Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

With five kids, three cross-country moves, and 10 different addresses, we’ve experienced the best and the worst of the public school system. We have come close to homeschooling on a number of occasions, but let’s get real  – I didn’t have the patience to teach my kids to ride bikes without heartburn; how could I teach them to multiply fractions?!

We found the perfect school, and chose quite specifically to place ourselves back in our little village of Bath, New York when we had the chance. Small school or not, we’ve never had an overall better experience than the Bath School District for our children.

The worst? Reno, Nevada – great place when I attended as a child, but a nightmare when we lived there with our kids. But we’ll save that for another rant.

This rant is more about how one bad apple may not spoil the whole bunch but can certainly leave a bad taste!

My son has Asperger’s. He learns differently, he faces different challenges, and he struggles at times to do what seems to come so naturally to other kids his age. His teachers and school counselor are amazing. They work with him, they tolerate his lack of organization and thrill at his ability to learn facts that others find too difficult. His English teacher even plays Beatles music (Parker likes the Beatles A LOT) in class and does a whole unit on the Beatles as a way to engage the kids in learning English that lets them have fun.

More than that, they put up with us – the overbearing, totally involved, micro-managing, uber-questioning and demanding parents.

We are grateful and amazed on a regular basis at the team of people that have come together, from special education and school psychologists to school counselors and dedicated teachers to an engaged and compassionate principal and assistant principal, to do everything they can to ensure that not only our son but every child has a positive experience while at school. They do a great job.

But there’s always someone, isn’t there? Some teacher who somehow slipped through the cracks, who has lost the joy in teaching (or never had it), who is there for “the job,” who is a year away from retirement, or who simply doesn’t care about the extraordinary opportunity they have to make a difference in a child’s life.

It’s people like them who make me think tenure has outlasted its usefulness in the school system; people like them who put little dents in our children’s self-esteem with their words and actions, people like them who could (if I ran the world) be quickly replaced with more enthusiastic, compassionate, and competent unemployed teachers if they didn’t have tenure.

Luckily, my kids have a resiliency that I lack when it comes to dealing with these bad apples. Perhaps they have a better sense of the impermanence of the situation than I do.

It makes me all the more grateful for all of the wonderful teachers out there who stay dedicated to the kids, who work for ridiculously low wages, and who keep trying even though the demands on them to be teacher/parent/counselor/law enforcer have only become more difficult.

To all the AMAZING teachers (in Bath and everywhere), thank you for what you do. You are appreciated.