The Cheetah and the Albatross
by Nicholas P, published on June 5, 2018
The Education System, like all systems, is going through some fundamental changes. Another way to say that is the Ed system, like many systems, is in need of repair. And it’s happening Now.
Names, locations, and schools have been changed or left out entirely to honor confidentiality, but the vibe remains the same.
For the past few years, I’ve been working in a different role than the classroom, still serving students with disabilities working with a lot of schools. Awesome, in that I’ve been Blessed to work with a diverse group of students and families, who in their heart of hearts, all want the same thing. Whether it be my Black Fam in Jamaica, my Orthodox Jewish fam out in Far Rock, to my West Indians in Richmond Hill, my Greeks in Astoria, my Hispanic brothers and Sisters in Jackson Heights, my Muslim fam in Ozone, you name it. I so LOVE everyone I’m blessed to work with, and give the same energy to wherever and whoever I’m working with that day. Easier said than done in these ‘everyone run to their corner’ surface times, aka the illusion.
For one year, I was tasked with covering Impartial Hearings, whereby folks sue the DOE for various reasons. Not so awesome, but an amazing experience all the same. Me, a career helper, out there dude whose law background consisted of TV shows….versus folks who’ve passed the Bar exam. I thought that was a bit strange, but I did my best, and wear my 1-77 record proudly. Luckily I was raised a Jets fan by way of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and am an eternal optimist, lol.
I make light of it, but there was nothing funny about being the person tasked with litigating a case for a school in the midwest, or a place that uses shock therapy, all costing a ridiculous amount of money, against people who’s sole purpose is to win, and who went to school for a really long time to get great at it.
Some cases were absolutely justified, in terms of things going on at a school, no doubt….but others were different. Almost like a game, where folks request a public school placement with the sole intention of suing us for programs and schools that keep kids separate from the ‘regular’ city folk. Those are tough, and as a team we try to make sure we do everything as thorough as possible. One aspect of it is, if the school is close enough, conducting a classroom observation of the student, to get a picture of a typical day.
Not a rant against lawyers, or hearing officers (mostly lawyers as well) as I made many connections that have helped me personally, and many helped me as best as they could, and they are just playing the game the way it’s set up. It just wasn’t my game to play, and luckily it was a year rotation. I used to joke with them that my 5th period Global Studies class would eat them alive, same as they are doing to me in their element, lol. They got it, but still didn’t stop them from getting their lawyer on, lol (who knew you can’t object on the grounds of ‘because it’s total bullshit!’ ? Lol, those transcripts were quite the read).
Anyway, the knowledge I gained from that experience has helped me so much in my day to day position, as many times a connection and conversation with a family, just listening to their concerns, can often be the difference.
About two weeks ago, I was assigned to visit a school in the tri state area that is advertised as the one of the best of the best. Long story short, the classroom I observed was interesting to say the least, in that there were 2 students who happened to be identically related. 2. For most of the day, at a school they were awarded partly due to social concerns. Alone. Minority. Students. Separate.
Not exactly an objective observation, as they totally knew I was there to see them (one greeted me in the hallway with an ear to ear smile), but was in the flow and approached it w an open heart.
The meeting and whatnot really isn’t the focus here, except as part of their review I go over the observation, which is the focus. As I did so, I realized just how advanced kids are, and how much you really can’t look at the surface. Kids are awesome.
The focus of their lesson involved using descriptive words to create a realistic fiction story involving an animal of their choosing. It was an interesting class, and at the end the girls were asked to share their animals and why they chose them. Their descriptors were amazing, and the animals they chose were the fast running cheetah, and the huge high flying albatross. Amazing.
I’m sure that school does some amazing work, even the teacher who fell into fear at the meeting and made it about everything except the fact that these kids did not belong there based on their skills and levels of performance. More so based on their essays, lol.
Leaving that school I spoke w my teammate, an amazing school psychologist, and we both agreed that this was not the place for them. She was a heart centered All Star at that meeting, and we were a strong team. Turns out Mom had no idea her girls were in that setting…. Now I’m sure they will find some procedural mishmosh to put in the hearing complaint, but these meetings were different. Even the lawyer was quiet as we highlighted in a professional way how restrictive that setting is. I kept going back to the cheetah and the albatross as we met…..feel they were telling me as nice as it was, they wanted out. I’ll happily be a witness should it come to that, and help these young ladies run/fly to their true potential, as if they were my own. Amazing.