1. Slightly fewer than 20 of our students have IEPs. We actually possess six IEPs. It’s December. What’s sadder, says our amazing special ed teacher, is that when she says this to people expecting them to be shocked, they’re like, Yeah.
2. At least two of the students in our CTT class are not in the correct setting according to the specifications of their IEPs, so… what to do? CTT is an overly restrictive setting for each of them. For one, it actually seems like a move to a less-restrictive setting would be problematic, while the other would fit in quite well in any of our classes with SETSS support.
3. At least one of our special ed students has an IEP that has not had an annual review in over three years. Three years, people… annual review. Then again, this is what the district’s computer file says, but who knows what her real IEP looks like, because damned if anyone can find it and give it to us.
4. There are no service providers for our students who require services (speech, counseling, etc.). Practically everyone who should be working at the school downstairs – and therefore with us, as well – has left. That is, the psychiatrists, speech teachers, everyone. Shortage area, no joke. And it crossed my mind, because I know the kids, and I know they need the services they are entitled to, and I know that when they don’t get those services, it affects the rest of their lives, and I know that it also affects my immediate classroom life when they don’t get what they need… thinking about all this, it occurred to me to wonder what it would take to attract good people who could teach and provide services to our students with special needs. Would it take another $20,000 above their current salaries? Port Jeff came up in conversation, a teacher from that town observing that sometimes classrooms there have 20 kids and 3 or 4 adults in the room working with them in different capacities. How would you attract those teachers and paras to come work in the city? “There isn’t anyone to do it” is not an acceptable answer.
5. District 75 is full. This means nothing to you if you work outside NYC, but when someone from our PSO (which also means nothing to you if you work outside NYC) said it today in our meeting, no one questioned it. One colleague suggested that would be the title of his campy indie short film when he gets around to making one, a la Escape from New York, District 75 is Full! Maybe you had to be there. Maybe you think this is the funniest thing you’ve ever heard. Maybe we just think it’s funny because the alternative to laughter is to get really sad and really angry.
6. We just want to do a good job. The classroom bit is hard enough, the learned helplessness, the fits of over-reaction, the occasional bouts of semi-chaos, the frustration of finding all the kids way behind where they need to be and that class even farther behind, the feeling of banging your head against the wall when the kids who need you most are absent day after day until they lose the habit of school altogether, the newfound compassion mixed with a little helplessness of your own when you realize the reason that angry kid is so angry is because his dad is in prison for something really, really bad that was all over the news… yeah, the classroom bit is hard, but you signed up for that, all in a day’s work, etc. You want to do a good job, and sometimes it feels like no matter how hard you work, no matter how hard you bang on the doors of the people who are supposed to solve these problems, the system is so effed up you’ll at best make a whisper, no more than a whisper in Grand Central on a holiday weekend. One hand clapping. No one around to hear.