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In honor of Moishe…and all those kids on the spectrum..

 

Hey Lovies!

I hope April is going well for you guys and that you are taking care of yourselves in preparation for Summer!

I’ve been super busy, but have had this blog percolating in my mind for some time – in honor of Autism month. autism4

For those of you that don’t know, I started my career in education working at a preschool for children with autism and/or on the spectrum.

I worked as the office manager but as my interest in education grew my boss at the time started giving me the opportunity to work as an aide in the class.

It was here that I met Moishe*.  All the kids stand out, but for some reason when I think of that place it is Moishe who always stands out in my mind.

Moishe’s family was Orthodox Jewish and he was the youngest of 5.  Three of his siblings had diagnosed learning disabilities.  When Moishe came to us at about 4 (I think) he was non-verbal, made NO eye contact whatsoever, and was literally just living in his own world.  His mom was his primary caretaker.

As an Orthodox Jewish family they adhered to strict religious doctrines —-> to the max!  The biggest one impacting Moishe at school was eating routines – kosher meals, food stored separately from the other children’s food and he had a special mat on which he ate.

His mother was very adamant about arts and crafts that involved food and most of her questions to us were related to anything that might go against any of their religious doctrines. Which hey I get, but I often wondered what her role was as advocate for Moishe as a child with autism.

Anyway, I’m getting to my point.  Like I said Moishe was-non verbal and made little to no eye contact and one of the things his mom expressed when he started with us was that he had no interaction whatsoever with her.  He did with his sibling and dad – interactions to the best of his abilities.

Thankfully her reaction or non-reaction didn’t set Moishe back.  He began to flourish and as time went on, Moishe  began looking at us and the other children when greeted or spoken to, he was okay with being touched or if we sat next to him. Eventually he started smiling at me and others.  This made my heart well!

He was making so much progress under the care of the loving staff that sometimes I wondered if his diagnosis was correct or if Moishe was just somehow lost in the shuffle of so many kids at home.  Or if his mother’s attention was so directed to the religious upbringing that she just didn’t SEE Moishe.

Anyway, one day Moishe and the other kids created an arts and craft activity I believe using food, like cereal.  Apparently, when Moishe jumped of the school bus at home, he ran to his mother and said “Look” and smiled at her.  His mother’s first reaction was to call the school to ask if the necklace had been made under kosher conditions.  ?!?!?  She didn’t hug him, or say “wow” or even notice that Moishe had spoken to her for the first time EVERRRRRR!!!  I said as much to her. autism5

I was so annoyed, dumbfounded, and sad.  I mean I get that certain people in whatever religion are very devout to their beliefs, but I am thinking if my son who hasn’t spoken to me ever in his life, jumped off a bus and spoke and smiled, I would probably wouldn’t have cared if he was showing me a necklace made out of pork!!  Seriously.

All this brings me to say that all children need their parents love, support and most importantly advocacy.

This whole experience and my time working there taught me so much about what things I should do as a parent, what things all parents should do for their children – especially when dealing with the school system and a special needs diagnosis (whatever that diagnosis is).

Parents need to be educated and parents need to constantly be researching any and every available resource to support their kids.  Children unfortunately get lost in the bureaucracy that is public education.

I don’t know what happened to Moishe, I am thinking he is about 23 now.  But Deepak 1997233-Deepak-Chopra-Quote-Know-that-people-are-doing-the-best-they-canChopra says that people do the best they can from their level of awareness.  My hope is that his mother’s level of awareness has increased since then and that perhaps her focus shifted – even if just a little – from religious doctrines to Moishe and his world. That she became his biggest advocate.

Moishe was one of the many kids who inspired me to teach.

Happy National Autism month to the amazing kids on the spectrum and kudos to those parents and friends who have advocate relentlessly for their kids!!!

Thanks for stopping by!

LolaUncorked♥

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Why I decided to leave the classroom….

Hi my loves!  I am so excited to announce that I am officially leaving the classroom after almost 14 years!

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On my way to a new adventure…. PC | geri1221

I did it!  I am so excited to venture out into something new, though leaving my longest running job is bittersweet and scary.  Notice I called it a job,  not a career, because that’s really what it has become for me.  A job I had to go to so I can have an income and be an adult.

I was passionate and excited about teaching maybe 3 out of the 14 years I’ve done it. In the short time (and I say that in comparison to friends who have been teaching for over 20 years) the shift in education has been disheartening and disenfranchising.   

It seemed that every year there were new initiatives and mandates put into place by individuals so far removed from the classroom they wouldn’t survive a day. 

A profession that commanded the highest level of  respect back in the day has now placed teachers at the bottom of the societal totem pole.

Why did I stay so long? Well, #1 I racked up tons of student loans to pursue what I thought was a respectable and rewarding career.  And I needed to pay them off.  (Which I haven’t). #2 I was working on a pension and retirement.  And  #3, most importantly, because every year I really believed something would reignite in my soul and I would be like “Woohoooo!”  Sometimes it did, but that fire quickly simmered down to a dying ember.  Sad but true.  

I went back to school for two reasons: One my kids, my girls.  I kept saying how do I instill in them the importance of education if I hadn’t placed importance on it myself.      

The second reason is that while working at Montclair State University in their education center, this professor who later became my boss, mentor and friend, looked at me one day and said, “You HAVE to go back to school!  Let’s get you a PhD!”

Ha! Really???  I was just trying to wrap my mind around a bachelor’s degree.  Especially since at that point, I already had two kids and worked full-time.

That’s where it all started.  In retrospect, I really loved what I was already doing   supporting teacher candidates, graduate assistants, my boss and other faculty in the teacher education department.  But, I believed in order to be credible in the field of education, I had to get my teaching degree and get some experience in the trenches.  And boy did it feel like the trenches!   

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And who are the experts? The front line – teachers!

Little did I know that the disconnect between theory and practice is so wide that I could have totally stayed in my job and done an amazing job supporting others.

But we live and we learn.  Now thousands and thousands of student loans later,  I have eagerly decided to hang up my dry erase markers (yes, because I don’t even have a Smart Board this year) and leave the classroom.

I haven’t loved it in a very long time.  I’ve had moments of love and passion for sure, but those feelings were repeatedly squashed by over zealous administrators, red tape, favoritism, nepotism, sexism, to name a few.

Each September, I kept thinking:

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I’ve done a lot of thinking and praying about making a move….

“This year, I will feel completely supported and prepared to service my kids.”

“This will be the year that the powers-that-be finally decide to back off and just let me teach.”

“This will be the year where the assessment is aligned to the curriculum to the state standards to my students’ language levels and abilities and culture and backgrounds.”

That year never came.

And so I’ve decided to leave, not completely leaving the profession.  I will still be in an educational setting but working for a non-profit corporation that supports literacy practices in a public school setting.  I am EXCITED!

But I wanted to leave administrators, instructional coaches, superintendents, curriculum writers, parents and policy makers with this:

Before you criticize or demonize (as has happened to many of us) a teacher, think of the task you are asking teachers to take on – educator, mother, nurse, social worker, psychologist, interventionist, for pennies a day.

Before you jot down that 1 or 2 on a teacher’s observation report, because you as an administrator need to show data growth think about what that 1 or 2 does to your teacher’s motivation level and how that impacts his/her work in the classroom.

Before you go on your walk thrus change your mindset from a negative one to a postive one so you can catch all the good that is going on versus the one or two things that might be going wrong that day.

Before you give feedback to a teacher about what to make better, make sure its something that you yourself can go in there and model and do well.

Before any of you make another policy regarding children and schools, spend ONE day in a classroom where there are 25 1st graders some with classifications that are not being serviced, no books, no reading rug, no supplies, whose parents don’t speak the language or have limited education or work 15 hour days, where all the kids are on different academic and behavioral levels.  One day!  I can guarantee many wouldn’t last a half.

Listen, I am not asking for pity on teachers for the work they chose to do, what I am saying is to be a little more empathetic and thankful for the work teachers are doing day in and day out across the nation.

I don’t know what this new career will bring for me, but I can say that I was able to recognize that I could no longer go to a place where every morning it felt like a chore and every evening was filled with anxiety thinking of the next day. 

I recognized that I was doing my students and myself a huge disservice going there.

I have made some amazing friends and have met some amazing teachers doing amazing work despite all the people working against them and I wish them continued success.

I leave you with this thought: 

“I think that education in our country is going to self-combust and when the dust settles, my hope is that those “others” will finally let teachers teach.”

Thanks for stopping by.  Remember to like, comment, follow and share!

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LolaUncorked♥