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An Education Rant - dorsetgirl
September 11th, 2008
01:33 pm
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An Education Rant

I just got a call from a guy from my sons’ secondary school, who announced himself as “taking over Key Stage 3; I’m an Assistant Head”.

He said he was phoning on behalf of the previous Head of KS3, who I tried to contact yesterday about my older son. He seemed surprised when I said I wanted to talk to her in her capacity as SENCO, not as Head of KS3. Then he asked me to explain what I wanted to talk to her about, so he could judge whether it was a Special Needs issue or not. This was only the first occasion in our conversation when he treated me as if I’m stupid. Actually, he came off as pretty stupid himself.

I said I’d wanted to discuss with the SENCO the possibility of taking the Learning Support Assistants off of preparing my son’s homework timetable for him, and allowing us to manage that ourselves. And his answer?

“Well, we do have to be a little bit flexible – homework isn’t always set, even if it’s in the timetable. I can understand that as a parent you find that a little confusing.” YOU PATRONISING FUCKER. ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME?

“The LSAs are going through the priorities at the moment. If they decide to put [my son] into the model for this term...” Why would they not? He has special needs; he needs extra assistance from time to time. Just, he doesn’t need his timetable writing out for him any more. That’s what I phoned about, remember?

And dear God, I fucking hate it when teachers go “...oh, yes, my children do that too.” NO THEY DON’T. IT’S NOT THE SAME. YOUR KIDS ARE NOT AUTISTIC. IT IS DIFFERENT.

I said I find the school’s attitude on homework a little inconsistent and would appreciate clarification – on the one hand we are told they should work for no more than the stated amount of time, while on the other hand, if they work for three hours and haven’t finished they get punished. So which is it?

I got a load of waffle about that one, about policies etc, and I couldn’t help interrupting to ask if he’d read the Language Department policy. (I really don’t take well to being patronised and smoke-screened.)

“No, ma’am (yes, he’s American), I haven’t memorised all the policies.”

“I didn’t ask if you’d memorised anything. I’m asking if you’ve read it.”

“Well, now, I don’t want to get into the nuts and bolts of all that at the moment... “


The bloke is a total waffling arsehole. He doesn’t have a clue about special needs as far as I can see. Fine, it’s not his role. But don’t feed me a load of waffle designed to hide that you don’t know. I AM NOT STUPID, I HAVE MAGICAL POWERS THAT LET ME SEE RIGHT THROUGH STEAMING PILES OF BULLSHIT!

And that Language Department homework policy? Well, that says that there is a scale of punishments for missed homeworks. Which is fair enough. BUT the policy – which they sent me a copy of yesterday after I expressed my concerns – applies equally to “Missed Homework; Incomplete Homework; Failed Tests”.

So you get punished for being a slow worker; if you’re still struggling to understand something at 11pm and your mum says you have to go to bed because you’re getting up at 6-15, you get punished.

And you get punished for failing a test, even if you’ve done your very best to prepare for it. The pass mark is 75%, and my conscientious and very hard-working eleven-year-old now has a detention in only his second week at his new school because he’s rubbish at French.

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(12 comments | Leave a comment)

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Date:September 11th, 2008 03:39 pm (UTC)

This just gets me:
...on the one hand we are told they should work for no more than the stated amount of time, while on the other hand, if they work for three hours and haven’t finished they get punished. So which is it?

So very typical. Now, I don't have kids, much less special needs ones, but I WAS a special needs kid and THIS is why mother decided to home school me. I'm not encouraging that, it's a hard row to hoe and has definite drawbacks, but I think part of the reason she did it was less my needs than her need to stop butting heads with the school administrators. LOL! There is always a good one or two in the bunch, but over all, they are arrogant pricks. And I see nothing has changed. grrrrrr.

What a damned nightmare. *hugs* But I totally get your frustration, 100%, and think you are in the right. For what that is worth.
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Date:September 18th, 2008 08:11 pm (UTC)
Funny thing is, this bloke isn't an administrator, he's an Art teacher. But afaik, he is new to the school. I've spent two years being nice and polite and trusting them to do their best, and I think they've taken advantage. The new Head is all about improving academic standards, which on the face of it is fine, but the ethos of the school has changed from "happy students are successful students" which is what we chose it for, to "Students must work hard and they will get detention if they don't. No exceptions." And they haven't even told us that, I'm just picking it up from all the new targets and "policies" we're getting bombarded with.

Perhaps I'm twisted, but doesn't "I was a special needs kid" sound like something that enabler!Gene might have on his books? I think of Sam as having very special needs.
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Date:September 19th, 2008 01:10 pm (UTC)
Perhaps I'm twisted, but doesn't "I was a special needs kid" sound like something that enabler!Gene might have on his books?

LOL Yeah! And Sam IS so very special....

But in person, it feels more like a version of "I was a Teenage Werewolf"... *sighhhhhh*

[User Picture]
Date:September 19th, 2008 01:20 pm (UTC)
"I was a Teenage Werewolf"

Can't have been easy, especially as your Mom was presumably fighting social issues as well. (That's the first time I've ever typed that word, lol!)

I've often thought about home-schooling, but I honestly couldn't cope with the 24/7 contact. There's a good reason I have Mondays as a "day off" (ie on Mondays I don't bother pretending to myself that I'll go and do something more useful in a minute).
[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
Wow, of course this screwed up your afternoon! What the hell is the dude's problem? He sounds ridiculously patronizing and honestly, it sounds like you handled yourself pretty well on your end, which is better I think than I could have done. I mean, I know teachers try to relate, but to say their kid is the same when clearly they are not, and clearly they do not have an autistic child at home to care for, is just uncalled for. Try to empathize they should, sure, but never place themselves in your shoes, no one should.

My son is in first grade this year and I am almost dreading dealing with the administrative bullshit. We talked about this awhile back, his progress and all, and I just know that this year will be there year where they try to poke and prod. What a ridiculous statement that they shouldn't work past the stated time, but that they should finish their work, more or less. I mean it's like saying "Here is the "norm", don't be anything but that." Fuck them. This is why I am keeping my eye on the alternative schooling choices around here, just in case shit like that starts to come up.

Yeah, *hugs* for dealing with that load of crap.

[User Picture]
Date:September 18th, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC)
One of the difficulties of high-functioning autism is that although the child's peers pick it out immediately (look out for subtle bullying, controlling and "why is he so odd?"), adults often don't pick it up. Even with an official diagnosis, most of my son's teachers seem to treat him as if he's just being difficult or disobedient. The SENCO is fine, she genuinely understands the condition, but I feel she is being squeezed by the new head to minimise exceptions and allowances and force the kids to conform totally. Trouble is, you push an ASD child too far and you end up with total school refusal, nervous breakdown etc. You don't push them at all and they never do a stroke of work. It's a very fine line to judge how hard to push.

On the "yeah, my child does that too..." - they almost all say that; I'd never seen it before as an attempt at empathy, which proves how well it works. I'd always seen it as trivialising and dismissing my concerns. Thanks for commenting, and I hope your son's school is a bit more enlightened.
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Date:September 19th, 2008 01:18 pm (UTC)
Trouble is, you push an ASD child too far and you end up with total school refusal, nervous breakdown etc. You don't push them at all and they never do a stroke of work. It's a very fine line to judge how hard to push.

I was never diagnosed, I have no proof, but this behavior is why my mother pulled me out and one reason why I tend to think, in retrospect, that I was perhaps mildly (or high-functioning?) autistic. Well back in the 70s autism was not even seen, much less understood. And perhaps I'm being fanciful.

But either way I think I was certainly a victim of (as Candesgirl put it) the whole "this is the norm and don't be anything but" and while I know it beat up my parents hard, for me it was devestating. I remember the breakdowns, the 'tune out' times (as I called them), I remember ALL of that...it was hell.

So hugs to you and the kids, and I wish I could sic Gene Hunt on that teacher's butt!!!!
[User Picture]
Date:September 19th, 2008 01:42 pm (UTC)
I tend to think, in retrospect, that I was perhaps mildly (or high-functioning?) autistic.

Part of the problem with mild or high-functioning autism (and I think they are two different things) is that ASD people display the full range of personality types and individual quirks, and this can obscure the underlying condition unless it's full-on classic autism.

From what I've seen so far, there are a lot of us about in fandom; people with ASD kids and people who acknowledge that socially or emotionally they're not quite the full ticket, some quite cripplingly so. I was like my middle son is - anxiously compliant, hard-working, and bright enough to offset the occasional "does not compute" moment. And I'm still, at my age, suddenly getting flashes of "Oh shit, that's what they meant. God, how embarrassing - I really was a bit weird, wasn't I?"

I always felt that I was afraid people would find out "what I was really like", and it's only in the past ten years or so that the outside feels less like a cover-up. Or perhaps I'm just too old to care.

Mind you, having kids does give you confidence in some strange way, because you just have to walk round the supermarket talking to this little staring blob who's giving nothing back, and you have to fight the teachers, and you have to pick up the spiders and take them out.

You going to sic Gene on anyone, you send him over to deal with my butt... I'd take him in find him a nice warm place.
[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2008 06:32 pm (UTC)
You handled yourself way better than I could have done. I hate the assholes who work in administration at secondary schools. They are in no way there to work with the parents or the students for that matter.
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Date:September 18th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC)
This man is actually a teacher (Art), with "Head of Lower School" as a part-time extra, but I have met plenty of teachers over the years who assume that a teacher is by definition more intelligent than a parent. That doesn't happen so much with the younger ones, but this man sounded at least mid-thirties. I did try not to be rude, but I was happy to go to acerbic, which he didn't appreciate. Hopefully I won't have to deal with him too much. Thanks for being supportive, I really appreciate it!
[User Picture]
Date:September 12th, 2008 02:25 am (UTC)
The fucking hell? Was he ORDERED to blow off parents, or was he, like, nervous on his first day? I mean, that's unacceptable! More than unacceptable. There is no word for shit like this! I can't believe you could hold yourself together. I would've been screeching obsenities if it were my kid.
[User Picture]
Date:September 18th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)
was he, like, nervous on his first day?

Just born to be a pompous twat, is my belief. And what's really worrying is that he was possibly recruited for that very quality.

I would've been screeching obscenities

Don't think they weren't hammering at the back of my teeth trying to get out; the most difficult thing in that sort of conversation is staying calm and constructive when all you really want to do is be extremely rude, extremely loudly. (This is why women were given the ability to get stress and anger out by crying when they can find five minutes afterwards.)

All that really stopped me was that knowing I have to deal with this school and get them to do their best for each of my kids, for seven more years, and possibly nine if my youngest goes there too. I couldn't speak for our academic friends in the comm, but I've never forgotten a nursery teacher saying to me "It's sad but true that if a teacher doesn't like you, they'll have more difficulty in being nice to your child."
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