Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Regular Education Teachers Need to Read LOOK ME IN THE EYE by JOHN ROBISON.

Even a teacher with a heart of gold can have a tarnished notion of our kids. One of my children (my girls have autism) received a letter from her regular education teacher (that's the typical class, not the special education class) in the mail last week. It was a thank you sent to the entire class with lovely sentiments about the year and the end of year gifts. Very nice.

However --- she included the line "Stagliano child, (no need to tell you which one) I know you don't understand what an important addition you were to our class......"

Do you see the bit of that sentence that pushed me into that elusive combination of heartsick and furious? Gee, that usually requires a bad breakup.
MY CHILD DOES UNDERSTAND! She is not stupid. She is not unaware of her surroundings. She is not a small pet, placed in the classroom to amuse and entertain the typical children, to teach them life lessons worthy of a the sappiest ABC after school special.

Now, did this teacher mean to denigrate my child? Lord, no. She's a kind woman and she welcomed my kid with open arms. However, her assumption is "Autistic child does not understand....."

John's book will change that. And that's what makes it important for ME. And he's a great story teller, and you'll laugh like heck and cringe a few times too during the read.
I think I have to write something for Huffington Post on this one...... Or somewhere.
(PS) I recycled this photo of John and fellow writers Pat Wood, Holly Kennedy and me from lunch in New York last month. I can still taste the cheesecake.


Drama Mama said...


That infuriated me and made me want to cry all at the same time.

I wasn't surprised, though.

I am a teacher, and we have to read this bullshit book, *Winning*, this summer - basically how to be a corporate "team" player. That's what schools think is important.

I am a department head. I'm making MY classes and staff read John's book.

Kim Stagliano said...

You ROCK Drama!

Anonymous said...

I hope you spoke to that teacher, to her/his supervisor, made yourself heard, and therefore your child's voice and heart and whole heard. Have you read Maya Angelou's Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now? There's an essay in it in which she relates a conversation she has with a dear friend about the Vietnam War. They're commiserating until he says something along the lines of "It's terrible how your people have been affected." She stopped him, asked him to repeat it until he undertood the import of his words, the racism they contained. He hadn't realized the depths of his own perceptions about people, nor has this teacher.

Holly Kennedy said...

Oh, Kim, I can see where you heart would have twisted into a tight little knot reading that line.

I agree re: LOOK ME IN THE EYE. I absolutely loved it and think it will shed a refreshing and badly needed point of view on these kinds of stereotypes.

Amanda said...

OUTRAGEOUS!!!! How dare that teacher single out your girls - why not give a special mention to the brat that disrupted the class all year or the little know-it-all who dominated discussions? Hope you explain, everso nicely of course, the error of her ways.
Thankfully we have never had to deal with mainstream school but we came close this term with a supply teacher - she was SO grateful we turned up for parents evening and took the time to explain a few things....think we may have scared her off though!!;)

LadyBronco said...

I understand ignorance takes time to change, but the same reaction happens to other kids with other issues as well.

I had a teacher ask me once why I didn't discipline my youngest child.
Well, he has ADHD, (very badly) but the teacher still lives in the dark ages and thinks it's not a 'real' issue.

I wanted to deck her.

Keep fighting the good fight, Kim. The more we educate the ignorant, the better it will get.


Kim Stagliano said...

Lady B, perhaps that teacher would like to spend a week with your son to help him eradicate his "fake" issue? Amazing isn't it? We all fight in our own way. I've yet to really take off the gloves in print, not sure I ever will. I walk a fine line on that one. Gearing up for football season? GOT PATS! :)

Manic Mom said...

OK, I am MORTIFIED that a teacher would write that!!!!

MORTIFIED. I got that pit in my stomach just from reading your words. It makes me sick.

And what a great photo!!

The Wandering Author said...

Kim, I have my own disability, and I hate to have to tell you this, but from my experience, even the good teachers won't get it right most of the time. Reading a book may help, but it won't help as much as you'd like it to.

The educational system, in general, is set up to destroy anyone who isn't different. Yes, there are exceptional teachers. There are even a very few exceptional teachers who never get it wrong. But they are not enough to overcome the overall effects of the system.

I'm sure your girls do understand, and I'm sure they have been exposed to much more of that kind of crap than you're even aware of. I say that because I can remember some of the worst examples from my own time in school - and those are just the worst moments, because the rest were too common to stand out or remember.

Sorry if I'm depressing you, but I say this to give you a better idea of what your girls are going through, in the hope that you'll be able to help them survive it. As for the teacher, she may have meant well, but if she was clueless enough to write that in a letter sent to every student, you can bet every day in her class was a living hell for whichever one of your girls was trapped there. What parents notice is just the tip of the iceberg - and most students in a class take their cues from the teacher...

Kim Stagliano said...

Hi, Wandering. I appreciate your candor. And I'm sorry for what you went through. I'd assume schools are a teensy bit more tolerant today than they were ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. I highly recommend John's book to YOU as you will understand how he felt. And it is a sparkling, well told story. Thanks.



John Elder Robison said...

Kim, you should round up people from your school and bring them to RJ Jilia in Madison for my September 26 appearance.

Wouldn't that be an effective way to approach them? They could ask questions, you could ask questions . . .

Kim Stagliano said...

John, that's just what I'm going to do.... Thanks!

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