In the library field, numbers matter. There are really only two statistics anyone cares about: your circulation (the number of materials “checked out”) and the patron count (who comes to your programs). It can be maddening. I interviewed a teen librarian in my last career as an academic researcher-type, and she was properly irritated with this. She’d recounted times she’d had two or three people attending a children’s or a teen program and the quality of the interaction was so high, it was fantastic, but on the paper, she had to write that three people attended. Over the past few years, our own library’s storytimes have exploded in popularity and it’s getting hard to fit more people in the room. The “quality” of the interactions is not great since the librarian nearly has to shout over the babies and toddlers’ babbling now, but heck, they’ve got the numbers!
In education, it’s the same. Everyone wants to know how MANY you served and how MANY are where they ought to be. Few even care how MUCH growth each one has, really. Numbers only matter in aggregate. This is why special education programs are always getting picked on by taxpayers: why should we help the few with stuff that costs so much (or bodies; extra aides can be pricey, so we do our best to avoid giving them full-time hours or benefits) when the gifted get their needs ignored?
Here’s where you expect me to say that it’s the right thing to do, but really, the issue is more complicated than that. I think the gifted should have their needs met, too. I just don’t think that one has to be at the expense of another. It’s just much more difficult within the yoke that is public education with its emphasis on sameness and uniformity to meet everyone’s needs.
It also doesn’t cost all that much to meet the needs of the gifted, just time, which is part of why their needs aren’t met, too.
Beyond that, gifted students often are Disabled, too, and there are plenty of times when gifted students are in a secluded special education classroom and bored out of their minds with the slow pace and teaching that only meets their “problem” areas, and never really gives them access to what they need to flourish. I had a couple of students once who wanted to go to college, but they were in self-contained special education classrooms with no curricula. My job was to babysit them all day. This was in an IB high school, where the other students were getting college credits in high school. meanwhile the kids I had weren’t being prepared for high school at all. It was a long-term subbing position, and I didn’t have the power to DO anything. It was a frustrating few months.
So the issue isn’t whose needs get met, it’s why can’t everyone’s needs be met?
Inevitably people will talk about money.
Let me tell you about my day yesterday. I started work, finalizing a few things and making plans for next year, including working on marketing, which was starting to look really good since I’d had yesterday to work at home. I had a meeting with principals from my region and was starting to feel like I fit in (as an Autistic, this is huge!). I came back, and everything was going great, including plans to save money and time on a new application and payment plan process for next year, and I prepared for a parish meeting and kept working on the marketing.
Thee parish meeting had a lot of older people at it, which is unusual, but Father mentioned everyone was invited on Sunday, and they do tend to listen to him. They were largely supportive, but one man left, harping on the number of kids, and how it was a waste. He had no idea what religious education was (catechism for public schoolers) and that those courses would have to meet anyway, and that’s part of why we could justify the school, even with so few students.
Beyond that, even with my small numbers, I was educating kids for around $10,000 per student. Average in my state is something like $11,500, though it’s a bit higher in my area, closer to $14,000. Catholic schools are, it’s true, closer to $5,000 or $6,000, which is still my goal, but with very few numbers I’m high right now. I could take in about twenty more students and not increase my personnel costs, so I’m doing pretty well, as it happens.
But he doesn’t see that.
To him, all it matters is how many kids are in the building, not the quality of the program. Not how the needs of my kids are higher than average.
I was pretty upset last night, and stimmed a bit with a computer game because all I wanted to do was quit. What’s the point? But if I quit, the school closes and everyone loses their jobs. My kids have nowhere to go. I will destroy a tradition of educating dating back over a hundred years. At the same time, why spend $5,000 or so on marketing? If we close anyway…When I tried to go to sleep, I asked God to fix this, because it was clear that Satan was using this man’s words to sow doubt to paralyze me.
This morning, I woke up ready to fight again.
Yeah, it’s possible we’re going to close. Even if we close, spending $5,000 or so on telling people about us isn’t wasted money because we will have done our best.
We will have fought.
And even if we’re only here this year, in this place, we will have mattered.
This reminded me that part of why I’ve been able to go through all this, this year, when blow after blow of defeat keeps happening, and keep going anyway, is because I’ve had help.
I have a St. Benedict medal on my office door and that, coupled with departure of some gossipy people, has cleared the office.
I pray a lot more than I used to, assuming God’s going to just figure out whatever today’s nonsense is for me.
I ask St. Michael the Archangel to help. He helps a LOT because the amount of attack by the devil on our school (he’s known for working through gossip and scandal, so people “eat each other” and can’t work together) is significant.
Dr. Carolyn Woo, who used to be in charge of Catholic Relief Services used to start every day by invoking God the trinity and mother Mary each day. She’d say it was a new day, and she was there, and she needed them to come to work, too. And this made it possible for her to go each day saying yes to whatever God wanted her to do that day for which she would inevitably feel unqualified, and yet, she was called to do it. I am both overqualified and underqualified for my work, but the only way I can get through this work is with the help of God, Mary, and the saints, who do a lot of heavy lifting while I take stim-breaks or sleep.
I sub-contract to those who specialize in this work: casting the devil back into hell and bringing people closer to God.
So, for the religious among you, let St. Michael the Archangel do his job and banish the devil and his thoughts and give him time to work by stimming and/or sleeping. It’s his job to fix this problem, and he’s happy to do it. For the non-religious, you can still stim and go to sleep. Sleep cures a whole lot. It gives time for your brain to reset, regardless.
And then you can fight again. We Autistics are always fighting to justify our presence in the world and why what we do matters. In my experience, it’s too hard to do this alone, and having an archangel to fight your battles does help a lot.
It’s a hard fight out there, with all the negativity, but I think I’m going to be okay, thanks to God and his army.