Posted in Autistic Identity, Catholic education, Catholic leadership, higher education, Identity, writing

Goodbye, Academia (Again)

[Image: A brick wall has been broken down and the foreground has some debris that’s difficult to make out. There is a large, green coniferous tree standing directly in front of the opening. It is sunny outside. A mist hides some of what is beyond, but the world outside seems welcoming.]
If you follow me regularly, you’ll know that I’ve recently been conflicted about whether to focus my non-school related energy on pursuing an Ed.D. or focusing on my writing.  You may also remember, I’ve got all the Ph.D. courses necessary for a Ph.D. in Education or Library and Information Science, but I left the path to the ivory tower because of a lack of support.

The little voice in me finally started to speak; actually, she screamed during this #BoycottToSiri saga that’s been going on lately.

The little voice that is me had already been complaining considerably while I was writing my paper to end the semester.  I knocked the thing out pretty quickly and it’s fine; it answered my questions, and I did okay.  But I hated every minute of writing that academic paper.

Here’s what I learned about myself.

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Posted in Catholic education

Friendship Challenges: Unteaching What the World Teaches Us

As you might imagine, my school is a haven for those who have been bullied in previous institutions.  Because we are small and we are also multi-age, it’s a lot harder to do that thing where kids decide (never the adults, do not kid yourself into thinking you have any say about popularity in a typical age-graded institution) who is and is not acceptable.  Also, because we follow the philosophy of St. John Bosco, we actually hang out with and play with our kids a lot more than in traditional schools.  We do this to mentor them more effectively and also to watch out for trouble spots.

Let’s think about a traditional school for a moment.  In a typical school, there are 15-35 kids in each class (the exact number varies dramatically) and based on the historic segregation of Disabled people as well as people of color, the kids are typically one race and “abled” enough to be tossed into “gen pop” (those so Disabled that they make teachers’ lives too hard in gen pop get hidden in segregated classrooms).

There is one teacher or sometimes there might be two adults.  The children greatly outnumber the adults.

And all the kids are the same chronological age.

No wonder they so easily ferret out who is different and make school a living hell for those people who don’t pass muster as “worthy.”

But my school is different.

My school is multi-aged (K-8).  Currently, we are not as culturally diverse as we were, but we are diverse in terms of socio-economic levels and abilities and/or neurotypes.

(I should make a quick note here that historically people of color are reluctant to homeschool, or engage in alternative-type schools unless encouraged to do so by the public school authorities.  It’s not because they don’t want to or can’t homeschool or look for alternative schools; however, there is heightened risk in parenting differently when you are a Person of Color.  Many school authorities have bullied Black parents with a call to child protective services if they don’t raise their kids the “right” way.  With longer-term success, I hope we can have more culturally diverse families using our program since it won’t be an “experiment” any longer.)

When children are constantly confronted with peers who are different ages, genders, races, and neurotypes/abilities, they are more acceptance of difference as no big deal.  When class sizes are small, kids learn quite quickly to make do with whoever is in the class with them, too.

Normally, all goes well here.

But we take what we learned from the “outside” with us.

Sometimes, I have to explicitly teach friendship to my students.

Here are the main rules I give them, with adjustments made based on specific circumstances.

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Posted in Catholic education, Self-Care, Teaching

Neurodiversopia: A School Where We Can Be Ourselves

When you’re in the middle of just running your school and living your life (and often fighting for the opportunity for your school to stay open), you forget sometimes to appreciate what you have.

I administrate and sometimes teach in a tiny Catholic school and my kids are in, currently, a one-room schoolhouse configuration, from Kindergarten through 8th grade.  There aren’t many of them, and they learn together and separately, on their own work, at their own paces.

At times, when people come to my school, such as the guy who comes to read the gas meter, he asks whether school is open.  Oh, it’s open.  They’re just upstairs and not that loud.

The thing of it is, it’s not that quiet ever.  My kids love to run and jump and play like everyone else.  My girls shriek, and I have a student who struggles with modulating her voice.  They can be very loud.

But it’s not really all that loud as compared to a school with mostly neurotypicals.  As it happens, I maybe have one or two neurotypical students, I think, and that’s not because I chose to have them; those are the kids who stayed after I became principal.  And the kid I think is neurotypical is a sibling of one or more Neurodivergent siblings, so he is growing aware of how to live Neurodivergently.

Anyway, we went to a very, very large Mass this past week, and it involved people from all over.  It’s helpful for young Catholics to see they are not alone in a highly secular world, so on a theoretical level, I was glad to go.

In practice, it was very overwhelming.  Here’s what happened, and what we learned from it.

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Posted in Catholic education, leadership, School governance

Tired of being Pollyanna

One of the things my pastor and I are known for is being so positive even when something is clearly not going well at the school.

A teacher quits?  Well, we’ll find another.

An aide quits?  Well, we’ll save money.

The same aide comes back?  Well, we missed her.

Kids leave?  Well, at least they’re trying another Catholic school (or: well, there are counselors at that school, at least).

That sort of thing.

The Director of Religious Education is floored by our ability to say, well, we’ll try this instead whenever something goes wrong or to spin anything that happens as another facet of God’s will, and keep trying.

The trouble is, we’re not really doing that so much anymore.

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