Conundrums, and No Brainers


March 9, 2023- While I was ordering a small lunch, whilst waiting on my tax returns to be finished, a former colleague came to the counter, to order her own meal. In conversation about the various schools, we both agreed that the placement of a somewhat older and much bigger child with 10-12 year-olds was a travesty. It occurs to me that it is a conundrum, in that it is unfair to not want to deal with a difficult person, out of disagreement with the politically-motivated placement. On the one hand, the machinations of adults should not be the cause of failing to educate a child-even an adolescent, placed among preteens. On the other, the child has the right to an education-even if it means that both teachers and other students are at some risk of injury. The conundrum remains in place, for the next 2 1/2 months. How often I, personally, will abide the situation remains to be seen, as so far, no one has pushed me on the matter.

To me, it is a no-brainer that the child in question be placed among age mates-as that appears to be the least restrictive environment, so conveniently ignored by those who want a more comfortable working situation for themselves. There are two private institutions, designed for children such as the one mentioned above. Both have refused to take him in. It is by this means, that the present situation was contrived, as an expedient way to rid themselves of someone they did not wish to have around. The problem has not gone away, and the child, far from being stupid, has realized that there is a growing number of people who don’t understand his difficulties-and has therefore amplified his rage.

I’ve seen this before; seven years ago, in fact. A much more untenable situation, involving several children, was derived from their inappropriate placements-again, due to a desire for expediency. Two colelagues and I were told to deal with it, the best we could-and the year ground to a halt, with little to show for all our efforts.

No one promises anyone a rose garden, in this life, but if Public Schools are given few resources, and are told by Private facilities, that are designed to deal effectively with specialized situations, that they do not wish to admit difficult children, it is no surprise that the Public Schools are seen as institutions of last resort and are judged as failing.

To me, it is a no-brainer that Public Law 94-142, which requires appropriate placement of a Special Needs student, in the least restrictive environment, be vigourously enforced-as it was when Penny was teaching and when I was a counselor, with input into such placements. It is not up to special needs institutions to cherry-pick who they will and will not accept, based on personality.

Holding in Reverence


January 9, 2023-

I revere sass, to a great degree.

Sass shows strength, independence of thought and commitment towards speaking truth to power.

I admire grit, under all circumstances.

Grit shows perseverance, detachment from the opinions of others and a supreme self-confidence.

I prize fortitude, especially in dire straits.

Fortitude could be surviving on one meal or less, making one’s way with scant resources or few friends, enduring persecution, even false imprisonment-or the gallows.

Maybe this is why I am drawn to adolescents and young adults, special needs children, outliers, rough people with good hearts, even those with whom I start off on the wrong foot.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like liars, grifters or wirepullers, con artists who say anything with a view towards transactional success. I despise those who do nothing for themselves, then blame everyone else for their plight.

Those I adore the most are those who stand up for themselves and their loved ones. They owe me nothing, except to give their all, to meet their goals.

A Non-Starter


November 21, 2022- Both of us are respectful of electricity and its power, being careful to avoid mishandling the pair of battery jumper cables. Friend was glad to hand off the task of attaching the cables cables to me. I did so, easily enough, but when I started Sportage and tried the same with the problem vehicle- crickets. As a “door is ajar” warning sound continued to ding, even when all doors were closed, I suspect a short in the wiring. I gave friend a ride to a place of lodging, and he will resume dealing with the matter tomorrow morning, hopefully with help from his insurance carrier.

This was nearly the last task to occupy me today, before my flight to Dallas, early Tuesday. The day mostly consisted of accompanying a 10-year-old student from one class to another. She is soft-spoken around adults, but is very much independent and seemingly in charge of her disability, rather than the other way around. The day went well, and her teacher asked me to consider taking on the task full-time. While it might be better for a younger, female paraprofessional to do the job day-to-day, I am not ruling it out for the second semester.

The last task was to conduct a Baha’i study of social action formulae. We came close to finishing the unit, but my purpose is to generate meaningful discourse, which indeed came out of our study of three sections. leaving two to examine, next Monday evening. This will mean my birthday dinner will be an early event, which I prefer anyway.

After a bit of packing for tomorrow, it was early to bed- with joy at a productive day.

Forging Ahead


November 7, 2022- The otherwise kind and polite gentleman wore a sweatshirt that clearly stated how he saw himself. The message could have been interpreted as menacing. I saw it more as of the pre-emptive, “Don’t mess with Texas” variety of commentary. He ate his meal, conversed pleasantly with table mates and carefully placed his dinner tray, like anyone else. His politics are not mine, but I sense that we’d get along quite well, as time goes on.

About forty minutes later, after I had finished my assumed duties at the Monday evening soup kitchen, the strains of Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” could be heard, from a conservative political rally, on the grounds of our courthouse. I drove past, just as Laura’s recorded voice was serving up “all those voices in your head, calling GLORIA!!”, and I wondered, to whom might the person who added that song to the playlist be directing it.

Earlier today, the first of five days working as part of a makeshift crew that is tending to a small group of Special Needs children passed slowly, but in concentrated fashion. Only two of the team have any substantial long-term experience working with such children, and my own experience is scattershot, though I know how to tailor instruction to meet their needs. The school’s Principal is tending to the ambiguous promise of a properly trained full-time teacher, who has yet to make an appearance, as best she can. Since I have no knowledge of exactly what the hold-up is, I will leave it at that. The next two weeks, or so, I will devote four more days: This coming Wednesday, two days next week and the Monday before Thanksgiving, to this endeavour.

There is a full moon tomorrow and a full lunar eclipse will take place, as I sleep. That usually means I will be woken up by one or two strange dreams, and will lie awake for a half hour or so, before falling into another weird scenario. The knowledge that I am in my own bed, in my own room, will let the scenarios fade away. Tomorrow’s agenda includes a drive down to El Mirage, in the western suburbs of Phoenix, and a shift as Poll Chaplain, at City Hall.

Election Day will come and go, as all days do. We will forge ahead.

The Steamer: Day 2


September 27, 2022- I was unsure about how today would go, after yesterday’s fussing and fuming-from the aforementioned child, and from a couple of adults, on the periphery of the class. I went in, anyway, because my word is my bond.

Neither of the complaining adults were in the room today-and I was informed by the front office that one of the gripes was found to be without merit-and was dismissed. The other, from someone who was out sick today, never went beyond the immediate classroom staff.

The child, conversely, took an opposite tack today and showed nothing but gratitude for my concern. Although the day did not go all that well, behaviour-wise, none of the tantrums were directed towards staff. Much of my day was actually spent with a nonverbal and non-ambulatory child, who showed the best work ethic I’ve seen in a long time-proceeding through online tasks for nearly ninety minutes-stopping only for lunch.

At the end of the day, four of us escorted the students down to the bus and pick-up area. There was exhaustion in the faces of my co-workers, but also relief that-with one step forward and two steps back, progress was nonetheless being witnessed.

The Steamer: Day 1


September 26, 2022- The child sputtered and fumed at anyone who was found to be even mildly annoying. I was one of those, especially after foiling child’s early morning dash to the playground. Solo actions aren’t generally found to be in a minor child’s best interests, and the more impulsive the act, the more it is seen as a potential source of problems.

I call today’s and tomorrow’s worksite “The Steamer”, because the environment is intense and a few of my co-workers feel it is like being in a pressure cooker. A number of Special Needs children placed together in a fairly small room is never guaranteed to be smooth sailing. They do, however, respond to gently-applied and consistent classroom management. The two paraprofessionals run the show, as is common in Special Needs classrooms. I followed their modi operandi, as I have learned to do, so as to remain afloat, in this extended period of professional afterglow. Besides, they work like tomorrow is not guaranteed, and their dedication to the welfare and safety of the children is magnificent.

The team is working out their game plan, even contemplating, but not yet executing, a division of the three-room workspace into two evenly-split classrooms. The issue there is that there are not, as yet, enough paraprofessionals to man both classrooms, on a regular basis. I am not going to work every single day, anymore, so there will be the necessity of attracting and keeping 2-4 more people, to work alongside the two classroom teachers and the aforementioned parapros. There is a half-time paraprofessional working in the room, as well, but he is not going to single-handedly meet everyone’s needs.

At the end of the day, after the children had been placed on buses, or re-united with their parents, I bid the team goodnight, said “See you tomorrow”, and was asked, by one of the teachers, “Are you sure?” Yes, I’m sure. I feel a bond with the children and am glad to be part of the team, however intermittently.

Stay With the Energy


May 12, 2022- Today was likely my last full day assignment for the 2021-22 Academic Year. A couple of half-days remain, the week after next, but with the year winding down, my focus shifts to Faith-based conferences, focusing on such themes as Building Vibrant Communities and Fostering Social Transformation; to making a commitment to cleaning out the remaining clutter in Home Base; to making my customary visits with friends and family and branching out to new areas.

The energy, which has been quite erratic, this Spring, is evening out just a bit. Though there are challenges each day, I feel more confident in meeting them, “in the moment”. Working with emotionally disabled special needs children can often feel like walking up a funicular, whilst carrying a sack of rocks, but it is one of those necessities in our society- at least as long as we struggle with the imperfect science of integrating the mentally ill into this mix.

Communication, never easy, is also subject to constant revision and repetition, as needs, moods and other conditions change, seemingly with the wind. Patience, forbearance and fortitude are certainly life-saving virtues! Still and all, this is a good life.



March 9, 2021-

The thread of enjoyment extended out, as a friend took in one of my favourite restaurants, on her own, and found it good.

The thread of caring got a little longer, as the powers that be offered more assistance to a long-neglected teen, and it will be good.

The thread of preparation is getting clearer, as a storm approaches us, and people mentally get ready for winter’s last gasp. It will be okay.

The thread of assurance is getting stronger, as there is some enticement to return to an untenable situation, which it is best to resist. I will be fine.

May Day Reflections


May 1, 2020-

I arose earlier than usual, this morning.  I just could not sleep past 5:30.  Summer is like that for me.

This is a day often set aside, in much of the world, to honour labour.  There are a vast number of workers who deserve this honour-the medical community, those who provide food, beverages, beneficial pharmaceuticals and naturopathic remedies, first responders ( as always), spiritual and psychological advisers and sanitation workers-among others.  Your efforts are more valuable than ever.

Then, too, this is the beginning, essentially of Teacher Appreciation Week-or at least the cusp of it.  Teachers are more the invisible heroes of the current pandemic.  Those who have held up nicely, deserve extra praise.  Those who are sinking, deserve extra support.

I noticed a couple of items, relative to Special Needs children.  There is an article, in this month’s National Geographic Magazine, about autistic adults.  The emphasis is on those with severe needs, but I am still grateful to see us be the focus of empathic attention, in the press.  I also saw a photo of a “favourite cap” to which a mother sewed buttons, so that her little boy would feel comfortable, while wearing a mask.

Things that made me smile:  The energetic, effervescent departing president of a college club showed up on my e-mail feed, with a proposal for a club handbook; Earth Rising and my cosmic advisor each had energizing assessments of what lies ahead in May; paying rent (thankfully, not a problem for me) was made easy by the assistance of a Tablet Teller.  Yes, a roving teller, accepting deposits using an encrypted Tablet, is one of the outgrowths of the current crisis.

This month has not started out all that well, for many, and we can only change that by pulling together- not in serving as fodder for those Trollmasters, who thrive on sowing division.


Tourniquets and Cures


November 16, 2016, Prescott- 

Young boy who was so unsettled,

when among hostile peers,

is a role model for new classmates,

in his more suitable learning environment.

Two Early Childhood specialists, in a row, have

found themselves as ducks out of water,

in a room full of older special needs children.

The word is that a teacher qualified to work

with said group is coming on board.

A soon-to-be-retired public official wants

to go on ignoring “working class” people.

The wheels of the Change Train are grinding,

more slowly and fitfully than expected.

Some genuinely talented public servants

are emerging, in the wake of all this.

Stay tuned.