Is This True?

I am a member of a home school blog site. It is comprised of all races, backgrounds, economic levels etc. Long story short, these two ladies had a disagreement over politics in one of the forums. Now we all know that any political debate has the opportunity to develop into a heated argument, but they were pretty self controlled for the most part. This is the thing…one lady is white and she was voting for McCain. The other lady is black and she is voting for Obama. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion….but this is what I found interesting. The white lady said something about moral character being important in a candidate. This of course got them going about Obama and the whole Pastor Wright thing. This is the part I find interesting. The black lady said, ” I agree with A LOT of what Pastor Wright said, and you just don’t understand because you are not African American.”
Hmmm………I wonder how many black people feel that way? That whites just “don’t get it”. I think that his crass words and obvious hatred are not okay….especially, by a man who calls himself a pastor. I guess that fellow home school mom was right. I just don’t get it.

Moose Hunting and Dog Fighting

I had a very interesting experience at Walmart this afternoon. I was being checked out by a very friendly cashier. She happened to be an older black woman. I mention her race only because I feel it is pertinent to the story. As she is ringing up my groceries a middle age black man comes over and starts chatting with her…he was also an employee of Walmart. He was laughing and asked her if she had watched Chris Rock? No. She had not…to which he says something about Rock being on Larry King recently. He told this woman about how Chris Rock had said something to the effect of there are pictures of Sarah Palin hunting moose and everyone thinks that is so cool. She can hunt moose, but Michael Vick gets in trouble for fighting dogs? How’s that fair?! The man said he wants to see that show—and isn’t that the truth? And isn’t that funny? The cashier woman was laughing and agreeing with him.
I just stood there and decided to hold my tongue. Now am I missing something or what? I didn’t think that was funny at all. Last time I checked it was legal to get a hunting license and HUNT. To kill a moose and then EAT it, there is nothing wrong with that. BUT I don’t know anywhere where dog fighting is LEGAL. Where is the humor in putting dogs in a arena where they are forced to fight, become injured, sometimes to the death? And this is supposed to be for grown adults enjoyment??? Quite frankly, I don’t even see the comparison and don’t see any humor in comparing the two VERY DIFFERENT things. Anyone who can’t see the difference between hunting animals for food, and animal abuse for entertainment is ignorant. That is just all there is too it.
Do other people find this concerning? Now, I am no PETA person (in my opinion they are way over the line) but this whole conversation seemed so wrong to me. It was almost as if, because of the tone of the conversation, that they believed that it had something to do with a white woman hunting vs. a black man dog fighting. I don’t see it as a race thing at all……I see it as a right vs. wrong. Period.

Sin Is Real…And It Exists In Us All

I’m listening to the news right now and the conversation is about the financial crisis. Now, they are discussing the global economy. Banks all over the world are in a panic. Ugh. I really think the media is TRYING to scare everyone. They make it sound as if we are headed back to the Great Depression. Now, we are having this Bail Out Bill. I just don’t know how I feel about it. It is very aggravating that we the people have to bail out the fat cats on Wall Street. The one guy made 90 MILLION last year. How is this possible? How did that guy sleep at night? Power. Greed. No Conscience. Money itself is not evil, but the love of it sure is. Obviously. The whole thing just seems very unfair. Where is the justice in having to work real hard to have a decent, financially secure life—and then have to turn around to bail out people who made such a HUGE mess? It’s just wrong. Who is going to make sure this doesn’t happen again? How can we change peoples hearts? That is the real issue at hand.
I’m leaving my money where it is right now….but it is scary. The world we live in is such a mess…..and really it is a mess not because of politics, or banking thieves, or even murderous dictators around the world that we hear about on an almost daily basis. The world is a mess because of something much deeper. Peoples hearts. People’s sinful nature. Most people don’t want to hear that. It hits too close to home. Our self righteous nature wants to kick in and say, “not me. I would never do that!” Looking in the mirror can be the most difficult thing that one can do….
I’m currently reading a book entitled THE LAZARUS PROJECT by John Bayer. It’s a really good book for many different reasons but there is one thing in particular that I want to share. There is one chapter where a demon (yes, you heard me right) talks about how humans are so naive about the unseen world around them…..”It struck him as absurd that most humans thought of his kind as ugly, misshapen, deformed creatures, capable only of existence in the deepest regions of darkness. That simple belief accounted for more souls in the lower regions than almost any other strategy. Humans expected sin to be hideous, repulsive in the extreme. But that was not the case. Sin could be, and was attractive, enchanting, even captivating, at least on the surface. It was not until one got to the root causes of sin that the realization of its depravity came to light, and when exposed to the light, since could be seen for what it was. But few people wanted that exposure. And few today understood the degradation of sin. Most spoke of self-gratification, individual rights, and the belief that God existed to grant whatever wish a true believer requested.”

A Blustery Day

Remember the Pooh story about a very blustery day? Well, the 100 Acre Wood must have been in Logan County, Ohio. Scott and I were out at the site for most of the day. The day was overcast and windy. Good grief was it windy!! That is one thing about the place we picked to call home…..we will have plenty of wind.
Tomorrow I leave with two out of the three kids to go back to Tennessee. The oldest child is staying with Scott. They will have some time together. They will probably drive each other nuts, but isn’t that part of the parent child relationship? haha. The younger two have soccer so they are going with me. I promise when I get back to Tennessee that I will post some good, long blogs. Like I said the other day it’s hard to blog in a sardine can…..This is not to mention that this trip we have had more living things in this apartment then just the five of us. We caught a mouse in the kitchen this morning. Yesterday I was in the kitchen and found “evidence” of a furry friend. Hmmm…..the chillier weather is bringing critters inside. This totally grossed me out. Out went the glue traps. My younger son greeted me this morning with we got him! Yuck. Sure, I like animals….just not in the kitchen….and not little gray ones that squeak. Then my oldest son killed a spider on the TV stand this evening. It’s body was the size of a dime, I’d say. You know how I feel about spiders. Not my favorite. Not even close. I told him to squish it. He wanted to trap it under plastic and “study” it. Uh, no. Kill it. Kill it now. I have to sleep tonight and I don’t want to think about that thing running loose around here. ( Oh, don’t even say it. Don’t tell me there are probably about 10 others running around the apt. that I don’t see. Just don’t even say it. )
I’ve got the creepy crawlies now.

No, I Haven’t Dropped Off The Face Of The Earth

When I’m in Ohio it is sometimes more difficult to blog…I don’t have my optimum blogging power. It’s difficult to blog when I’m either crammed into Scott’s apt. like a sardine or on the rural roads of Ohio where both cell phone reception and wireless internet are practically nonexistent.
We were over at the property yesterday checking out what had been done. Scott was excitedly showing me the plumbing tubing and all that stuff. It is exciting, but to me it just looks like a bunch of insulated tubing. I am a very visual person….it’s hard for me to see tubing and think this is where the kitchen sink will be or this is where the master bath toilet will be. He probably thinks he married a dumb bunny when I just stare at him and smile (and shake my head–like I have a clue as to how this foundation, gravel and tubing is going to miraculously come together as a beautiful house in the near future:)
I have to admit, I was pretty excited to stand at what will be the front door and stare down our driveway. I tried to visualize pulling up to our house and turning into the driveway…… Of course, the llama across the street stared back at me. I was probably making him paranoid with all my staring. He probably is wondering what all this hub bub is about.

Part Five–Where I’m At Now

This is the last of my five part series on my years working in special education.
After marrying Scott, I worked for another 1.5 years before resigning from my position at Norwood to come home and teach our own kids. With homeschooling I still get to teach, just teach my own kids. No, none of them have special needs….well, I shouldn’t say that. They all have special needs—just nothing as severe as what I was used to when teaching in the public school. They have normal teenager special needs. ha!
I still get a lot of questions from people about “special needs” issues. I still read a lot about the latest information on special needs, and hope to be an advocate whenever possible. I hope that I will still be able to help students and parents in an advocacy type of way. I have sat on the school side of the table, and after 17 years I pretty much know how the system works. Now, I’d like to be of some assistance to the parents.
I really don’t know how all this will work out, but I’m leaving my options open.
Maybe when we make our move to Ohio, I will be able to help home schooling parents who have children with special needs. Maybe there is a need for that. Maybe I can help. I don’t think I’m done yet. I still believe there is work to be done, goals to be met and children to advocate for….

Part Four—The Last Decade

By the time I started at Norwood Elementary I had seven years of experience under my belt. I had taught in rural America, the suburbs and the inner city. I was bringing with me a plethora of things that I had learned along the way. At this school I met my new assistant, who would go on to become one of my very dearest friends, both inside school and out. The two of us were known as the “dynamic duo” around school and kids from other classroooms would often get our names confused…unsure of who was who.
Years later I would be talking with my assistant and she confessed that when she first saw me walk into school she was unsure about me. She thought I looked “too nice”….but I changed her mind when she saw how I took care of business and nipped any problems in the bud. (Hey, I’d just come from the inner city…this school was piece of cake comparatively speaking!)
At this school I had the opportunity to have after school math/science class with the general ed. kids. I got to teach students how to balance checkbooks, track weather patterns, understand severe weather, grow our own plants, learn about graphs, and figure out how much money they would need to spend a day at the ballpark. It was fun! The kids really enjoyed their time with me and I with them. We ended the year with a big, blowout luau party to celebrate our successes. Life is good when you are wearing flip flops and drinking your Kool-aid from a glass with a little umbrella in it:)
After teaching at Norwood for three years my son was turning five. He was able to come with me to school and attend kindergarten there. That was one of the great perks about being a teacher. It was a happy time knowing that my son was just down the hall. Little did I know what was just around the corner for us. Just how strong we would need to be….. On November 4th of my son’s first year in school his daddy died. My husband was only 34 when he died from a heart condition. I will never forget standing next to the casket talking with people who had come to give their condolences, when the door to the room opened and my fellow school teachers came walking in. They must have decided on a time to meet, because they just kept coming. One after the other….there must have been fifty teachers. I was so touched. Kendrick’s kindergarten teacher gave him a teddy bear, that was just what a sad five year old needed. We still have that bear to this day….a memory of another’s kindness.
Over my ten years at Norwood I learned what it is to have to control my emotions at meetings with parents. My anger threatened to boil over at a mother who took drugs and drank during her pregnancy and then had the gall to accuse the school of not doing enough for her child! I cried along with a student who suddenly lost her grandmother around the same time that I lost my husband. Her pain broke my heart.I learned that no matter how much I’d like for it to be, many children go home to emptiness. Not all children have balanced meals at home, some don’t even have clean clothes or toys to play with. I could make school good and safe for them while they were with me, but I couldn’t change their circumstance once they left.
I remember the pride I felt when my students were able to overcome the odds and be successful at school. I felt like a proud parent when general ed. teachers would come to me and tell me what a good year one of my kiddos was having. I remember a decade of happy faces at Norwood. No, not every day was perfect or even good for that matter, I had frustrations too, but overall it was good.
As the years went on, I began to be trained about autism. I started to get more and more autistic students and even though I was at first unsure of how to relate to these children, I soon found out just how fascinating they could be. I began to be intrigued with this diagnosis and still am to this day.
One of my sweet autistic students had a fixation with flipping light switches on and off. This was the year that my classroom was like a disco. Every time I turned around the lights were flashing on and off. It’s a good thing that none of my students were prone to seizures because all this light flashing would have surely done it! I went to all the light switches up and down the hallway and put messages next to the switches. “Only adults touch light switches. Do not touch!” My student was beyond frustrated with this situation. He could read so he knew he shouldn’t touch the switch, but oh how he wanted too! Some days were better then others—and one always knew what kind of day it was according to whether you were standing in a dark hallway or not:)
From this school I will remember friendships, fun, meetings, paperwork, struggles, successes, challenges, and most of all learning….about life.

Part Three—The Hard Years

After having taught at Oneida for 2 years, I got married and moved to Knoxville. I taught for three years at a large elementary school just across the county line. It was at this school that I learned about school politics. Not my favorite subject I can assure you. I learned that what is best for administration is not always in the best interest of the students. Frustrating.
“Red Tape” aside, I had a good time at this school. I had a wonderful teaching assistant who also became a dear friend. I could have never made it without her.
I taught one year of resource, with kids that had learning disabilitities, one year with a small group of boys that had emotional/behavioral problems and my last year with a class of more severe disabilities.
It was my last year that was the most fun. I had a little, second grade girl in my class that made the year interesting! She had cri-du-chat syndrome which is French for “cry of the cat.” (due to the infant’s high pitched crying resembling that of a cat) This is a syndrome that is due to a chromosomal abnormality. L.B. liked to lick everything in sight. That included you if you happened to be in her way:) My assistant and I spent a lot of time cloroxing the room down each day after school. L.B. was fascinated by my pregnancy that year. She would touch my ever growing belly as if she knew something good was going to be happening. Her mom would tell me that she went home at night talking about Mrs. Satterfield having a baby “in there”. I’ll never forget the day in May that L.B’s mom came to me and asked if she and L.B. could visit me in the hospital when I had my son. She wanted her daughter to see that indeed a baby was the end result. I said, “sure”, and so good to her word, here came mom and L.B. You could see the awe in L.B’s face when she saw my baby. It was precious. It still makes me smile to think about it. Last night I was thinking about her. She is 20 or 21 years old now. I wonder how she is?
The next Fall I started teaching at an inner city school in Knox County. (where I lived). The two years at this school were the hardest for me. I was challenged physically, mentally and emotionally. There were days when I didn’t know if I’d make it out alive. No, that is not an exaggeration. Little known to me when I accepted this particular position, that I would step into a world totally alien to anything I had ever experienced before. I had been hired to work with a group of nine of the most street smart, emotionally disturbed, and physically aggressive boys that you might run across…especially for an elementary school. I was trained in therapeutic physical restraint, crisis intervention, problem solving, and had the added assistance of mental health counselors (for the kids,not for me….though some days I could have used it). I should have known how this was going to go down when my first student sauntered through the classroom door. He was all of six years old, but tough as nails. (In the following story I do not wish to offend anyone with the language, but I think it is necessary in order to tell the full story. It is shocking to hear these words…and I’m sure it will shock many as you can imagine how I felt when I got it yelled at me.) “Little” John greeted me with, “HELL no! You a white bitch. Hell no! No muther fuckin’ white bitch is gonna be my teacher.” Well, and hello to you too…..and thus the school year began. I started out with a female assistant who left just a few months later when one of “our boys” hit her in the back of the head with a large book. It knocked her to her knees and caused her to see stars. She informed me that she felt bad, but that she didn’t need this and was quitting. Entered Dale. A tough man who was a huge help to me. We became quick friends. I actually liked Little John even though I never knew what the day would hold with him. One day he informed me that as soon as my back was turned he was going to break a window, get some glass and cut me. Friendly little guy, huh? It could get scary, but even more then that, it was sad. I worked hard to teach these boys their academics, but each day was peppered with restraints (for their own safety and those of their classmates) and crisis management.
I vividly remember one day when a mother came bursting through the door near the beginning of school. She did not know me yet screamed, “White bitch! You not to touch my son. I will fuckin’ beat yo ass. You hear me?” She was nose to nose with me, spit flying, and I just knew she’d hit me…I was tearing up because I was so thrown off guard by this verbal assault. After this I vowed no one would ever see me cry again. I would learn to be tough….I had to be. It was all about respect. Oddly enough, this same mother requested to go on one of our class’ field trips shortly thereafter. This class had to go on “adventure” trips where we had to work as a team. It forced the kids to confront their fears and at times it was stressful. The trip she went on was when we went caving. We were about a mile underground with our guide. He told us not to touch the walls due to black widows…we only had his flashlight and the lights on our helmets. I’m claustrophobic anyway AND I’m terrified of spiders so I was dealing with my OWN issues on this particular trip.We got to one section of the cave that was so narrow that you had to put your arms out in front of you, slide on your belly and pray you didn’t get stuck. Half way through this narrow tunnel I started to panic. Really panic. I just knew I was going to die in this hole, and for what? Then I heard that mom’s voice. “Go, Mrs. S. Go. Just do it!” I managed to get through the hole and then it was her turn. She was scared and it was my chance to encourage her. She stopped half way through. Near paralyzed with fear, yelling, “My ass is as big as a football field. I can’t get through.” I kept yelling at her to move. Just move. She did and from then on we were friends. No kidding. Just goes to show that nothing is impossible. Our next trip was obstacle courses and zip lines. Once again I’m beyond nervous. I am on a platform all the way in the top of a VERY tall tree. I am harnessed onto a zip line and told to jump. My heart was about to beat out of my chest. The instructor told me to just close my eyes and jump. My students were like little ants down there on the ground watching their brave (crazy?) teacher being the first to go. I stepped off the platform and went flying through the woods like Tarzan. Only I didn’t yell like Tarzan it was more like a blood curdling scream of imminent death. Thankfully, I made it and lived to tell the story.
This time brings back memories of threats on my life and restraining orders, being bitten by a student and having to endure a series of hep shots because of it, physical restraints that I just knew if the child got loose he’d kill me, police escorts, chasing an escaped student through the neighborhood, a drug dealer that ran through our school cafeteria and holed up in the office, refusing to come out because if he did the guy on the street would kill him. I also have sadness from this time over the senseless loss of one of the school’s kindergarten students. She was in sitting in her front yard when she was hit by a stray bullet. A drive by that took the life of a sweet little girl. At this school drive bys were not uncommon. Other schools have fire drills. We had drive by drills. Children learned when they heard a whistle to get down on the ground. One day one of my students came in totally exhausted. I asked why he was so tired and he told me that his mom wouldn’t let him sleep in his bed last night. I was indignant and made a mental note to call this mom to “discuss” this with her……until I heard the rest of the story. There had been drive bys in the public housing all through the night. The walls are thin in these houses and the safest place this mother could think of to protect her son was for him to sleep in the bathtub. She didn’t pull him out of his bed because of neglect, but out of love.
So, you might wonder if I came away with anything after teaching at this school for two years. I did. I learned that many times people act certain ways out of fear of the unknown. Change can be scary…and that everyone needs help sometimes.

Part Two —-The Early Years of Teaching

Yesterday I talked about the people and activities that got me involved with special education. Today I’m going to tell you about my early years in teaching.
I graduated from Carson-Newman College in Tennessee a week before my 22nd birthday. Four years of hard work had come to an end. Now, I just needed a job:) I packed up my dorm room and moved back to my home state of Maryland. I had every intention of going back there to live. I was filling out applications, going on interviews with school systems, while also working full time at the group homes that I mentioned in my last post. One afternoon I received a call from a former professor. He told me about a job opening in a small town in the mountains of east Tennessee. I flew back down to interview with this school system and was given the job on the spot. The special ed. supervisor gave me a quick tour of the town and took me to the only apartment complex in the area. This was to be my new home. Within two weeks I had gone back up to Maryland, retrieved all my earthly possessions and moved into my new apartment in Oneida, Tennessee.
Now, Oneida in the early 90’s was a small town set back in the mountains. I sort of felt like the main character in the story of Christy as I began my new teaching adventure. I was barely 22 years old, and green as they come. I WAS the special education teacher for grades K-6. I had many teaching assistants to help me with all the kids for which I was so grateful. Looking back, I have to say I couldn’t have picked a better school to get started in. The people I worked with were some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. Some of the 6th grade students I had that first year are now 30 years old! Okay….now I officially feel old.
The kids of Oneida Elementary taught me more in the two years that I was there then I ever taught them. One sweet boy comes to mind. He was in 6th grade at the time. His family was very poor, and I believe day to day living was a struggle for them…but this child was always friendly, respectful and a hard worker. One day he was late to school and we had things to do so I was irritated when he finally showed up an hour late. I sternly told him that he needed to be at school on time, self righteously believing I was teaching him the importance of punctuality. I’ll never forget this young man looking almost eye level to me as he said, “Miss Webb, I’m really sorry for being late. The wall of our house fell in last night and I had to help my Daddy wrap plastic around so the weather would stay out. I didn’t sleep much.” I wished I could have taken my stupid words back…instead I hugged Daniel and I apologized for not understanding. Having grown up with everything I needed I was absolutely naive to how some people lived. I learned a valuable lesson that day.
Another day I had to have some paperwork signed and couldn’t get the parents to come to the school to sign. My special ed. supervisor and I went to the home of this particular student and knocked at the door. The father opened the door and after hearing what we needed, invited us in. Animals were in the house….and I don’t mean just cats and dogs. I mean various small farm animals. I was taking this all in as I gingerly sat down on the couch (making sure to glance down before taking a seat). The father proceeded to tell us about his prize fighters. I wasn’t really following along, until he mentioned his fighting roosters….and then I got it. Cock fighting. (Which by the way is illegal in Tennessee!) He told us not to worry about that, he crossed the state line into Kentucky on Saturday nights for the fights. My, oh my, was I learning life lessons about people.
Oneida was a small town. REALLY small. When I first moved there I was seen as an “outsider”. People were not unkind, but I knew they were watching me—after all they considered me “a yank”. I never realized how small the town was until one day I was getting a prescription at the pharmacy when one of my students literally popped up from behind the counter and scared me half to death! He was hanging out with his aunt (the pharmacist) until his mom got off work. (the sisters were identical twins which threw me for a loop for a moment)
Another time I was at dinner with a male friend. There was only one sit down country restaurant in town and it was connected to the local motel. (same owners) The next day at school one of my female 5th grade students demanded to know what I was doing at the motel last night?! Good grief. I explained I was JUST at DINNER and then went home, and why am I explaining myself to a ten year old????
Then there was the time one of my 5th grade students showed up at my apartment doorstep. It was 8:30 in the evening, getting dark outside when I heard my doorbell ring. It was Jason. Our conversation went something like this. “Hey, Miss Webb.” “Hey, Jason. What are you doing here?” ” Well, I was looking for your place.” “Why?” ” I dunno” “Hmm….well you found me.” “You ready for bed?” “Yes. (as I stood there in my pink pajama set and slippers) Um….how did you find my apartment?” “Cause, I’m smart that’s how. I figured you lived at the apartments. I looked for your car and found it parked in the parking lot. It was on this side of the apartment building so I started knocking on doors and ringing doorbells. I figured you’d answer eventually.” “Interesting. Good deduction. Now it’s getting dark and we have school tomorrow. Do your parents know you are out?” “Uh….I dunno.” “I want you to ride your bike home. NOW. Promise?” ” Okay. See ya tomorrow.” ” Bye, Jason.”
My life in small town U.S.A consisted of joining a bowling league for entertainment, having an act in the school’s local talent show, attending the high school basketball games, and going to the local Walmart. Everyone went to Walmart for entertainment….after all that’s where one met up with everyone to chat. One day when I was there on my regular shopping trip, minding my own business, I was sidelined by one of my students. I hit the floor like a sack of wet concrete. I felt arms around my neck and realized it was Luke. He had escaped his parents grip, saw his teacher down the aisle and galloped at me like he was going for the win at the Kentucky Derby. Hey, if I had seen him coming I would have steadied myself for the assault…but alas, I was caught off guard and was not very graceful as I hit the floor. Luke’s parents were very apologetic as they helped me up. Luke on the other hand didn’t seem to mind that he nearly gave his teacher a concussion. Next time, I decided I might just wear a helmet when doing my shopping.
My first two years of teaching were fun. I remember lots of smiling faces, lessons, paper and glue, arts and crafts, the Halloween costume parade, sharing the gym and cafeteria with the middle and high school, talent shows, and friendships. Like I said earlier I couldn’t have picked a better place to live and work as a new teacher.