Archive for the ‘Social Commentary’ Category

Goats Cause a Grievance!

I was perusing the news last week and saw a story that I thought was ridiculous!  Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo, had a 15 acre area on their campus that was overgrown with weeds, poison ivy, and  brush;  just unsightly vegetation.  The school discovered a solution to clearing out that area of land that was unique: hire a herd of goats!    

Munchers on Hooves, the name of  a goat rental company in Coldwater, Michigan,  arrived and the goats went right to work with a literal relish.  They ate and chomped their way through all of that plant life and cleaned up the area.  The school felt it was an environmentally safe choice as the goats could clear 3-5 lbs. of vegetation a day and leave behind natural fertilizer.   The school was happy that the land was cleaned up. The owners of the herd were happy as they received a payment.  The goats were obviously happy as they had  full tummies!  The school decided to keep Munchers on Hooves around for some more land clean up projects until the start of the new school year.

What should have been a nice story, even an educational story, has now ended in a grievance filed by AFSCME against the school.  American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union’s  local affiliate in Kalamazoo, when they  found out about the herd of goats,  filed a grievance stating that the goats took jobs away from  human workers.  A spokeswoman for Western Michigan’s, who couldn’t speak directly about the goat herd issue did reassure the public by stating that no workers at Western Michigan were laid off while the goats were munching away!  One of the owners of Munchers on Hooves  added that the 15 acres the goats cleared was very thick with vegetation and that the goats can clear up to 5 feet above the ground, so whatever they couldn’t get at, human workers would now be able to go in and clear out the rest with more ease.

An example of the land clearing expertise a herd of goats have.

I began to think more about the goat herd hired to do this job. The goats probably went right to their task at hand.  They didn’t need to stop for cigarette or coffee breaks, they probably kept right on munching rain or shine. The goats did emit methane but no other pollutants as machinery would in clearing vegetation off of a 15 acre area of land.   If one of the goats got injured, it didn’t need to file for any workers comp.  The only down-side to letting a herd of goats clean up this land was perhaps if one of the goats was onery and decided to chase a human who might be walking through their work area.

This lawsuit is silly, in my opinion, and I am hoping that the judge throws it out; he or she should let the goats have  the paper it’s written on!

 

 

Information for this blog post: Kalamazoo Gazette, http://www.mlive.com/kalamazoo July 11, 2017. Devereaux, Brad.

“So I walked into an Aldi….”

Tuesday morning arrived and I told my husband that if a phone call didn’t occur, asking me  to substitute teach, I was going to go to Aldi  and get the groceries purchased for the week.  No phone call came, so off I went to the store, with my list made out and in one hand, and my quarter in the other, so I could retrieve a grocery cart from the outside cart corral.

It was an uneventful trip around the aisles as I made my shopping choices and placed items in the cart.  Mornings are usually a good time to shop at Aldi as it’s not too crowded yet.  If you are unfamiliar with what an Aldi store is, know that they are a wonderful, yet no frills grocery store that saves my family’s budget  a sizable amount of money  each year. ( Here is a fun article to read that explains what an Aldi store is like, how they’re linked  with Trader Joe’s, and why they sell groceries for such a lower price.)

I took my purchases to the check out area and got in line behind an elderly lady who was working fast to put her items on the conveyor belt.  The only other check out lane was occupied by a customer with a cart loaded with a lot of groceries, so folks who didn’t have as much as that customer were lining up behind me.  Suddenly I heard a loud voice bark angrily at the cashier who’s line I was in.  “That is NOT the price on this item! There was a red sign saying that these were on sale!!”  The angry voice belonged to a tall, elderly man.  By his speech pattern I could tell he was an educated person, probably a retired professor, was my immediate thought!  (We have a university in our town.) He was angry that the computer kept ringing up the item at a much higher price.  The cashier, who amazingly remained very calm and patient with this rude customer got on her walkie-talkie and asked for a price check.  A lady from the manager’s office popped her head out and when asked by the cashier about the item’s price, was told that the computer was correct.  Then she went right back into the office.  This only incensed the customer more and he barked an order to the cashier to follow him to the area where he found the item so he could show her the sale price.  At this point the man behind me sighed, and got into a new line that had just opened in a 3rd checking out lane.  Soon the cashier returned and told the man that the item was on sale and she rang up the item according to the new price.  The man didn’t say thank you at all and handed the next item on the conveyor to the cashier.  When she scanned it, you guessed it.  The computer  was not showing the right price and once again the elderly man barked out, “WRONG!”, and told the cashier to follow him to another area of the store to check that item’s price!  As the cashier walked off she made eye contact with me and mouthed out the words, “I am so sorry!” I smiled wanly at her and told her it wasn’t her fault.  Then I joined the man who had been behind me and got into that third line.  That man shook his head at me and said, “Some people!”  I agreed and said   that someone was a grouch today!  I soon realized that the little old lady who had scurried and hurriedly put all of her items on the conveyor belt was the wife of that grouchy old man!  ” That poor lady!”, I thought to myself.    grumpy-old-man-puppet

As I left the store and drove home, I thought about the entire incident.  The cashier should have been commended for remaining so quiet and calm in dealing with such an irate customer.  I was critical of the lady in the store’s office.  I think she should’ve come all the way to that cashier’s station and done the price checks and dealt with this grouchy old man.  Instead of helping his wife put the groceries on the conveyor, he decided to stand there and loudly complain about prices on two products, and then demanded the cashier go with him on his price check journeys.

I wondered if in his past career(s) he was used to being in charge of people? Was he a bigshot at the work site? He certainly carried himself in such a way that it was pretty evident he felt that he was a  very superior person to the cashier.  Was he not feeling well this day? I wondered that too, as sometimes when one is not feeling one’s best, it’s easy to become cranky with the public.

From my observations,  I wondered as to how I treat the people I meet each day? Do I treat them with respect and patience and kindness like the cashier did, even under the stressful environment of shoppers waiting to check out, and a customer angrily barking orders at her?  What if she’d had said no, telling the man that the computer price is right, what would he have done then?  Marched off to the manager’s office himself and banged on the door?  Stated he wouldn’t leave that check-out lane until he was a satisfied customer?

I hope that I can be calm and focused and kind like the cashier, in any and all circumstances.   She really was an inspiration to witness, a true picture of grace under pressure.  I hope that when I shop, or eat in a restaurant, I treat the employees with respect and not condescension.  I did tell my husband today that if I ever turn into a cranky senior citizen when out shopping, he has permission to haul me out of that store and pronto!

 

Article about Aldi, from Slate by Rebecca Schuman.  December 2, 2013.

I Haven’t Fallen Off the Blogging World, But It Seems Like I Have!

First of all, I acknowledge feeling quite honored and humbled to find out from WordPress that there are 166 people whom I have never met, who actually follow my blog.  These  people  read what I have written and like it enough to tell WordPress that whenever I write a new blog, to send them a notification.  That fact is cool, to me, and it also boggles my mind, a bit.

Secondly, there are some fabulous Classic Movie bloggers who announced they were going to host  interesting and fun blogathons this Fall and I signed up to participate. I let them down by not writing a piece for each that I signed up for.  I apologize to those bloggers: The Midnite Drive-In, In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, Pop Culture Reverie, and Realweegiemidget.  Be sure to visit these great blogger’s sites and enjoy their offerings  for you to read, revolving around classic movies and tv shows.

Thirdly, what has caused me to ignore my blogging hobby for almost 2 & 1/2 months?  Going back to work full-time, that’s what has gotten in the way of my hobby.  From 1983-1987, I was in college learning how to be an elementary school teacher.  After graduation, I taught for one year in my hometown, teaching kindergartners and planning my wedding.  In June of 1988, my new husband whisked me off to South Carolina, where I was soon hired to teach 7th graders their math lessons and this I did, for 3 years.  Motherhood then came calling and I willingly put my  teaching career  on the back burner to await a time when I could go back to it.

Fast forward to 2015, and my husband kindly notices that with 3 of our 7 kids pretty much out of the nest, and the 4th one leaving for college in August of 2016, perhaps, he said gently, it’s time for you to go back to teaching?  It took some investigating on my part, several phone calls to Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education(MO DESE) to get the correct answers as to what I needed to do to obtain a MO teaching certificate, and then I worked on getting certified.  I was granted a two year provisional certificate and as soon as I take an economics class and let DESE know this, then I’ll receive a 4 year certificate.  Evidently, in OH, where I went to college, elementary education majors didn’t need to take an economics class, but in MO, they have to.

In the meantime, I began working full-time for our local school district as a substitute teacher and for this semester, I was asked to consider being a sub for a teacher’s aide for fall semester, working with special education students.  I am enjoying being back in a classroom tremendously but as I said, the time management issues are my puzzlement now.

When I was a stay at home mom for all of those years, I was very used to setting the family’s schedule for the day, calling the shots on the homefront, so to speak.  I had more time in which to clean the house, do the laundry, grocery shopping, etc.  than I do now.  Getting back into a M-F, 7 hour workday has been an adjustment and I’m still tweaking that new schedule, the time when I’m not at work, to see what I really can accomplish in my off hours and what activities might just be unrealistic overcomittments.

I really do enjoy blogging, but a twice a week effort won’t be happening.  It’s too much for me to do, so for now, I’m going to scale back my blogging efforts to once a week, and hopefully that will be doable.  Some blogs will be about local or state or national topics, parenting topics, observations on my part, and some will be all about a classic movie as I am a huge fan of classic films.  Speaking of which, I am delighted that my twin daughters had to recently read the play, A Streetcar Named Desire, for their English class and they searched Turner Classic Movies channel on their own and found that Streetcar was going to air on October 5th, they set it up to record and we’ll be watching it tomorrow night!!  I love it when I can introduce a classic film to my kids!  It lets me have a win-win moment and it’s even better when they tell me that it was a good film, even if it wasn’t in color!

Since I wrote this post a couple days ago, we all watched Streetcar and my daughters liked it, and said the film followed the play very well.  Good to know that Elia Kazan and company knew what they were doing in taking the stage play to a film format.

 

Meet Me at the Muny!

I mentioned a couple weeks ago on Facebook how much my kids and I enjoyed a trip to St. Louis, to attend  The Muny’s production of  The Music Man.  Last Saturday, we went again and I have to say, watched the best stage version I had ever seen of Fiddler on the Roof.  A Rolla friend asked me about The Muny, as they’d never gone there before, but had heard of it through the years.  So, for Rolla-ites, this post is all about The Muny in St. Louis’s Forest Park.

The Muny-St. Louis's Outdoor Theatre, in Forest Park

The Muny-St. Louis’s Outdoor Theatre, in Forest Park

The Muny, which is the nickname for The Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis, is an outdoor theatre in Forest Park, in St. Louis, MO.  The theatre began in 1919, though an earlier production of a Shakespearean play in 1916 could be the real beginning of it all, from what I read.  That first effort ran into the red, so Mayor Kiel got involved in a door-to-door campaign to St. Louis merchants, selling blocks of tickets for future shows, and The Muny was saved financially.  For more about The Muny’s history and ticket information, show information, etc. click on this link.

The Muny, looking from stage up to the free seats section

The Muny, looking from stage up to the free seats section

The Muny brings to St. Louisians  Broadway musicals with professional actors and actresses in the lead and secondary roles.  St. Louis area thespians and kids who have experience in plays, with singing and dancing, are often cast for the crowd scene parts.  The Muny typically announces the Summer Season’s Schedule in March or April.  This years shows and their weeks of performances were/are: June 13-22 The Wizard of Oz, June 24-30 42nd Street, July 5-11 The Music Man, July 13-19, Young Frankenstein, July 21-28 Mamma Mia!  July 30-Aug. 5 Fiddler on the Roof, Aug. 8-14  Aida(Elton John’s version, not the opera by Verdi.)

Our family enjoyed The Muny's presentation of The Music Man in early July

Our family enjoyed The Muny’s presentation of The Music Man in early July

My Rolla friend asked how does one get tickets, get to The Muny, and what  can one expect?  I told her I ordered my tickets for The Music Man from The Muny’s online site, and they use Ticketmaster as the online outlet for ordering  tickets for the show(s) you want to see.  There are three areas of seats that require a paid ticket.  The priciest seats are the closest to the stage.  The middle section is not quite as pricey.  The last section is the lowest priced tickets, and Ticketmaster does charge a $3  service fee per ticket.  One could also drive to The Muny box office and buy the tickets in person, but I don’t know many Rolla-ites willing to do that unless they travel to St. Louis alot each week.  I opted to print off my tickets at home, and when we got to The Muny, an usher scanned our tickets near our seating area, and then we claimed our seats.  Now, if you don’t want to pay for a seat, there is a section at The Muny known as the Free Seats.  Farthest from the stage, you need to grab your picnic supper, water bottles, and get in line around 5:30 pm.  At 7:00, the Free Seats are opened up to first come, first serve.  Muny shows don’t begin until 8:00 pm.  There is a 15 min. intermission, so most Muny shows don’t end until 10:45-11:00 pm, which means a late night drive back to Rolla.  Unless, you have good friends who won’t mind housing you overnight.

To get to The Muny, from Rolla, take I-44 east, exit at Hampton, and follow the signs that say to The Zoo, To Forest Park.  When you enter Forest Park, you’ll immediately enter on a roundabout, take it to the right, and get on Wells Drive.  Follow Wells and you’ll come to another roundabout, and follow it and the signs that point you to The Muny.  There is a large parking lot, free parking, for The Muny, that leads you to the Free Seats section.  We usually park in this lot.  When you leave after the show is over, be very patient, as it takes a lot of time for hundreds of cars to exit this lot, which will add to the late time you return to Rolla, unfortunately.

One can bring soft-sided coolers into The Muny, and especially those sitting in the Free Seats, many bring their evening meals in with them.  Purses will be opened and scanned, too.  There are giant fans on tall, metal poles, that whirr but sometimes your comfort is just a matter of luck.  When we saw The Music Man and recently Fiddler on the Roof, both evenings were cooler, with good breezes blowing.  Each show begins with a welcoming announcement, a reminder to turn off your cell phones, and then the National Anthem is played and the US flag is spotlighted.  Then the show begins.

Just caught this production on Sat. and it was amazing!! Still on at The Muny, until

Just caught this production on Sat. and it was amazing!! Still on at The Muny, until Aug. 5th

“Meet Me at The Muny, The Muny in Forest Park!”, is the summertime jingle our family heard a lot when we lived in Florissant.  It would play on the radio and on local tv stations.  I miss hearing that jingle, as I don’t hear it as much in Rolla, but if you are a Rolla-ite, and have never been to a Muny performance, consider it for next summer.  It’s always a wonderful experience, and one way our family celebrates Summer in Missouri.

This is the last show for this summer's Muny season

This is the last show for this summer’s Muny season,  Aug. 8-14

Freshman Orientation, A Parental POV

Last Friday, I went with our son to his Freshman Orientation at Truman State University, in Kirksville, MO.  Living in Rolla, MO population 19,000 give or take a few, and now facing life in Kirksville, population 17,000 give or take a few, wasn’t much of a shock for our son.  We have heard of students at Truman coming in from St. Louis and its environs having trouble getting used to life in a smaller community, so I was glad to realize our son wouldn’t have that hurdle to contend with as he settles in at school.

Truman State Univ.

It’s a 3 hour drive from Rolla to Kirksville, pretty much due north, driving up highway 63.  The  Ozark  hills are in our area of Missouri, but once we got past Columbia, the Ozark hills and crags gave way to flatter  lands with gently rolling hills.  We saw plenty of fields with corn “Knee high by the fourth of July” and soybeans.  My dad would be pleased to see such well-growing crops.

Truman State University has undergone changes over it’s almost 150 year history.  In 1867, it was known as North Missouri Normal School and Commercial College.  A couple years later, the Missouri  legislature made it into  the First District Normal School for the  training of teachers.  In 1919, the school was renamed Northeast Missouri Teachers College.  1967, a new name was chosen to reflect the expanded course and degrees now being offered: Northeast Missouri State College and then in 1972, the word college was changed to university.  1996,  the school became known as Truman State University, named after Missouri’s only native son to be elected President of the U.S., Harry S. Truman.  (In fact, for the incoming Freshman, they have to read a book about a road trip/vacation Harry and Bess Truman took after his presidency.  Many of the orientation activities will be borrowed from the book: Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure by Matthew Ageo.)

Harry Truman's Excellent

 

We found the campus easily and the University had taken several of the parking lots closest to the student union, our meeting site, and made them for visitors parking.  I thought it a smart marketing idea that the University’s bookstore had employees out front and center handing each student a drawstring bag in the school’s main color of purple, with a coupon in each bag for  a percentage off of books purchased that day.  With our 3 older kids having either graduated or almost being done with college, we know that a lot of textbooks are purchased online, even rented online(they have to be returned) and that those methods of obtaining textbooks have hurt college bookstores, but hey! That’s supply and demand, entrepreneurship, and capitalism at work.  Later, when we did make some purchases at the University’s bookstore, he was shocked at the bill.  Welcome to the world of a college bookstore!

   College major textbooks costs

After a welcome from the employee in charge of that day’s orientation, and one from the University’s President, the “kids” were sent away to get their photo id’s taken, and to pick out their first semester classes.  We parents were sent  to listen to 3 different presentations: Career Center and what is it’s purpose in your college student’s life, Counseling Center on facing that empty nest, Rules and Regulations the University has about drugs, alchohol, etc. and the consequences that will happen if bad decisions are made by your student.  My only quibble with the Empty Nest video, is that it sort of assumed that this was either the first child you’ve ever sent off to college, or that it was your last or only child, and you’d be going home to an empty house.  Ha!  I laughed at that, as I still have 3 at home to finish raising when August 17th rolls around and it’s moving the Freshmen into their dorms day at Truman.  I did raise my hand when the gentleman leading this session asked if any of us had advice, and I mentioned that if this child is leaving siblings behind, you may have to also deal with the siblings’ sadness at the older sibling being gone from the home.  The gentleman did thank me for bringing that up and reiterated what I pointed out-be ready to deal with sad little brothers and/or sisters.

Lunch was nice, even though the kids had lunch somewhere else on campus, away from us parents.  We witnessed a fun presentation from the Academic Team, who were helping the freshmen  choose the right classes for their first semesters.  After lunch, it was off to  3 more presentations: What a liberal arts education encompasses at Truman, Accepting your student if they come home with different beliefs, etc., and lastly, the on campus health clinic nurses gave us all the pertinent info we needed as to how they treat sick students, getting those vaccinations updated, sending in the requested medical forms, etc.  All three of the presentations were well done, but the middle one, I’ll be praying that our son stays true to how he was raised and to his faith as he studies to reach his career goal.

As I emerged from the lecture hall after the nurses’ presentation, there was my son.  He’s so tall now!  He had planned his outfit for the day, looking bright and eager and a bit nervous, just like all the students I saw on this day, walking the campus with parents in tow.  Since my first day at Rolla Jr. High is the same day our son moves into his dorm at Truman, hubby and I decided we’d do this go round as a tag team: I’d accompany son on Freshmen Orientation Day, and hubby would take son to the move in the dorm day for Freshmen.

Son wanted to visit his dorm, to see a double room sample, and then walk from the dorm to the buildings where his classes will be held.  His schedule, no classes until 10:30am M-F, I told him don’t be surprised if that’s the only semester where he will be able to sleep in.  Then we went to the bookstore, made some purchases, drove to a local Chinese restaurant for dinner, and then we drove  to Rolla and home.

Summing up, Truman State had a well-planned  orientation event.  My son got to do what he had to do in getting started with his college coursework, I got to hear more about a liberal arts education.  I also was reminded that a lot of Truman students are smart, usually ones who didn’t have to study much in high school and when they get that first bad grade at Truman on a test or quiz, be ready to talk sensibly to them, reassure them, and remind them that now they know how hard they’ll have to work to get the grades they want to achieve.  My son left with a good feeling about what he’ll be experiencing at going to this college, and I did too.  Truman State, I give you two thumbs up!

Lessons Learned on the Current

With our 4th child’s high school graduation looming on May 27th, hubby wanted our family of 9 to go on an outing, or on an adventure, if you will, as we were all gathering that week for the big event on Friday.  Since child #3 recently began his chef career, and only has Mondays off,  hubby chose Monday, May 23rd as the day for our family to canoe and kayak down part of the Current River.   Ozark National Scenic Riverways

We live in South-Central Missouri, at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains.  The Ozarks are filled with a lot of spring-fed rivers and streams, which are popular for canoe, kayak, and float trips; a float trip is just that, normally done in the height of a hot, humid Missouri summer, one gets into a large inner tube, and just floats down a river. The Current River, which we traveled on, is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, part of the National Park Service.

I awoke early that Monday morning, getting up at 5:00 am, and as I do when worried about something, I prayed that morning,  that we’d be able to successfully do this activity, that no one would drown, that we would all have great memories from this event.  With our older kids approaching their mid -20s, and our youngest 13, who knows how many vacations we can actually all gather together for in the future?

We left at 8:00 am and got to the canoe/kayak rental business-Jadwins-by 8:40.  Soon, we were all fitted with life jackets, handed our paddles, and climbed into our watercraft,  Hubby and I in a canoe, each of our 7 kids in their own kayaks.  When I say kayak, I don’t mean the traditional type where there is a “lid” or cover over one’s legs.  These kayaks were made of a heavy plastic, and our kids sat down in their kayaks, with a preformed chair back that they could rest their backs against.  We left the shore of the Current River at 9:00 am.  By 9:05, the first of many capsizes happened.   Current River rapids

We had brought a Rubbermaid tote box and lid with us, and it held the picnic lunch, and some other items we didn’t want to get wet.  We also brought another waterproof backpack to hold sunscreens, and a package of bottled waters.  Luckily we were always able to save these items whenever the capsizes happened.  The water that day was ice cold-it took my breath away and I couldn’t speak!  Our trip soon took on a pattern.  We’d be paddling along fine where the river was deep, with calm waters, and a gently curving channel.  However, when the rapids appeared, with shallower, clear waters, and lots of logs jutting part way into the channel, or large brush piles, one of us would get stuck, in these water “hazards” and then capsize.  We’d all work together and grab gear as it was being swept downriver, help the capsized person(s), get to a sandbank, and rest for a few minutes.  Then we’d get set up again, and off we’d go.

We did manage to eat the picnic lunch around noon on another sandbank.  At this point, I let out a few tears and complained to my hubby how this event was stressing me out tremendously and not at all fun and relaxing like I thought it would be.  Watching one’s kids capsize, get trapped by logs and brush, is not a fun sight to see.  We were all getting very tired, and realized that some of the kids belongings did manage to get swept away to never be seen again by us: an extra t-shirt, a water bottle, various slip-on sandals, and hubby’s prescription sunglasses.  I recalled that the canoe rental worker who had driven our family to our launch site had said that as we approached a bridge downriver, to get out at that area, 4oo ft. from this bridge, as there were culverts closer to the bridge and one didn’t want to get sucked into one.  I began a mental mantra,”Get me to that bridge!”  I think some of our kids began the same mantra.  After we got back on the river,  the paddling did go better, the river seemed to lose some of it’s hazards, and by 2:30, we saw the bridge.  A “Hurrah!” broke from our ranks as we saw the bridge and we made a beeline to the shore.  There were some picnic tables at that spot on the shore, and we could see a wide path that had been made in the surrounding woods to a roadway.   We had been advised by Jadwins to portage our equipment near the bridge in order to get to the other side of the river.  With only hubby wanting to go on, the rest of us informed him that we were tired and ready to stop for the day.  We agreed that if none of us could get a cell signal and call Jadwins to pick us up at the point where we were, then we’d go on down the river.  Luckily, oldest daughter was able to get a signal, and we were picked up 20 minutes later, after portaging our equipment to the roadway and the awaiting Jadwins bus and trailer.

After hearing about our troubles on the river, the canoe rental employee did mention that the river was 6 in. higher than normal due to all of the recent rains.  He also added that it’s not for the faint of heart or novice canoers/kayakers.  After we got back to civilization-aka Salem, MO, we went to the local Wal Mart for new slip-on sandals.  Then we went to the Pizza Hut for dinner-sitting in that restaurant and eating that pizza had never been so appreciated by me, before!  We then went to my hubby’s co-worker’s hunting cabin that we had signed up for to spend the night at.  With a thunderstorm ushering in the night, we all turned in.

Looking back now at our adventure, I can say I am proud of my family.  During our time on the river, whenever someone paddled into difficulties, the rest gathered round and helped.  No one yelled at anyone, or belittled those who kept having troubles manuevering.  Many hugs were given and at the restaurant, all agreed that memories had been made this day.  Psalms 127: 3-4 mentions what a blessing children are to a family.  From the NIV translation: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”  Re-reading that verse and with how our children reacted to one another and to their parents during our Current River trip cheered me as to our family’s love and loyalty for one another.  Looking back, a stressful day for me, yielded a wonderful view of my family in action.

Coming Full Circle with Special Education

After homeschooling our kids from kindergarten to grade 7, and with child #4 graduating high school and going off to college this year, my husband informed me that our budget needed for me to go back to work.  So I dusted off my teaching certificate, and have begun the process of securing a Missouri teaching certificate. In the meantime, I also began to substitute teacher for our local school district.

 

My going back to work  meant the end of homeschooling our youngest child.  For various reasons, we chose to homeschool our kids for grades K-7, and then let them begin attending school in the 8th grade and continuing on until graduation.  Our youngest was going to begin public school for the first time in the 7th grade, and the Middle School requested he take some tests to establish his grade equivalencies.  We agreed and were a  bit downhearted when the testing showed our son was behind in one subject area.  It was recommended he repeat the 6th grade, which we didn’t want him to have to do.  We countered with we felt he could succeed in 7th grade with our help, and if the school felt he needed Special Education in that one subject, then we would agree to that plan.  Thus, our introduction to the world of Special Education began.

 special ed chalkboard

I discovered that the Special Education teachers and their assistants genuinely care for the students put into their charge.  The IEP(Indidualized Educational Program) created for our son  worked excellently for him.  At the last parent-teachers conference for the school year, I learned that having our son attend Special Education class was a nice “cushion” for him to fall back upon as he became acclimated to the ways of how a public school runs.  The program also proved beneficial in that our son aquired new skills in this subject and is now on grade level.  In fact, I was told that he probably doesn’t need the extra help when he enters 8th grade.

A couple weeks ago,  I received a phone call asking if I was available to substitute in  one of the elementary school’s Special Education classrooms.  I agreed as it meant now I would get to observe a Special Education class in action.

The classroom I was directed to was two classrooms; they were entered by two doors on two  connected hallways, and there was a doorway between the two classrooms.  The two classrooms also shared their own bathroom.   Instead of individual desks, students sat at tables with chairs around them.  Colorful posters decorated the walls, some with inspiring messages, and some reviewing the points of good manners.  There were colorful, cloth covered baskets containing picture books, grouped according to reading levels. There was a  bookcase containing chapter books of award-winning children literature books and  another containing all of the teacher textbooks and a student textbook for the main curriculum used at the school for each grade.   Ipads and headphones, were in evidence, to be used for rewards if assigned work was completed; since the majority of students coming to the Special Education room for help were boys, the popular ipad game was sending a motorized  vehicle into outer space, and then watching it land.

After helping with some lunch and recess duties, it was officially time to work with a Special Education student.  The boy walked in presently, probably of average size for his grade.  He walked stiffly, a bit slowly, I noticed.  I wondered if he had a slight case of cerebral palsy, which may have explained his stiff movements.  As he walked into the room, he introduced himself to me, and before I could tell him my name, he flung his arms around me and gave me a strong hug.  What a sweet child, I thought.  He selected a book from a basket and asked me to help him read through it.  The other Special Education aide reminded him that he had to read it mostly by himself, and then that when he finished it, one of us  would read it with him.  Then, if there was time, he could take his comprehension test on the book.  His  reading of the book was fine, and I only had to guide him on a few of the longer words; I told him what the unfamiliar words meant.  Soon it was time for this student to go back to his regular classroom.  I did get to see him once more as he had to get ready for an early bus pick up, and since part of my job was to get the early bus riders to the foyer of the school building, this student suddenly needed to visit the restroom and he immediately grabbed my hand and asked me to walk him to the bathroom in the Special Education classroom.  While he was in that bathroom, I got to observe the main Special Education teacher work with a kindergartner who was pacing the room and probably unwinding from his day, and watch her aid another student with a vocabulary worksheet.  It struck me that in the Special Education room, the teacher and the assistants work one on one with only a few students, which in a way is similar to a homeschooling lesson in that a homeschooling mom often is teaching her students one on one, or in a small grouping.

As I walked down the hall with the boy who had had to visit the bathroom, he once again reached for my hand.  He peppered me with questions, as we walked the halls back to the foyer to await his bus.  He mainly wanted to know if I’d be back at his school the next day, in the special education room.  I explained to him that since I was a substitute teacher, I went to a lot of different schools and that perhaps I’d be back another day, but I didn’t know if I’d be back as soon as the very next day.  As he waved good bye to all of us Special Education aides in the foyer, and walked stiffly to get onto the bus, I began to think about this  boy’s future.

Young girl wearing a dunce cap.

Young girl wearing a dunce cap.

When public education began in the United States (1821, in Boston, Massachusetts), students who struggled with learning were probably punished and/or ridiculed; teachers hitting students with rulers across the opened hand, or the dunce cap worn by the student as they were made to sit in the front of the classroom, facing their classmates.  My guess is that many of these students dropped out and their obtaining a full education didn’t happen.  Jumping to the mid-1960s, President Johnson(a former teacher himself) signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act which established the beginnings of Special Education, however it really didn’t begin to take off and expand until the 1970s.

So, on  one hand, this boy that I worked with, will have a stigma to battle at school.  That stigma placed upon him by his classmates of being one who has to leave the regular classroom daily and get special help.  However, on the whole, it means he is being given a chance to succeed, which many years ago, wouldn’t have been possible for him in a school setting.

With this week being known as National Teacher Appreciation Week in the United States, my hats are off to all teachers and especially to the Special Education teachers who with immense patience, diligence, and caring, are giving their all so students can succeed.   Special Education teacher