My Temporary Vacuum

I’ve been quiet lately because I’ve mostly been editing the second book of the Aithin series. I haven’t even been reading much.

My life has been in a state of confusion for a while. I’m in a new classroom, and adjusting to that. I’m feeling a bit like I’ve been run over by a steamroller, only very cleverly so that I wouldn’t notice until after the fact. I’m not sure how one would actually do that, except in a cartoon, where I’d be walking around as flat as a piece of paper until somehow I was inflated ? again. I’m feeling a bit shellshocked, only with words instead of ammunition, and disillusioned. Sometimes you feel like maybe something you’ve done might make a difference, and when you find out it really hasn’t, because no one will ever know because it’s one of those things “we can’t talk about” to anyone, it feels like you’ve beaten your head against the pavement for nothing. Well, not nothing. It’s been made clear the things you did right and the things you did wrong, and when it feels like the things you did wrong according to your superiors outweigh the importance of the issue at hand, it becomes so surreal you start to wonder at the whole purpose of the organization you work for. Basically, I can’t do anything. It’s as if there’s a flow chart, and if you deviate from it, life as we know it will end. I go into work feeling like I have to walk on eggshells, afraid that I might be loudly chastised for something in front of everyone. I’m more sensitive than people might think–I truly hate having that done to me, which, in all honesty, really never did until a month ago or so.

All because I tried to protect the rights of an eight year old boy who is nonverbal. I don’t care if I didn’t do everything perfectly the way everyone thinks it should be done. To me, it’s sort of an easy to answer question. Granted, I don’t know how all the inner workings go, other than seeming to make sure no one finds out. I’ve had to jump through hoops my whole life, through school, through college, through graduate school, through every job, just about, that I’ve had. I’m sick of hoops, loopholes, and any other thing out there that allows mistreatment of individuals with disabilities. It seems like more and more is coming out–first the article on NPR, and the “institute” who decided to come up with their own shock therapy treatment that was more powerful than police tasters and considered by the UN to be torture. Used for such heinous things as not taking your coat off, crying because of being upset by seeing this done to other children…

At the last meeting I attended in my last classroom, one of my co-workers condescendingly asked me if I wanted to have a 30 year old man who still used a chewy (something a lot of kids use as stress relief, to keep themselves busy, to help them focus–it could be for a multitude of reasons). As I sit here thinking about it, a lot of society doesn’t see anything wrong with a 30 year old man sticking a cigarette into his mouth. That’s just accepted. And another one, nothing to do directly with this–watch how many men stick their hands in their pants without even thinking about it. No one says anything, unless it’s a person with a disability.

I wish, instead of trying to force the students we teach to try to change their behaviors, the fairly harmless ones, not the behaviors that are dangerous to others or themselves, because that is simply irresponsible. But back to my wish. As a writer, it’s easy to go back and give characters the lines you wish you’d thought of at the time if you’d been in the same situation. When you’re sitting at the computer, it’s easy to think of the perfect thing for them to say, because even if you can’t think of the right thing at the moment, you can go back and write something appropriate in later. You don’t have that split second to come up with a snappy retort or a really good speech. You can think about it for a while. Get the word order right.

I read about a mother who took her young daughter with autism out to eat, at a fairly crowded, noisy restaurant. I don’t know if they were going to eat there or just getting take out. The mother had to chase the little girl down a few times because she kept running away, and she said she heard a man in the line make a comment about Parenting 101, and the woman he was with laughing. I’ve heard similar stories from more than one parent of a child with a disability, many time autism, because it’s not a physical disability, so it doesn’t look like there’s anything different about the child. I kept thinking about it when I was taking a shower (a good place to think and usually not be disturbed) and started to come up with a speech I would have love to have given the man. It went something along these lines:

“Excuse me, the man who seems to think the sun orbits around him. Have you ever heard of autism? One in eighty children are born with it in Oregon, which is higher than the national average. Most are boys, even fewer are girls. Read about it, because it’s not going away. This mother is trying her best to have a semi-“normal” experience with her daughter, and doesn’t need you making nasty comments due to your ignorance. Not everyone has to fit into a little box or niche to be a part of society. So maybe you could send the sun back up into it’s proper orbit, because frankly, if it isn’t, we’ll have all sorts of natural disasters that look like those bad made for TV end of the world movies, which I wouldn’t want to watch unless Joss Whedon directed it, and I’d rather stick around a little longer. You can try learning a little about patience, tolerance, and compassion, and possibly see if she needs help before jumping to conclusions.” This isn’t exactly the way I had it phrased this morning, and I’m not sure at which point exactly the man and his girlfriend would have walked out, hit me, or maybe with all the new concealed weapons permits out there now, tried to shoot me. Maybe I shouldn’t say that last one, that’s a little like tempting fate. Pulled out his sword and tried to run me through? It’s not even a very good speech, but I had a lot of fun making it up. Possibly because I’ve been working so hard at restraining myself. A recess monitor shushed my student the other day in the hall as we were going out to recess. I’m not exactly sure why. We were on our way out to recess, which is so noisy I’ve actually thought, on more than one occasion, that girls screaming have been the whistle signaling us to come in. My student did once too, so I know it’s not just me. My student was happy, making quiet noises for her, and I was happy that she seemed content. So it made me so angry that the woman would “shush” her. Actually, it was a “shh shh shh.” Of all the nerve! I felt like going up to her and telling her that the student was actually pretty happy right then, but if she’d like to come in and work with her in the afternoon, she could give it a shot.

I’m getting overly protective of the students, and I think it’s out of frustration that I feel unheard and unsupported. The student I was watching one day for after lunch recess was walking back and forth on the rounded curb that keeps the wood chips (sort of) contained, I looked away to find the other student I was watching, and when I looked back to the first student, he looked like he had been pushed, because he sort of stumbled forward. I immediately went over and said “Hey! You right there. Did you just push him?” The little boy, probably a second grader, said he had just tapped his shoulder. I don’t know what really happened, I didn’t see it. He seemed like a nice enough kid. I apologized to him and said I overreacted, it was just that a lot of kids liked to pick on our kids and I was being over protective. I apologized again, then went and found the recess monitor I knew (who’s nice <g>) and told her what I’d done in case there were any complaints, at least someone would know what happened. I pointed him out, and she just said, oh, him. He’ll be fine, and he’ll think twice if he ever does think about doing something like that. Then yesterday, one of our own students was picking on one of our other ones–I’m not sure exactly what he was doing,but it looked like he was pinching his upper arm. I walked over to them and his hand came down super fast as soon as I saw him, so I knew it wasn’t just my imagination. I like both the kids. I don’t like it when they pick on each other. Especially when it’s a verbal one picking on a non-verbal one. Neither of them were having the best day.

I feel like standing on the play structure and shouting “Please, please–we only have about 25 days of school left before summer break. Can we just be nice to each other until then? Is that so much to ask? And please, for the love of god, will you stop the god damn hammering?” Oh, wait. Not the last sentence. Generally no hammering at recess. Excavation of drain covers, yes. There’s probably a line from one of the Indiana Jones movies to go with that one, but I can’t think of one offhand.

Speaking of which, has anyone seen Treasure Buddies? If anyone makes a move for it if you’re going to watch a DVD, run the other way. Quickly. It’s a live action version of Indiana Jones done with animals. I have not done of survey of children, but this may be a children’s movie that simply does not cross the line into being enjoyable for adults in anyway whatsoever. Except mocking it. That was how I survived the part I had to watch.

This may be a stranger post than usual. I’m not sure I’m competent to judge anymore. My definition of strange keeps shifting.

I just wish society would become more tolerant, and instead of forcing people to change to fit it and its “norms,” people could just be accepted as who they are. Differences are what make us unique and keep the world from being a boring, sterile place, a dystopian nightmare. Instead, sometimes I think we’re already living the nightmare, we’re just too asleep to notice.

Recommended listening, speaking of alternative/possibly future worlds. It did take a bit for this to grow on me, but it’s one of my favorites now.

OK Computer

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