Posts Tagged ‘schools’

Blitzen said this morning that she doesn’t like school any more.  Now, I know this is just about being 11.  I am not overly concerned.  When I asked Blitzen what was going on, she replied, “I am not going to tell you, Carrie, because you are just going to cause trouble.”  Hmmmm….I find it a little bit funny that Blitzen sees me as a trouble-maker.  I think I might be flattered.

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“It wasn’t yoga, Andrew, it was a contortioner”.  Blitzen said in that special 10 year old voice that communicates that everyone over 12 is just too dumb to live.

“Do you mean a contortionist like we saw on America’s Got Talent?” Andrew asked.

Blitzen said, “Yes, and she could put her foot under her chin.  Then we made a people pyramid and my teacher helped me so I could be on top.”

Frankly, I have no idea what went down yesterday but I do love Blitzen’s school.

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We’ve had several very teary, sad evenings because of homework.  Blitzen struggles with math and reading but especially reading.  And she has gotten to the point at school where reading is kind of a part of everything, not just language arts. 

Last night she sobbed and sobbed over her poetry assignment (she loves poetry and is good at creating it!) but the poems were long-ish and had some words that she didn’t know.  She just kept weeping and saying, ‘All the other kids can read the big words but I can’t and I never will.’  It was utterly heartbreaking.

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Was calm, a first.  The child rose with no grumpiness, cheerfully accepted assistance with her hair and was happy with the finished product.  I allowed her to wear those little church/kitten/kiddy heals she has and she brought both flipflops and sneakers as back up.  Progress presents itself in the most unusual ways and on the most surprising days.

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I got the following email today:

Lots of B tears today, I’m told, and lots of long teacher hugs.  She really loved this school year. 

Indeed she did.  So glad that she gets to go back to such a wonderful, nurturing place next year.  When I think about how anxious and unsure we were about school at this time last year, it seems millions of miles away.  What a difference a year makes.

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It is been a busy week and I am glad to be headed home.

Apparently Blitzen initiated lots of talk about living with Andrew and me forever, her mental health diagnosis (she doesn’t like the word diagnosis and so refuses to have one – good for her!) and of course, mermaids and mermaid tails. She hand sewed 2 while I was away and made some production videos to share her knowledge and skill with others.

Can’t wait to be home.

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This year make me smile.  What a difference a stimulating, encouraging, nurturing, loving environment makes.

Our main goal for school this year was getting Blitzen to love school and to feel like a valued, successful member of a community of learners.  All are agreed – A+ (except our school doesn’t give grades but the many pages of thoughtfully written narrative tell the story).

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Than dropping her hot pocket on the subway floor on the way to school.  Just no way to 5 second rule that without contracting some horrid disease.  Thank goodness for breakfast at school and teachers in tune enough to recognize a hungry grumpiness for what it is and suggest that a quick visit to the cafeteria might be in order!

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Andrew has written so thoughtfully and eloquently on this just now.  But I really must add:

Suck much, New York City Department of Education?

I can’t recall how much I blogged about last year’s IEP experience. But it was ridiculous. And we are embarking on a different process this year and I guess I should say that I am glad that they didn’t break any laws this time.  At least not yet.  A year ago, it was like they read the handbook and reviewed the due process guidelines and then chuckled and said, ‘let’s do the exact opposite just to fuck with them’. It was theater of the absurd or candid camera or something. Every special education professional that we spoke to following that original IEP meeting in June of 2012 gaped at us in disbelief and said,  “You’re kidding right?!?” to which we’d reply, “No, that really happened, just like that.” and the special ed person would say, “Um, wow, that is so totally against the law.  They really can’t do that.”  And we did in fact file a letter with the DoE explaining how they had violated due process and we requested mediation. In all their wisdom, the DoE chuckled again and said, “You are not this child’s parents.  So, we don’t actually have to listen to you at all, foster parents, go away.  Or have her mother file a grievance.” **  And we did maybe not the right thing but the most expedient thing – we said, “Never mind, we’re sending our kid to a place that values children and their parents (foster or otherwise).”

This year, they are simply allowing themselves to be guided by a very faulty evaluation.   And because of the school we are in, a very expensive independent school that focuses on children and not tests of any kind,  it doesn’t really matter much for Blitzen’s day to day existence / experience. We went to DOE for some support services, we need services and we got services. So, that is all good, right?  As long as she stays with us, as long as we invest in her education at an independent school, it will be ok, probably.  If she ever has to return to public school, this evaluation will be all that matters and I am not sure that I am exaggerating when I say that it would have a devastating impact on Blitzen’s education.

**  Just an aside that if Blitzen’s mother, at this moment in her life, had the time, energy and where with all to take on a huge, intimidating, bureaucratic, death star of an organization like DoE, her children would likely be living with her and not in care.  That is why foster parents exist, often times, to help parents do parenting when for whatever reason they cannot – be it for 6 months or forever.  So the fact that a foster parent would be refused due process ON BEHALF OF a child in their care just goes to show that all of this has nothing to do with children and everything to do with power and oppression.  And so I stand by my opening statement, so elegantly articulated – DOE sucks.

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People in relationship with Blitzen quickly recognize that she’s brilliant in many ways — curious, creative, quick to make connections, adept at learning new skills with her body, a divergent thinker, a problem solver.  Carrie and I don’t spend much time talking about her intelligence; it’s taken for granted by all who know her, and we move on to the important stuff.  Where do mermaids swim?   When do you feel joyful?  How do you make cartoon characters?  How do you be a friend?  What do you do when you feel really angry?  How do you make Dolphin Cove into a real island?  What makes a family?  How do we change patterns of behavior?  In the book Ingo, why does the sea call to Sapphire?

Blitzen and the wonderful folks in her life are wrestling with those questions every hour.  That’s the work, that’s the joy.   We’re Team Blitzen and this is what we do.

Yesterday we received a Department of Education evaluation by email.  It came in upside down, but it can be read if you print it out or stand on your head.  It’s filled with numbers and clinical-sounding words designed to distance and intimidate.  The word deficient is used a lot.

Reports like that shouldn’t matter.  Blitzen’s brilliance is an ontological reality; her intelligence and glee exist whether or not they’re acknowledged.  My instinct, as a privileged, educated white man who does well on my culture’s bubble tests, is to ignore the upside down email and channel ee cummings:

While you and i have lips and voices which
are for kissing and to sing with
who cares if some oneeyed son of a bitch
invents an instrument to measure Spring with?

The problem is that our measuring is not benevolent.  The systems of dominance embedded in our education and child welfare institutions are have consequences in the lives of kids like Blitzen.  Evaluations like that have the effect (and, I’d argue, the intent) of separating undesirable kids from their peers and offering them an education with less creativity, less critical thinking, less joy, less humanity and less possibility.
This disproportionally affects traumatized kids, kids of color and kids in foster care.  (If you’re a footnote type, 40% of kids in care are in special education and 50% of kids in care don’t graduate from high school.)

Blitzen and those of us lucky enough to be on her team won’t have the privilege of  kissing, singing and swimming in Dolphin Cove without spending time, energy and creativity in the soul-sucking battle against the measuring instruments that prop up systems of inequity.

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