One Sunflower

birthday boy

See that little guy on the left?  He turned 22 today.  Yup, you’ve probably seen this book in your school library or a Scholastic flyer and yes, he is my son.  He was born with spina bifida – news we found out just 4 days before he decided to make his way into this world.  I am glad he was our second child.  My husband and I didn’t think twice about letting him go everywhere we let his sister go.  In fact, she was his greatest motivator because he was either trying to catch up with her, or stay in her face to bug her.   We also let him make his way in the world in whatever way made sense to him. Members of our church have fond memories of my 18-month-old son football crawling under all the pews giggling as I sat slightly embarrassed by his escape from my arms.

My dad would cover his ears when my son came sliding head first down the wooden stairs of their Cape home, his knees thunking behind him on every step.  His therapist created a small belly board for him when he was 14- months-old and he became a glutton for speed.  His favorite activity as a pre-teen was zooming all over our cul-de-sac on a skateboard doing all the crazy things he saw his friends do standing up.

My son’s disabilities were mostly physical in the beginning but his learning disabilities became more apparent as he progressed through school.  The school accommodated him with special desks and fittings in the bathroom.  But it was harder to deal with the learning disabilities.  How do you accommodate a kid who learns by watching videos about topics and talking with people?  By the time he was in 10th grade I told him it would be okay with me if he decided to drop out because I knew “school” was not going to meet his needs.

Luckily my son went on a field trip to our local tech school when he was in 7th grade and fell in love with the idea of becoming a welder.  After leaving high school he enrolled in a 2 year welding program.  He ended up with medical complications and a year of being a “pot-head” but he made his way back, got his GED on the way, and will hopefully finish his first certificate this fall.  My son credits us for sticking with him through thick and thin — and his girl friend.  I know that some of it is just plain developmental – our boys need time.

I am glad my son grew up in these past 2 decades where there are books that feature kids with disabilities and schools that integrate our children.  My son celebrates his disability as well as being terribly aware of his limitations; he is learning to guard the capacities he has.

his personally designed tattoo

He is uncomfortable with the fact that many people think he is a war veteran but is excited about the improvements for the disabled that will happen as our country responds to the needs of the war wounded.

My son can hardly wait to get back into his welding classroom.  Tragically there are too many others like him, who will fail in the classrooms they enter this fall, because there will be no field trips to schools that celebrate “hands on” work, or no family support,  girlfriends, and older sisters to pull and tug them into a place they can be successful.


New – but probably last – poetry page for awhile…

This will probably be my last fabric poetry page for awhile – fall is just too demanding.  But I like this one, and it’s got me humming in my head.  Check out the full picture and story in my art pages:


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so now what?

I went to Seattle with the goal of helping my good friend set up her new classroom – after being out of the classroom for 3 years, it is a daunting task.  We talked “shop”, as usual, to and from the school, in the evening with a glass of wine and in the morning while we sipped our hot drinks of choice.  We don’t always spend so much time talking about teaching, but at this time of year, it seems to be the uppermost thing on our minds.

Deanna tells me about the conversations she’s having with Ralph Peterson, meaning that she is reading his book, Life in a Crowded Place.  Her table also has a stack of books that includes of The First Six Weeks of School, and Choice Words among others.   I’ve been reviewing Julianne Wurm’s book about the Reggio Emilia approach and selecting activities from The Peaceful Classroom.  Both of us have special notebooks set aside for our thoughts and sticky notes are poking from the pages.

I find that this “talking shop” is the richest form of reflection I do.  Even though Deanna’s experience as a teacher is at the intermediate level, her questions help me analyze what I learned last year and guide me to set new goals. In her old job she had some contact with the work I’m doing so she’s able to ask direct questions related to my curriculum.   I am not as familiar with her grade level, but I can ask questions about intent and the systems she hopes to put into place.

The most important aspect of our conversations is that I have a witness.  There are goals I voice to Deanna that I hesitate to share with my colleagues.  During the summer, I usually come up with new things I want to try out with the kids, curriculum, systems, or the environment.  Voicing these ideas to Deanna is the first step to making them possible; she will ask about them later which means I’m held accountable to reason my way through them and either try them or have a good reason why I didn’t. Thinking aloud with her is the first step to the possibility I’ll open up about my ideas with others.

Since I can’t put furniture in my room yet because I’m waiting for the floor to be waxed, I’ll pull out my special notebook and jot down notes from the conversations we’ve had.  I want to try to capture the analysis I did about myself with Deanna and summarize the goals for new projects that I was able to outline so eloquently in our car conversation.  I’d intended for this blog to be a place of “witnessing” as well so once I’ve got stuff in that little notebook, I want to be brave enough to put it here as well.