I sit next to my oldest daughter, and take her hand in mine. ”First Daughter, I know you’re upset about what happened at school today.”
“Yeah,” she answers.
Cue the soft lighting. I tell her “I want you to know that I love you more than anything. I promise you that I will do everything I can to give you good school days. You are beautiful and perfect, and you don’t deserve to have such an awful day.”
“Eema, the other kids like me a lot. Why don’t the teachers like me?”
“Because they obviously all suffer from an arterial flow problem above the neck!” Ok, poor sentence for the soft lighting scene. But I’m mad, I’m so mad…. and I’m still missing Designing Women terribly. What a great show. That was one of Julia Sugerbaker’s lines, to accuse idiots of having arterial flow problems above their necks. Jeez, talk about a digression – have I mentioned in previous posts that I’m starting to realize I probably have ADHD as well? Anyway, need a child-friendly explanation, need a child friendly explanation…. “First Daughter, I really have no idea why so many adults in your life are behaving this way. I’d like to think that they are trying to do the best they can.” I know they aren’t doing the best they can, they are mindless bastards whose primary concern… ok, soft lighting, soft lighting. “You are perfect and wonderful, and I’m glad your friends can see that. I hope one day your teachers become better people.”
“Me too. I love you eema!”
“I love you too. I’m glad we had this talk. Now that we’re done, you can have your computer back.”
And there was much rejoicing (at least the near-ten-year-old was rejoicing.)
The adventure never seems to end for us. Shortly after my last post, each child got sick with a virus, and then my husband and I both caught it in turn. Then my country declared war. Normally, this should have been a major shocker, but the bad guys in Gaza had been declaring war for years, so our declaration seemed a little anti-climatic. However, missiles were being fired directly into neighborhoods in the southern and center parts of the country, so needless to say, I was a little distracted.
I’ve been through two wars in this country (perhaps more but it’s a little unclear due to the above reasons), and I can honestly say that during these times, I have absolutely no patience for crazy. Or stupid. Stupid and Crazy should join hands and run off into some merry sunset, and let the rest of us deal with the serious issues in life. I mean seriously, if your country is being attacked, is it really appropriate for a teacher to send a note home inquiring as to why your child, yet again, neglected to bring her pencil case? Perhaps she is unaware of how important pencil cases are to academic achievement?
IEP stands for “Individualized Education Program”, and it’s the American way of referring to the agreement between educators and parents about what resources and curricula material will be provided for their extra-ordinary child. We have these agreements in Israel too, but we don’t have a fancy label. In both countries, these agreements are often not upheld by the educators, and parents find themselves arguing previously settled points again, and again, and again.
My daughter’s school agreed to mark each day whether or not she successfully did the following three things: 1) Brought completed homework; 2) Sat still in class; and 3) Brought all necessary supplies and books to each lesson. With this action, we would have true documentation on my child’s progress. Sounds simple, great, and most importantly IT WAS THEIR IDEA IN THE FIRST PLACE!
My daughter’s teacher has not done this on a regular basis. Why? She’s been sick, she’s forgotten, it was her free day. Sometimes the kids have a field trip, or a school assembly, so therefore there’s nothing to write, she says. I’ve complained to the principal, she doesn’t see how the teacher can be expected to do it every day. I’ve complained to the special ed coordinator, and she also explains that the teacher has been sick, forgotten, etc.
This is unfortunately a big deal. Part of the medical process in this country is that my daughter’s homeroom teacher needs to answer a complicated questionnaire about my child’s classroom performance, post-medication. I had hoped that with the documentation, she would have done the questionnaire somewhat reliably. Now, I have no one to fill out this questionnaire. I don’t know yet how vital this is to her medical treatment, but I’m really upset.
I’ve had to complain to a higher administrator. This administrator has also been truthful enough to confirm that the school has significant problems. They have far more resources for extra-ordinary kids than other schools, but they manage these resources poorly. Israeli educators are highly unionized, which makes it difficult to take action on a problematic staff member. The principal chooses not to exert the effort. The special ed. coordinator has significant control issues of her own, and the teachers remain ignorant of how to relate and educate extra-ordinary kids.
This administrator was also willing to listen to me, and agreed that the school should be following through on what they agreed to do. I asked: Should I pull my kids out of this school? The administrator answered that given the resources the school has, and the fact that my children have quite a lot of friends at the school, it would be better for my kids to stay. “All problems can be solved, it just might take some time.”
Every day that you don’t win the battle feels like a day that you’ve lost the battle. There are days when I just want to pull out, in every way, just to escape the ongoing less-than-perfect. Then I remember what the art therapist told my daughter, regarding her imperfect Sponge-Bob sketch: Ok, you don’t like it. Don’t rip it up, think about how can you make it better? Imperfect life moments have value as well, and I won’t run away. I’m going to be a good model for my girl.
So, to close with a song. I stumbled across this on youtube, most people have probably already heard it. “The Island” by Paul Brady. It deals with life during a civil war (in his case, N. Ireland), and that’s not Israel. But the idea of living in a state of war, without a solution, without an end, that’s definitely something I can relate to. I think most of us extra-ordinary parents could.