Friday, February 26, 2010

The Crazy Cutbacks

With the California state budget on the verge of bankruptcy, the effects were bound to deeply impact the public school system. The school district is being forced to make drastic, very difficult and probably bad budget cuts. So far, Aidan's school has gotten by ok, with a lot of help from the active parents that support the school by volunteering, fundraising and monetary contributions. But... the cuts are now starting to kick in. Aidan's aide, Ms. T, is being forced to take furlough days (no work, no pay) of one day per month for the remainder of the school year. Since she is under the Special Education umbrella, it is a separate pot of money and since she has been with the district for over 15 years, she feels confident that her job is still relatively secure. I sure hope so! I'd like her to stay with Aidan for a long long time. Aidan has two teachers that job-share the week. One of his teachers, Mrs. B, is one of the least senior teachers at the school, and has already been given her walking papers. So sad. I think she's a pretty good teacher. The principal has already said that he will likely have to cut more teachers from the school. All this means larger class size, a poor learning environment, and more pressure on teachers to get more done in less time. It is so tragic and detrimental! The cuts in education that I've heard happening around the state and in other parts of the country are just ludicrous. Upper grades have upwards of 40 kids per class. They are cutting school days to save money. Aidan's principal mentioned the possibility of school ending 5 days early. He was also talking about Kindergarten classes having 28 kids with no assistant! 28 5-year olds with 1 adult?! That sounds disastrous! In another state, I heard they were considering eliminating the 12th grade?!! What??!! Are they crazy?!
I am sure some very good, highly-motivated teachers are losing their jobs because they don't have seniority or tenure. Meanwhile many tired, burned-out, well-paid teachers are getting to keep their jobs just because they have been at the job longer. That does not make any sense to me. A little while ago, there was a long article in the LA Times about how hard it was to fire problematic teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Even a teacher that's had numerous formal complaints against him. That problematic teacher just ended up changing schools.
When I was in the corporate world, we had 360 degree evaluations - superiors, subordinates, and peers gave feedback each year when it was evaluation time. Just like students are given report cards and take standardized tests to measure their academic knowledge, I think teachers should be graded and get report cards. I think it would be interesting if there was some way for parents and possibly students to "grade" their teachers. And maybe these teachers' report cards could be made public for everyone to read, like the parent reviews on Maybe this type of exposure and transparency would motivate teachers to do their best and serve their students right?
I am a proud product of public education and I think it absolutely can be a good thing. But admittedly, my high school had some bad teachers. My high school math teacher was truly a joke! He was the only one that taught high level math - Trigonometry and Calculus. But he couldn't get through a class without being corrected by one of his students for doing a math problem on the board incorrectly! That same teacher also had a reputation for arranging his seating chart so that the cheerleaders and attractive girls would sit at the front of the class, close to him. He taught there for a long long time but never really changed his ways. I also had a pretty lousy Chemistry teacher too. He must have been about 70 years old or something and probably taught for most of his life. When I had him as a teacher, he would give out a test, then leave the classroom, and of course when you turn your back on a classroom full of kids, they would all horse around, and cheat off of each other. Then when he came back in the room, of course, we were all angels and he was completely clueless to it all. Kind of a joke class. I can't say I learned much about Chemistry from him. I also had another high school teacher tell me not to bother to go to college, since I was a girl, I should just marry rich!? Excuse me? Did that just come out of your mouth?Needless to say, while I survived and did alright, I wouldn't dare send my own children to the public schools that I went to.
It's all such a shame. I don't know what the solution for the budget problem is, but I don't want to be around when the effects of a poor or non-existent education catches up to us in society.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

They are seeing the light...

Last month, I had my first parent-teacher conference with Aidan's teacher, Ms. S. She told me how she and Ms. B. were happy to have Aidan be a part of their class...As she said, They loved having him, and The kids loved having him in the class, They miss him when he's not there, etc. I was very pleased and relieved to hear these sentiments. However, she admittedly said that they were not sure how to approach Aidan's Report Card. I told her frankly, that I wasn't so sure for them either. Given Aidan's disabilities, it would seem unfair to me to judge him on, e.g., penmanship...given the fact that he has trouble with just grasping a pencil independently. So Ms. S left the report card rather incomplete. She had said that her and Ms. B were very concerned about "doing right by him." Since they were general ed teachers, they felt like they lacked the familiarity with how to rightfully judge him in this special situation. She stated that they were going to confer more with Miss L, the Inclusion Facilitator, so that they could be fair to Aidan and judge him appropriately.
Thus, in our next Inclusion Team Meeting, the subject of the Report Card was my first question to Miss L. She explained to me that the Report Card, for the most part, does not apply to Aidan, since he is a special ed case. His progress and assessments are based on his IEP (Individualized Educational program) goals, which also include academic and social goals. Miss L would be the one to suggest, adjust, and revise the academic and social goals for his IEP. Even though Aidan won't necessarily be measured by the standard kindergarteners' academic curriculum, Miss L said she would adapt the curriculum and assess Aidan with it to see where he stood academically. Miss L informed me that she had already done some assessments and has concluded that Aidan knew all his letters, phonetic sounds and colors. I knew Aidan knew these things, but I am so glad someone else was able to see that he knew them too! Nothing makes me happier and more proud than when outsiders are able to see the bright shining light in my little Aidan. Though he says very little, he listens and absorbs everything around him. Yes, he is a smart cookie and has a beaming personality with a sense of humor beyond his age. I was tickled when a classmate's mom told me while we were volunteering in the classroom, that she loved Aidan's sense of humor. I found that quite interesting particularly because she does not spend that much time in the classroom but apparently had enough time still to appreciate his sense of humor. I am so glad that they are seeing the light.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lake Tahoe Ski Adventure

Check out the video of Aidan doing his adaptive ski lesson at Lake Tahoe in January.
Have you ever done the Half-Pipe? Aidan has! Check it out. Our motto is...No Boundaries!

*Certain names have been changed to protect individuals' privacy.

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