My post this morning on Autism Awareness has prompted readers to share their experiences, both with evaluation and Special Needs. I’m interested in hearing more.
I saw similar demonstrations of administrative incompetence many times.
Before SB7, it was bad enough, but at least there was some protection. I heard of one bilingual math teacher getting one of those evaluations. The 3rd grade students came in, the class went along perfectly well, at the end of the period the students went out to their next scheduled classes. The evaluator felt she HAD TO find something to complain about, or it would look like the evaluator was not doing a good job. So the teacher was written up for “the entire 45 minute class was spent teaching math.” A math teacher teaching math in math class.
These are not isolated incidents. It happens in most school districts, and since SB7 took away tenure it has gotten worse. I would not recommend to anyone to go into teaching as their career, not anymore.
This reminds me of the time the same principal I talked about in my original post wrote up a first grade teacher for not differentiating instruction because the time the principal chose to observe was when the teacher was reading a book to her entire first grade class prior to having them break up into smaller groups, as directed by the lesson plan adopted by the district’s Curriculum Office.
My experience was exactly the same the last year before retiring.
As a high school guidance counselor I found myself constantly at odds with the administration over what services were needed and what they said they were providing/could provide to the SPED kids and what was reality. So much so that the building SPED administrator asked my chair not to assign SPED kids to my caseload.
That didn’t happen.
Primarily because my 11 fellow counselors would have raised hell. Some because misery loves company and if they had to deal with the SPED bullshit so should I. I have an autistic grand son but my concern for SPED students and services started the day I became a counselor, back when PL-94-142 started.
I find wonder in the amount of similarities in both our professional and personal backgrounds.
- Ben Joravsky
The year was 2004—and what a glorious time it was!
We were in the midst of a fabulous real estate bubble that sent property taxes flowing into the city’s coffers like champagne at an Emanuel fund-raiser.
Amid the good times, a few wealthy friends of then mayor Richard Daley threw a lavish party in the Pritzker Pavilion at the recently completed Millennium Park.
“Women wearing serious jewelry and stunning gowns were welcomed upon their arrival by ‘Adam and Eve’ greeters draped in leaves and dragging a snake,” the Sun-Times reported about the $1,000-a-ticket fund-raiser for the park. “In two big tents, Wolfgang Puck Catering served a dinner of beets and goat cheese, asparagus with prosciutto, potato leek soup with caviar, lobster and beef tenderloin with truffles. Tables were topped with white cloths and tall silver urns holding magnolia leaves; 10-foot-tall water walls were placed through the tents.”
Ah, yes, the good life.
As we’ve since learned, the lavishness was heaped atop an unstable foundation. Essentially, Mayor Daley was taking property taxes intended for really boring stuff—like pension payments—and spending it on flashier things that we couldn’t afford.
Now that those pension bills are coming due, our choice is to either cut payments to retirees, jack up property taxes, or both.
Too bad we can’t get a refund on the beef tenderloin with truffles.
I teach students with Autism at my middle school. It was a brand new program this year. I am still waiting for the district to fully fund it with the supplies I ordered a year ago June on the supply form they gave me.
And that fully engaged part was funny. I have found that administrators that were not SPED teachers have no idea of what autism is or what it looks like. I have had students sitting under a table several feet away from where I was doing a lesson, back turned to us, humming, flapping hands, and not engaged in any traditional sense, and able to answer questions about it the next day. They are not traditional students and will not always respond in a traditional manner, and it doesn’t mean they aren’t learning.
That’s why common core standards, a one size fits all approach, isn’t good for all kids. And why we should not be evaluated by people or tests that have no clue about what is actually happening in class.
- Jannike Johnson
Banners went up and banners came down.
Some were professionally printed. Some were hand-made by students on long white sheets of butcher paper.
April was a busy month for banners. Shoe-horned in around Spring Break was Poetry Appreciation month and Autism Awareness month.
This is about Autism Awareness month.
Our school had lots of kids with Autism. For reasons of cost and efficiency, for years we were what was once called a cluster school for students with Autism, Cerebral Palsy and Down Syndrome. Students – regardless of where they lived in the suburban Township where our school was located – could come to our school where we provided Special Education services. Alongside and nearly fully included with the typical kids.
And for years we struggled to implement full inclusion.
In a white suburban middle-class community, this is what provided our school with a diversity that all of us could learn from.
It didn’t always go smoothly.
Good teaching never does and never should always go smoothly.
At least in the sense that it should always be an intellectual challenge.
Then there is the not smoothly that arose from the lack of support for the work we were doing.
Working with Special Needs students can’t be done on the cheap. And it can’t be done without constant effort.
Requests for most kinds of support, training and resources were generally met by a central office negative response.
One thing bureaucrats know how to do is reject a request for something. It’s so much easier for them to say no than to worry about being blamed by somebody above them for the consequences of saying yes.
Send some teachers to a conference on Special Needs?
Full staffing of paraprofessionals?
Every year it would take a first semester of battling with the principal, then the central office and chief Special Education administrator for more paraprofessional assistants so that we could do something approaching full inclusion.
No, no and no.
Apparently there were no Autism Awareness banners hanging in the bureaucrats’ headquarters.
My final year of teaching I was scheduled for evaluation.
Crazy. I know.
What if I didn’t meet the principal’s expectations? I was retiring that June.
The evaluation required a 45 minute observation of me with my students. It was a class which included a Special Needs student (almost all of my classes did) who was pretty far over on the Autism Spectrum.
In her write-up, the principal – she was in her second year and our staff had been in constant battle with her incompetence and heavy-handed authoritarian rule – had referred to that the student as not “fully engaged.”
Student engagement was on her observation checklist.
I refused to sign the write-up.
“How could you possibly know if that student was fully engaged by sitting in my room for 45 minutes?”
“His eyes wandered,” she said.
“Engagement in the art room – or anywhere – isn’t binary,” I said. “It’s not in or out. There are levels and degrees and intensity of engagement. And it is not often observable by a 45 minute observation. And that is even more true (can something be “more true”?) for a child with Autism. Why don’t you know that?“
No Autism Awareness banner in her office, I guess.