Posted in Advocacy, Catholic education, Catholic leadership, School governance, School Leadership, Teaching

That Principle is a Bitch: What I Believe About Education

So we’ve recently had some “scandal” in my school regarding how my priest and I colluded to ruin the school.

Keep in mind, we only had between 60 to 70 students in the last decade or better except for one spike at which we briefly went up to 90 and went right back down.

Also, Catholic schools that close almost always have over 100 students in them at the time.

Also that we have to run the school as the parish hall regardless so fewer students means fewer staff members so the difference between running the school with and without kids is financially negligible.  Because there are few of us.  If I have to hire more people, we get into the danger zone.  So we’re fine now, and actually BETTER on paper than when we had 60 kids.

But somehow Father and I destroyed everything.

One Protestant who pulled all her kids out is getting all her gossip from someone who is making things up in her head about what is happening.  It’s somewhat hilarious to see her calling me a bitch all over the place when we have never once spoken.

Ever.

Oh, and she spells my job as principle, which is amusing to me.

So, in her honor, and in honor of all my naysayers, I figured I’d write about my beliefs of education, which are also, not surprisingly, the underlying principles of my school. Continue reading “That Principle is a Bitch: What I Believe About Education”

Posted in School governance, School Leadership, Teaching

Calming Christmas Season

Since we’re still in the mist of the Christmas season (Catholics and Orthodox have a long Christmas season; all that stuff before the day of is Advent, not Christmas), it’s not too late to tell you how our Christmas went this year at school.

For this to make sense, you first have to know what last year was like.

My last-year principal insisted on a few things:

  1. The most important thing in the world was the Christmas show.
  2. Parents expected it, and it had better be perfect.
  3. This was her big marketing piece for the year.

Clearly this made no sense to me because

  1. Isn’t, you know, preparing for Jesus coming the most important thing right now?
  2. Aren’t parents busy trying to make Christmas perfect and in panic mode, and doesn’t this show add one more thing to that?
  3. Doesn’t marketing imply at least some people coming will, you know, not already have bought the product?

However, what did I know?

Continue reading “Calming Christmas Season”

Posted in School governance, School Leadership, Self-Care

Seclude/Restrain and Other Pointless Forms of Discipline in Schools

[Image: eighteen wooden, red-tipped matches are lined up in a semi-circle (that presumably continues outside the frame) against a black background. The eighth match from the right is lit] image from Pixabay]
Not again.

We have a school district not too far away that keeps doing things that make no sense.

A few years ago, this district had a situation where the principal decided a meltdown didn’t end fast enough and she sat on an elementary student’s legs and held him down so she could, in her eyes, force the meltdown to “peak” so it could end faster.  That was about 2.5 years ago.

Last month, the district decided to hit the news again.  This time, a young child (this district only has grades K-3 in these schools, so these are little elementary kids besides) took one of the other students’ play-doh and decided to throw it at people.  The teacher called in the principal when the kid wouldn’t give it back, and the principal dragged the child down the hall and put him in a closet.  Okay, now it’s a “time out” space, but it was effectively built to be a closet, so…it’s a freaking closet.

For throwing play-doh.

Continue reading “Seclude/Restrain and Other Pointless Forms of Discipline in Schools”

Posted in Autistic Identity, Parenting, School governance, School Leadership

Autistics Make GREAT Moms

This post should be about how much I am insightful about my child’s needs, judging from the title.  And I believe I am good at that sort of thing.  However, this post is not that.  Instead, because I was asked if I was another person’s mother multiple times yesterday, I thought this would be far more interesting to talk about, given the current Autistic community speaking out about being great parents in the wake of #BoycottToSiri.

As the setup to this story, I have a lone 8th grader.  He’s pretty amazing, if I do say so myself, and part of why he’s amazing is how much progress he’s made in the last year and a bit since I came to this school.  He used to be very silent, especially around adults, and took a very long time to read.  His work was adequate at best and he seemed to be behind grade level.

This year, he’s at grade level and can explain things better than most 8th graders in other schools (since we have no basis for comparison here, we have to look elsewhere; this is probably a good thing and less stressful for him anyway).

Because we have a large developmental gap between him and my next youngest student who fits in best with the 4th/5th graders, he likes to work in the office.  This works out fine because 1) we get another person to answer the doorbell, 2) I can teach him in between my work, if he needs it, which frees up the one-room schoolhouse, and 3) we can, when we’re both stressed play Uno or Yu-Gui-Oh, or what have you.  He’s seemed to move along even faster, academically, since now he can choose the order he does things in (being mindful about what time I have that’s free to teach), and he still joins the rest of the class for meals, gym, and art.  He even DIRECTS gym now, teaching the other kids games that country school kids used to play years ago like “Ghosts in the graveyard.”  He learned about this game online.

So, this is my 8th grader, and because there IS such a gap between him and the others, and because he’s going to have learned as much as he can, being in the office with us, he wants to go to another school next year, and we found a charter that is project-based and quite small, with lots of quirky students he should fit in great with.

SO…here’s the story.

Continue reading “Autistics Make GREAT Moms”

Posted in Autistic Identity, School Leadership, writing

The Bend in the Road: Where to Spend My Spoons

[Image: A woods with tall, green, deciduous trees and the odd pine tree. There are two gravel paths before you.]
Thanks to those of you who had a peek at my creative non-fiction and fiction pieces last week.

For what it’s worth, Eleanor and Kate from the November 13 piece are central characters in the novel for which I’m currently seeking representation.  We’ll see if it goes anywhere.

However, I’m increasingly feeling myself at a bend in the proverbial road.  I see two options before me.  They can blend for now, sure, but in order to save my spoons I foresee making a choice, and quickly.

Continue reading “The Bend in the Road: Where to Spend My Spoons”

Posted in Advocacy, Catholic education, Catholic leadership, leadership, Parenting, School governance, School Leadership, Teaching

Focusing on Forever: the Difficulty of Catholic School Administration in a Here-and-Now World

As a school principal and a parent, I get a few things about education in a way that other parents and principals might not.

First, I get that school is a “right” in a theoretical sense.

But I also get that administrators have to balance rights against each other.  In other words, they have to make school safe for the majority with the limited budgets they have.

It was that understanding of reality that made me decide to homeschool our Autistic son.  There is no way I can expect him to be in a group of other chatty people and have him have any sense of happiness.  Perhaps if we had found my school with me as leader when he was younger (as in, pre-kindergarten in his case; his school damage was gigantic), it might have been different.  We didn’t, and he doesn’t even like the idea of going back to school, so he won’t at this time.  I figure, that’s okay, we’ll make it work.

But we have enough privilege to be able to have jobs that involve working at home.  I used to score standardized tests at home, and my husband does testing for an Autistic-friendly company.

Not everyone has that, which is why I’m glad to have my school.

As a Catholic school principal, I am not merely charged with getting kids ready for college.  I am, however, charged with getting them ready for college, work, to be a mom, dad, religious sister or brother, priest, etc. as well as getting them ready for heaven.

We take the long path.  We are focused on much, much more than grades and college-preparation. It is a slow, winding journey with many missteps.  We sin, we fall, but we confess and we learn and we do better the next time.

It is not as easy as preparing kids for college.  There is so much more at stake in a Catholic school.

My kids know this and are good at forgiving each other for mistakes of all kinds.  At least, they normally do.  Long-term parents, also, know, that little dust-ups shall pass, and they move on pretty fast because they know the kids love each other and this is a safe place.

However, sometimes parents can be a bigger issue than the kids.

I had an issue this week with a parent who was upset because a student struck her child.  He was uninjured.  He hit back.  She was uninjured.

Here’s what happened, and how the parent over-reacted because she was too busy advocating for her own child at the expense of other children.

Don’t be this parent.

Continue reading “Focusing on Forever: the Difficulty of Catholic School Administration in a Here-and-Now World”

Posted in Advocacy, Identity, School Leadership

On Being Without

I had a humbling experience this week.

I had to admit we couldn’t serve the needs a child had and counsel the parents out of our school.

By way of backstory, my own child was kicked from his Catholic school for being Autistic when he was in pre-school.  We ended up homeschooling.  He’s happy, and we’re happy.

It was not handled well and we left our church because we were pushed out, not counseled.

But I just had to do it to another family.

Continue reading “On Being Without”