Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stupid is as Stupid Does

I was blindsided yesterday. Not by anything to do with the boys technically, but with the stupidity of educated adults in my town. One of the reasons I isolate myself so much from the majority of people who live around me is because of past interactions with people who just do not get special education. I had been smack dab in the middle of the nasty convulsion in our town when they bought the boys back into district, that I just decided to stay away from everyone. I had decided that it didn’t really matter what the citizenry thought as long as the district gave my children what they needed to be successful in school. Sometimes you really can’t fix stupid, especially when stupid won’t acknowledge that they need fixing.

So the story goes that I went to get a mani/pedi and a much needed lip, eyebrow and chin wax (isn’t menopause great). I always tell parents they do need to take time for themselves, even if its once a month. I enjoy going to this one nail salon in town because they are very accommodating and quite frankly so very hard working. They are an established presence in town and I like to be loyal to businesses if I can.

Everything was going along swimmingly as a matter of fact. I sat and did a crossword puzzle during the pedi and almost actually fell asleep during the waxing. I kid you not. The nice hot wax was very soothing on my face. I laid there listening to music and being happy and content. OK when she did wax my lip that woke me up a bit, but the rest was just fine.

I then went over and had a simple manicure. Nothing elaborate I don’t even wear color nail polish. My hands are in water so much that he color chips in no time, so I stick with clear. The lady sitting next to me was a five-time grandma regaling everyone with a story about how her daughter, with her 20 month old and 2 month old in the car, had just been sideswiped in an accident. We then began to talk about her children and grandchildren and became very “nail salon friendly.“

Once I sat down to let the fans dry my nails she of course was seated right next to me again and we began to talk. She asked about the boys and I told her they live at home and go to college; that the oldest one wants to help people and maybe he will go to law school. She then let me know that one of her daughters who had gone to law school hated it. The yougnwoman had worked in the big corporate law firms and it was a terrible grind. Ok, that’s nice. She suggested CM1 be a social worker like her other daughter. It never fails to amaze me how just because they know someone who had a bad experience in a profession that means noone else should even try it. I am sure that everyone has had a run in with that particular type of  individual at some time or the other.

Of course I countered that that is a nice profession as a supplementary career to a family but it doesn’t go very far if it’s the main breadwinner and neither does teaching in most areas of the country. She did seem a little put out that I wasn’t willing to take her advice, but so be it. It seems that she can afford to live in an expensive areas, giver her children everything in the world and every opportunity but noone else is supposed to do that. She had to tell me that these things are not important to her children. Ok, but wait until her children need to give their children things like, braces, if they have medical/learning issues or even if they want to go on to college. We’ll see how quickly these things then become important. I didn’t really mind her perspective so much as she was actually only trying to defend her daughters choices. Something tells me in the back of her head she may also have a bit of an issue with some of it too or she wouldn’t have been so important to her that I agree, which I never did.

Nonetheless we continued to talk in a very friendly atmosphere, until she started to tell me how awful inclusion is in our school district. They should not allow “these children” into regular school especially when the children are very young. She told me she has been a substitute in the district and every time she goes there is not enough coverage and the autistic children run around willy-nilly and noone is left to care for the real students. Now she did not know anything about the boys except that they have learning disabilities. She did not know they are autistic or that they needed a one-to-one just yet. She did tell me that when she brings up this subject at the schools she generally gets into fights with the teachers. Gosh noone who has a handle on modern education agreed with her. Again something she just could not process. It also never dawned on her that if she can't handle the situations maybe she shouldn't be substitute teaching. She admitted she has trouble handling her daughter's two small children so why she thinks she can substitute in an elementary school is beyond me.

Truthfully if there is not proper coverage for a class with designated students in it then it can be troublesome. But it is not the child’s fault, it is the districts and they need to do a much better job at providing support. I remember when the boys were little there was plenty of support so I can’t figure out what the issue would be. She regaled me with a situation where the TA was out and the special ed teacher was called to a meeting and she was alone in a typical kindergarten class and there was an autistic boy who wandered. The child went into the hall and wouldn’t come back. She wasn’t about to leave the rest of the class to go get him, and she flagged down another teacher who grabbed him.

But somehow she was mad at the autistic child. She was annoyed that there was a little girl crying for her mommy and she didn’t have time to go hug that child to make her feel better because she had to pay too much attention to that one child.  (From what I understand teachers are not allowed to hug or touch children for any reason whatsoever. Something noone seemed to have explained to her.) Then the woman across from me chimed in that there is too much distraction when children are pulled out for OT and speech and other services. That the rest of the class can’t concentrate.

That’s nonsense I said. Children who have no issues can be given work to do and concentrate. Oh no they both said, little children need absolute quiet to do their work. My first thought was that if your child needs no distractions to do their work, there is probably an undiagnosed issue there that you just won't admit to. I truly wondered if  neither of them had ever been in an elementary school. Children are no longer zombies sitting at a desk just doing sheet after sheet of math problems. The second woman even said that because of the special ed children noone ever held her son to a standard and he never had to do his work. It’s why he didn’t do his work in high school. Actually this time the grandma and I sort of yelled at her. Basically told her that that was ridiculous.

I have mentioned the “not my child” religion when it comes to bullying but this one was a new one for me. I had heard that parents were afraid that their children would not be given the same curriculum as the rest of the classes because there were special education children in the classroom, but I had never heard that someone actually blamed their inability to parent on the prevalence of special education students in the school. I did drop the subject about her son not doing his work because it didn’t really matter. I guess she had to blame someone that her youngest child ended up at only the University of Colorado unlike her older ones who went to Columbia and Yale. But I suppose this also goes back to the “I want to be my child’s friend” syndrome that is so prevalent in our society today too. Holding your child to a standard and creating consequences, rules and expectations seems to be just too much of a bother for some parents. Everything is always someone else's fault.

The second woman also tried to elicit from some teenagers at the drying table what they thought about having special education students in their classes. Neither actually answered. I don’t know if I gave them the evil eye or not, but once they looked at me they didn’t say a word.

Then second woman then tried to blame the huge school budget on special education and I told her that spec ed is only 1% of our budget, and it’s the teacher salaries and benefits that take up over 75% of the budget. She then got indignant and asked me didn’t I think that the teachers were worth it? I told her of course, that most of the teachers I had come across in our district were terrific. I didn’t know why that had elicited a challenge from her. I wasn’t the one complaining about my school taxes she was.

Then the grandma asked me what we did for a living. I told her my husband worked in one of those corporate law firms that her daughter hated and that I was a special education advocate. She asked if I made a good living I told her I do it volunteer and don’t get paid. To that they had nothing to say either.

The second woman then acknowledged that this is my profession so I probably know more about it but that inclusion is not good for the school. I told her that the alternative of sending a child out of district was very expensive and that was not the education of first resort. She said, well yes it would cost the parents a lot. I told her no, as the taxpayer you pay for those programs. She had no idea and really had no response again.

Then the grandma asked me if my children had the one-to-ones and I said yes they did. The second woman said she was glad that my children did so well at school and were able to go to college. I responded I know you are. Honestly I think she was not being gratuitous about that. I think she also suddenly felt bad. The grandma had no response, but I did tell her that she was right that if there is inclusion the school district has to do a better job of providing the support because then it truly is not fair to everyone.

What upsets me even now is not so much that when I went to the nail salon to get some needed respite and time to myself, I ended up in such a heated conversation, but that when I was blindsided by others stupidity I lost my cool. I definitely think I started to yell. The salon owner at one point in the conversation tried to intervene and get me to pay thus trying to stop the argument, but I didn’t realize that is what she was trying to do until later. I should not have yelled. It did nothing for my cause and I don’t think it taught those two anything at all. The only outcome of it was that I came across as anything but a lady. No I did not curse, I just tried to explain a few things and they wouldn’t listen so I became terribly frustrated.  Hubby said that I was getting upset because I wasn’t changing their minds and that the issue is so personal to us. I suppose I am human after all.

I asked him if I should call and apologize to the salon owner and he said no. Just forget it and let it go, he said. It will be forgotten in no time and the only one who will worry about it is me, he said. Like right now. I am sure these women have gone on about their lives not giving any of it a second thought, of course after some catty crap behind my back once I left the salon. But I truly lost sleep over the “discussion.” Which is foolish, obsessive and unhealthy on my part.

I might go into the salon sometime this week and apologize anyway despite hubby's advice. The owner will tell me not to worry about it, because she doesn’t want to alienate me, yet it could not have been comfortable for her and for that I am sorry. I do think apologizing may be the classy thing to do. Don’t you?

Meanwhile I should try to be more prepared for these discussion and not get so blindsided by others stupidity. Honestly I was so upset because after almost 16 years in the school district I would have thought that people would have learned something in this town, but apparently not. Ironically these people in my town are some of the most educated and financially successful people in the country. I think I am going to have  to remember that you can’t change everyone’s mind. I think I am going to remember that the law thankfully is on our side, and that no matter what you can’t always fix stupid.

Until next time,
With better things to worry about,