Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, intersectionality, leadership, Teaching

The Rest of Us Just Live Here: Accepting That I’m Not a Superhero

The thing about being Autistic, I think, that can be really detrimental to living a functioning adult life, is that we believe a lot of what we’ve been taught.

Think back to all those posters on the walls at your schools.  Think about all those heroes they made us read about, so that we could learn to cultivate all those virtues “they” wanted us to all have.  We were supposed to be honest, hardworking, and compassionate.  We were supposed to save the world!

But, as we Autistics have found, we aren’t really supposed to be too honest.  Being too honest doesn’t work out so well for us.

A lot of people can hang out at the water cooler (literally and metaphorically) all day long, and yet they seem to get ahead at work.

And when you give so much that it hurts, all that happens is you’re hurt.  There is no reward.

And yes, it’s all possible for all this suffering we go through on this earth to be rewarded in the afterlife, but we see so many people flagrantly ignoring the rules we were overtly taught and internalized, and they do, in fact, get ahead on this earth.

If they meant that honesty, diligence, and compassion would mean not a danged thing now, but might or might not in the afterlife (if it exists), why the heck didn’t they just say that?

Continue reading “The Rest of Us Just Live Here: Accepting That I’m Not a Superhero”

Posted in Identity, Parenting, Teaching

What We Mean When We Say, “He’ll Grow Out of It,” at My School

In the Disabilities community, there’s a certain level of irritation with parents of Autistics and of parents of students with ADHD.

They blog everywhere, and they sound really ignorant a lot of the time, talking about their child’s struggles with such an intimacy, and dispensing a whole lot of unhelpful advice.  This crew often hates vaccines and gluten and thinks eradicating both would cure Autism.  They sometimes also insist they cured their kids’ ADHD or Autism by removing it or stopping vaccines or other nonsense.

All of this is nonsense, by the way.

So typically, we never, ever talk about “cure” about things like Autism and ADHD in particular because these neurotypical “cousins” (some of us have both) will continue into a person’s life forever.

But yesterday, I had a conversation with a teacher that only I could have.

Continue reading “What We Mean When We Say, “He’ll Grow Out of It,” at My School”

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 Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Identity, Neurodiversity, Parenting, Teaching

We Know Our Own: How Being Steeped in Autistic Culture Can Help You (Or Your Child) to Finally Feel Better!

A parent of a former student called me to check in.  He’s had a hard time since he left.  I agreed to talk to the psychologist about our experiences with him.

I can’t reveal too much (as usual!) about the details, but suffice it to say, if I believed in functional labels (high-functioning/low-functioning), I would say, absolutely, that he was a “high-functioning” Autistic (for new people to the site, I DO NOT BELIEVE in these labels, but I will say he is very skilled at masking; the labels I only mention to serve a point as to how people who others believe are “high functioning” can be overlooked even though there is no such thing as “high functioning”).  He’s been skilled at masking his Autism since he was in a tiny school until this year, and as the demands of moving into the tween years get harder, he’s struggling in and out of school.  He’s one of those problematic types who is both academically gifted and Disabled, which the public schools have historically had a heck of a time with.

The psychologist was not impressed with my observations.  I suspect she will discount them, not recognizing what it looks like to be an Autistic who does not have “Educational Autism” (fancy language in schools for “too good at school to get help”).  Without a corresponding academic struggle, he will not be diagnosed and they will continue to wonder what’s “wrong” with him.

But I know him.  I knew him last year, and I also knew that his mom wanted him to stay with us this year since she knew he was finally, finally making progress both academically and socially.  He struggled at school for years not because he didn’t know all the things but because he lacked the executive function to turn materials in, or the impulse control to do what he was told.

He made so much progress he was three years ahead on standardized tests by the time I was done with him…in less than a year.

And yes, we were actually able to measure him on standardized tests; I’d reduced the stress enough that he was taking them seriously and able to focus on them.

Lest you think I’m bragging about being a miracle worker, let’s be perfectly clear: I didn’t DO anything…but I let him be himself and reduced his stress levels.  I removed the meaningless hoops of homework for the sake of homework and requiring my kids to sit in a desk, not move, and not talk.  And I listened to him, and argued and debated with him.

I treated him like a human being.

Continue reading “We Know Our Own: How Being Steeped in Autistic Culture Can Help You (Or Your Child) to Finally Feel Better!”

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 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.

Continue reading “Neurodiversopia: A School Where We Can Be Ourselves”

Posted in Advocacy, Disability in Education, Teaching

How (Not) to Discuss Disability in 2016 (or 2017, or…)

This happened within about two weeks of my return to teaching last year.  Given all of the flak I get for talking about taking Disabled students now that I’m a principal, I imagine this blog to be still relevant.  In interacting with the one group dedicated to inclusive education in Catholic schools on Facebook which is only run by parents and insists on person-first language and fills my feed with inspiration-porn…very little has changed.

So, let’s explore how NOT to discuss Disability in Catholic Education (or in any educational or religious circles)…

Continue reading “How (Not) to Discuss Disability in 2016 (or 2017, or…)”