Sunday, June 15, 2008

Get Ready to Redefine Your Idea of an Athlete!

Swimmer Girl competed in her first swim meet!!!! It was held at the Rec Center on the Campus of Miami University in Oxford.

Saturday afternoon she swam in the 50 meter freestyle heat -- and timed in at 1:35.80.

Then on Sunday, she swam in the 50 meter backstroke heat with a time of 1:33.70!

We are so incredibly proud of Swimmer Girl, a little girl who was never even supposed to walk and has one less arm to propel herself through the water than all the other swimmers! Only God knew what a treasure was waiting for us in that little orphanage in Vinnitza, Ukraine...

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

Thursday, June 5, 2008

What Would You Do If Someone Told You...

My husband brought home a nice little children's picture book about the life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (of the suffrage movement). It's been very interesting reading it to my girls because it has really shown a vast difference in personality.

Last week, Swimmer Girl and I read the book together. Snuggled nicely on the couch, I started to read the first page:

"What would you do if someone told you you couldn't be what you wanted to be because you were a girl --"

"What?!" Swimmer Girl shrieked. "That's insane! Who would think such an incredibly stupid thing? What would give them the right? I would just do what God called me to do anyway! I wouldn't listen to them, and if I did it would only be to tell them that they're wrong..."

I couldn't get a word in edge-wise, and after her indignation wore off, I finally finished reading the book. It's probably a good thing for the men in this country that the suffrage movement happened long before she arrived on the scene. She's a force I really wouldn't want to offend.

Then, yesterday, I was reading the book with my younger two, Nappy and Princess Ballerina. I started off again, "What would you do if someone told you you couldn't be what you wanted to be because you were a girl."

Then I waited for a reaction. None. Nappy was busy looking at the pictures and the Princess Ballerina was just sitting there with a completely docile look on her face.

"Well," I asked her, "What do you think?"

"What?" she replied.

"Well, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

"A zoo keeper!! I really really really want to be a zoo keeper!" She emphatically answered.

I must admit I was a little shocked by this dramatic change from wanting to be a princess to wanting to be someone who cleaned up animal poo. Something tells me that she doesn't understand that being a zoo keeper means a bit more than snuggling cute baby animals.

"What if someone told you you couldn't be a zoo keeper because you were a girl?"

"Oh, well, then I'd just pick something else. I mean, maybe they're right. I don't know. I just know it's not worth arguing about. "

Needless to say we had a nice little discussion about how some things are worth arguing about.

Several days later, we were driving in the car, and the topic came up again. Nappy said, to the Princess Ballerina, "What would you do if someone told you you couldn't be what you wanted to be because you were a girl?"

"I know I know..." she replied with great resignation, "I'd have to argue with them, because some arguments are worth it, and I shouldn't do something different just because I'm a girl, even if I'd rather not argue and just pick a different job."

"Well," replied Nappy, "I'd just whap 'em and then be happy."

Three girls. Three different hair colors. Three different attitudes. And all three are mine!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

First Adam, Now Alex

First Adam Race is told he can't participate in Mass and now Alex Barton is voted out of Kindergarten! What does this say about inclusion in our culture?

Alex Barton, a 5 year old who had been attending Kindergarten at Morningside Elementary School in Port St. Lucie Florida, was voted out of his class in an overwhelming 14-2 election, this past week. It would've been 12-4, but the teacher bullied two of his friends into voting against him.

Apparently, Alex, who is in the process of being diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (basically a high functioning form of Autism), has been a bit of a behavior problem in class. So, in an unprecedented act of classroom management, his teacher, Wendy Portillo, brought Alex up to the front of the classroom and proceeded to have each of the students tell him what they didn't like about him. Then she had them vote to determine if Alex could stay in the class.

Alex lost.

In my opinion, they all lost because no matter how difficult a child is, your child has to learn how to deal with him if you want your child to grow up into an adult that can handle the realities of living in a diverse culture. Apparently, Ms. Portillo never learned that lesson. I sure don't want my kids to grow up to be like her!

So, now Alex, who was so shaken up by the incident he was sent to the nurses office where his mother retrieved him, has been sitting around his house saying, "I'm not special". Apparently he was told he was "annoying" and "disgusting." I don't think the educational experts of Florida, really understand just how cruel and injurious being humiliated in front of your peers actually is.

When I was in 7th grade, my lovely school, Howland Junior High School (North Eastern Ohio), held a pep rally. The day before we were instructed to to wear orange and black, the school colors, or we would not be admitted to the rally. That night I laid out my clothes. I didn't own any orange clothes, so I laid out some that were blue and black. Blue and black were not good enough for our spirit-filled school. So, instead of denying me entrance to the rally, they had me and a handful of other kids walk in front of the entire junior high class body-- while the other 200-plus kids booed us. It was incredibly humiliating, and I have an inkling of understanding for what Alex is probably feeling.

Another incident it brought to mind was when I was doing my student teaching, many years ago, at Roberts Paideia Academy (a gem in the Cincinnati Public Schools). During recess one afternoon, I stood by and watched as the special education teachers laughed at a developmentally handicapped boy who was trying to figure out how to jump rope. His big brown eyes were just sparkling with excitement as he tried to figure out which way to move his arms over his head to move the rope. He looked at his teacher for encouragement.

"Come on, idiot" she said, "Just put your hands up and flip the rope over!"

Then she and the other teacher stood there and laughed at the "idiot" who was too much of a "dumb***" to figure out how to jump rope.

Yes, the very people who were supposed to be advocating him, encouraging him to try new things, and celebrating his successes were instead calling him names and making fun of him.

And, yet, people wonder why I won't send my kids to public school!

The school system should be all over this, but, of course, they won't be. In addition to the fact that if she's a NEA member, she's nearly impossible to fire (remember: there are no bad teachers -- not even one's that vote kids out of the class!), they won't be because the fact of the matter is that this teacher crossed this line because she hasn't had the training or support necessary to understand how to work with a student who has behavioral problems -- be it from a disability or for any other reason -- and they know it. It's the same thing as Adam Race's priest. Those working with these kids aren't equipped and no one in charge cares enough to equip them.

In the meantime, it would be beneficial for the Morningside School District to understand that some day cute little Alex will be a 13 year old boy who, hopefully, will have had the appropriate interventions necessary to have a healthy happy life. The current road they've sent him down is sure to produce the opposite, and somebody will be dealing with that.