Posted in Autistic Identity

Coming Home

So, yesterday I blogged about going back to church.

I would love to tell you I “felt something” at the Mass, but I didn’t, not yet, and maybe not ever.

But some things happened that were significant.  Other than when he had to spend the time with his family in the pew at the actual Mass part, my 8th grader stayed glued to me and no one seemed to find this odd.  He arrived and headed to the pew with his family, settled them in, and then made a beeline to me until the Mass started.  We talked quietly.  After it was done, right back to me as his family socialized with several different people.  When it was over, I made nice.  I said I was well when people asked how I was, and people did, in that superficial way.  I was not shocking.

Okay, at one point I said, sotto voce to my 8th grader I hoped the church secretary, who had betrayed me, didn’t come over.  She didn’t.  I said I would have a hard time not starting any conversation with her with, “Did you come to get your knife back?”  He found this hilarious of course.  He doesn’t know exactly what happened, but he’d also put things together, eventually, and come up with the same answer I did: she was the Judas in this story.

One of the Spanish-speaking parishioners, one of the few who attends English-speaking Mass, came up to me to chat afterwards, just glad to have someone who could talk to her in Spanish, I think.  We hadn’t officially met, but she introduced herself and we talked and I introduced her to my 8th grader and his little sister, who had come back to bug him because she was bored with the waiting around.  My friend who had given me advice back in the beginning of all this and told me to get a job just like the one I got was there, too and she was happy as was her husband to see me back.  They were thrilled I got a job where I brought nothing home with me.  She told me I looked much, much healthier.  At the end, we talked and laughed with Father.  It was as if I’d never left.

I did notice this later morning Mass has dwindled.  There are now really more people at Spanish Mass than there are at this one (before it was a tossup which had more people, and it would depend if you could count all the kids at Spanish Mass since there are so much more of them).  They will eventually need my help to volunteer to be able to do things, and I’m one of the bilingual people there.  But now, I can compartmentalize better and help a little, but then just go home.  Also, any of the old-time gossip that goes on in that place won’t affect me in the same way.  It’s kind of funny now, since it’s not a financial decision when they gossip and it blows back on me.  The generation that hated me has either left, or continues on like nothing happened.  Father may have proverbially set fire to the church (and not in the “burning for Jesus’ love” kind of way), but the people who remain seem over things a lot faster and less bitter, so it’s making things less difficult for my return than I thought.

Whatever happens, I’m back now and I have the spoons to go.  That in and of itself is considerable progress.  And I can help the church continue to tell its story, for as long as it ekes out its existence there.

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

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.

Continue reading “Friendship Challenges: Unteaching What the World Teaches Us”