say they’d do anything to free their children from isolation and pain. Some feel so hopeless so much of the time, they do wonder in private if their children would have been better off not born. And who can blame them?

Not me.  But where does trying to control all of the variables in your life stop.  I don’t want an autistic child: terminate.  I don’t want a child with depression: terminate.  I don’t want a redhead, a boy, a girl…  Terminate, terminate, terminate.

Still. Seeing my boy today at the birthday party. How limited he is. How trapped. Wondering how he’ll ever get along without his parents…

It’s not easy.  It’s hard.

Skype for Autistic Kids

Monday, May 11th, 2009

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S__’s good friend M__ has moved away and now the two communicate via Skype.  Here’s a social story I wrote for my Skype-using, Friend-missing autistic son:

When I miss M__ I can always reach him on Skype.
I just say, Hey, Mama, can I chat with my friend?
Mama gets the computer set up and I see M__ on the screen.
She reminds me to speak loudly and to give him my eyes.
Sometimes I feel shy and don’t know what to say.
She cues me to ask my friend how he’s doing
or what the weather is like in NYC.
I can tell M__ what the weather’s like in Cali or
show him my new toy car.
After awhile, I tell my friend  goodbye and that I miss him.
He needs to take his bath and go to sleep.
It’s three hours later in New York.