"Schools these days..." I have heard that statement more times than I can count over the past few years, and it is only becoming more divisive. Similar statements include: "If parents only disciplined their children," "If teachers only did their jobs," "If the (school) districts would only pull their heads out of their backside and look around." It's no wonder why teachers are leaving in droves, school administrators from Fargo are jumping ship, and parents are opting to homeschool.
It's time to come to the table and get serious about collaboration and brainstorming about our greatest assets—our youth. These children need to be at the center of the outcome goals. Their needs are high, and their teachers need to be highly-trained and prepared for these children. Let's not forget, there are children who have endured people misunderstanding their disabilities, who have trauma from being restrained by the people they were told to trust, and who failed to be provided a Free and Appropriate Public Education, in spite of a recent federal lawsuit that determined it should be so.
Are teachers mad? Of course. If not, they should be. Higher education discourages young teachers from taking vital special education courses because of fear that young graduates will get forced into special education classrooms instead of landing jobs in their interest areas. New teachers are ill-prepared for the realities of classroom meltdowns and over-stimulated learners who don't have enough outlets for those busy little bodies.
As for experienced teachers, they are so burned out from lack of support and begging for aides, they can't get their pensions rolled out fast enough. How about if some of that $4.3 million in building renovations went to granting more prep time, therapists and classroom support? There are a few gems who get it as teachers and who help students with special needs thrive. For those golden few, they transform lives of both the students and their families. Sadly, they often are hidden in the trenches rather then sharing their talents with other teachers.
As for parents of children with disabilities, I am one of those parents. My husband and I physically changed our location to get our son into the best school district in the state (West Fargo) where their budget is maxed out on annual training and professional collaboration. We have carefully planned and prepared with our school teams and my son has seen amazing progress. Had we stayed in Fargo, I wonder if he would be a "Level D" candidate.
- North Dakota has the highest rate of young kids not in school. Does it matter?
- Fargo educators share personal stories of classroom violence
I know that our family was considered threatening because we brought our outside therapy team into my son's annual Individual Education Plan meetings until we moved. In West Fargo, my son has made gains that I had previously been told were impossible.
I know from my work in the human services field that Fargo refuses to collaborate with parents and outside providers unless obligated or forced. And, just as Superintendent Gandhi said, they will override parents concerns to do as they (Fargo Public School District) feel is appropriate, even if the teachers are under-trained, under-staffed and overwhelmed.
The problem is not the buildings our children are in, it is when there is an absolute failure to support the learners who are educated in the buildings and the teachers who work alongside of them.