Category Archives: Teaching


Back when I was younger, I always listened to what “they” said.

“Don’t wear orange,” they said.

But I like orange, I thought.

“Pretty girls don’t wear orange,” they said. “Pretty girls wear pink and lavender.”

So I wore pink.

I like pink, I told myself.

“You don’t want to be a writer,” they said.

But I like to write, I thought. It’s part of who I am.

“Writers are weird. Nice girls aren’t weird.”

So I decided to study other people’s writing instead.

It’s okay, I thought. I love language, so this works, too.

“You want to be scientist,” they said. “Smart people are scientists.”

So I got a degree in a field where I could both study language and be considered a scientist.

I did what they said. I abided by their rules. I kept trying to be who they thought I should be.

And then, one day, something changed. I had children.

What “they” said still mattered. Until I realized I didn’t want my children to listen to them like I had. I didn’t want my babies to be constrained by what others thought they should be. And that I didn’t want to be like them.

I’m a writer, I thought. So I wrote. I started writing a romance novel.

“When are you going to write something someone will actually read? No one will read that,” they said.

I kept writing my romance novel, because I liked it.

“You’ll never get published,” they said. “Don’t do it anymore.”

I kept writing my novel. I submitted. Got rejected. Submitted some more.

In less than a year, I got published.

“Well, no one will ever read it.”

Meh. Some people have read my books and most people haven’t.

So I’ll keep trying.

I’m a teacher, I thought. And I’m good at it. So I started thinking of myself as more of a teacher and less as a scientist. And I discovered I never needed to feel bad about doing what I love and what I’m good at. I don’t need to be ashamed that I’m not working in a hospital anymore; I can say, “I work at an elementary school with children with autism,” and be proud of that.

What they say shouldn’t have mattered, but it did. It shaped who I became, until I took me back. Until I realized that I can wear any color I want. Until I realized I could do what I loved and be proud of it. Until I realized that everything that makes me a writer–the wild imagination, the penchant for daydreaming, and sure, the quirkiness–had always been there, and would remain there even if I never put a single word on paper.

I don’t want the kids to listen to them. I don’t want them to give up on their dreams because of what they  say, because the great and powerful they say a lot of things that are, simply put, shit.

As long as the kids aren’t hurting anyone, then whatever they decide to be will be just fine by me (I do put caveats on the dreams and aspirations, because well, there’s Dexter and Breaking Bad. Some dreams and aspirations I just can’t get behind). I don’t care what the kids do, so long as they’re doing what they love, with people they love who love them back. I hope  they don’t forget to chase their dreams. I hope they know that today’s failure is just a temporary set back. I hope they know that the only real failure is in not trying at all.

So today, the kids and I wore orange.


Don’t be these people

So, I intended to write about writing, or something suitably deep. Instead, I’m writing about general etiquette.

I nearly lost my cool in swimming lessons today.

For the last couple of weeks, there have been these two women who discuss, very loudly, EVERYTHING. Last week, they were discussing how my children must be in the same class because I requested it, and that’s against the rules and blah, blah, blah. I mean, who cares about the truth when you can speculate loudly in front of those children’s parents, right? After all, since we aren’t allowed to leave, and we’re all crowded into a room together, it’s not like it’s a “Whoopsie! I didn’t realize you were there” conversation.

But whatever. I ignored it. They didn’t know what they were talking about, I knew they didn’t know, and so they could suck it.

But today… Today their conversation just about made me insane.

I get that people like to bag on teachers. We get summers off, so everyone who has worked for more than five minutes in the last ten years works harder than we do. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Well, you only work 9-3.” I get it from family members, I get it from members of the public, and it doesn’t matter how often I say, “That’s when the kids are here. I work longer hours than that,” no one seems to believe me. Because I have magic fairies that do my mountains of paperwork, right? The minimum of 105 meeting I have in each year just magically occur without my being present, or somehow happen between 9 and 3. Whatever. I get it.

Today, these women discussed how their child’s teacher needed to be fired because she didn’t have the experience necessary. Sure, it’s only the second day of school, but they have it dialed in. One of them went on and on about how she has “most of the classes for an AA in Education” (Do they even give those? I don’t even know), so she knows “how the system works.”

Huh. When I had sixty credits under my belt, I knew, precisely, jack shit.

But whatever. She knows best.

See, here’s what gets me. Everyone and their brother thinks they know how to teach. Some people have even taken education classes. Some taught 40 years ago, and think they understand how it’s done today. And yes, having taken education courses, sure, a lot of them are wastes of time, especially at the undergraduate level. I’ll admit that. But I’ll tell you this: teaching is far harder than the coursework. To do it well requires time, effort, and passion. Teaching is as much a calling as being a pastor or a doctor is. You have to love it to do it well, because Lord knows, you’re not doing it for rockin’ used Subaru you’re gonna get with that fat paycheck.

I would argue that you can take all the classes you want, and you won’t know what it takes to be a teacher. It’s harder than it looks. There is no such thing as average. In any given classroom, there will be the English language learners, the kids who have a speech or language delay, the kiddos who require resource support, the little one with autism, low readers, high readers, and your gifted kiddos. Each one of them has different needs. Each one of them deserves your time and your effort. A single teacher might have a couple of different behavior charts, a token economy, a schedule for reinforcement, behavior plans and testing accommodations, 504s, healthcare plans, and IEP modifications and accommodations to follow. She has to take into account personalities, which student work well together, who needs to work alone, who needs help following rules, who has a small bladder and really should be allowed to go to the bathroom nine times a day, and who is doing it just to escape work (and, alas, sometimes these are the same person).

And then, she actually has to teach. And it’s not just reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s computers and PE, character development, social skills, sex ed, drug resistance education, science and social studies. Oh, and she has to prepare them for mandated state and national testing, too. Let’s not forget that.

But despite this, many people seems to think that they know better. They know who should be fired, and who’s a terrible teacher (on the second day of school). Having never taken an education class, they can tell you what’s wrong with the district, the current math curriculum and the reading assessments. They can tell you all about how teachers do everything wrong.

They’ll do this without knowing what it really takes.

They’ll do this, not knowing how my colleagues and I spent hours pouring over a file, and then proceeded to spent over 18 hours attending doctors’ appointments with our students, to try to make sure that our concerns were being followed up upon.

They’ll do this, never understanding how we’ve written letters and filled out paperwork to try to get our students disability benefits.

They’ll do this, never knowing how many companies we’ve called to see if we can get donated hearing aids, batteries, glasses or iPads for kids who really deserve it. They’ll never know how we bought birthday and holiday gifts for students whose families couldn’t afford to get them anything.

They’ll do this, never knowing that we go out on our own time to watch our students in the rodeo, or in a baseball game or a play.

Teachers will give the shirts off their backs–I’ve never met such a giving group of people. Sure, there are bad eggs, just like there are bad lawyers and bad doctors and bad businessmen. But for the most part, teachers are good, well-intentioned people. No one gets into teaching and thinks, “Gee, I wonder how I can screw someone up today.” And, quite frankly, most of us work harder than we’re given credit for.

So today, as I listened to those women bag on teachers, one thing became perfectly clear to me.

Next week, I am totally bringing earbuds.

Welcome Guest Lauren Linwood!

Hi Lauren, welcome to The Bodice! Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was the kid who always liked school. I loved reading and writing, and I couldn’t get enough of history. When we were studying short stories and their elements in 7th grade English, my teacher gave us a project – to write our own short story. I fired off a 25-page western! I later met that same teacher at an RWA chapter meeting in Dallas. She wrote sweet romances for Harlequin. I thought how much she championed my writing when I was young. Seeing her success motivated me to push myself harder.

Hey, I was that kid, too! There must be something about 7th grade English (though I was the kid who lost her homework pretty consistently, and turned in the massive story project to save my grade. I was–and am–a little on the disorganized side).

So, tell me, do you have a day job?

I retired from teaching after 30 years. I taught English the first 10 years, and then I moved over to history, my great love, for the remaining time. So my day job now, besides writing, is pursuing all of the things that interest me that I never had time for until now.

A fellow teacher! Awesome! I was going to be an English teacher, but then I discovered Speech Pathology, and the rest, as they say is history.

How do you balance writing with all of your other obligations? (I ask, because I have yet to find it!)

When I was teaching and had mounds of papers and projects to grade, it was much harder. I’d grade a set of 30 essays and celebrate by stealing some writing time as my reward. Nowadays it’s all about budgeting time between writing and my other activities.

The paperwork involved with teaching can be a bit on the overwhelming side–that I know from experience.

What’s your favorite book of all time, and why? (Because I’m a lit geek, I’ll let you get away with listing more than one)

To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book, and I re-read it every year. Harper Lee’s descriptions really capture the flavor of that era. She created believable characters of all ages, with the setting itself becoming a strong character. Atticus Finch is an ideal hero. He’s intelligent, moral, quick-thinking, has a sense of humor, and like the book itself, he has a warmth and charm about him. Despite the serious issues covered in the novel, Miss Lee leaves the reader with hope.

I loved To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout had such fire, and the imagery was just beautiful. So, since we’re on the topic of entertainment, who is your favorite movie/TV character and why?

I’m a huge Jack Bauer fan. The man saved the world over and over again – in a single 24 hours each time! No matter how beaten down he became, he’d grit his teeth and his determination would help him face challenge after challenge.

What are your interests outside of writing?

I’m an avid moviegoer and a voracious reader. Many romance writers only read romance, but I read everything – thrillers, mysteries, horror, literary fiction, biographies. I’m a sports fan and follow my college team (Baylor) and all of the professional teams where I live (Dallas).

I’m one who reads everything, too! Maybe that’s why I can’t decide what to read next, what to write next, and what I want to be when I grow up!

Let’s talk a little about your writing. Answer as many or as few as you want…

Is there a particular author who may have influenced you?

Karen Robards definitely comes to mind. She does what Stephen King does – takes believable, everyday characters and forces them into impossible situations. She’s smart enough to give the reader a break every now and then with a little humor thrown in. I like the pacing in her novels, as well.

Tell us a little bit about what inspired this book.

I enjoy the history of medieval times, especially English history. I wasn’t finding many medievals to read, and so I decided to write one myself.  I wanted a heroine who could travel and experience different parts of England and meet a variety of characters, so I stranded Madeleine without a way to return to her home in France and had her join a group of traveling mummers that played different faires across southern England. Madeline becomes the only woman troubadour in all of England, both singing and telling audiences stories that draw them into new worlds.

What is your favorite sentence or quote in your new release?

In the last lines of the novel Lord Garrett Montayne tells his new wife Madeleine, “Before you, sweetheart, I was empty. But you and your music filled me with love. You are the music for my soul.”

That’s a great line! So, in their hearts of hearts, what would your characters say about themselves?

Madeleine would tell you that Garrett rescued her – not just physically, but also emotionally. She was a wounded bird, and he gave her a chance to soar. Garrett would say that Madeleine brought new life to him after he died inside. She restored his soul and his belief in himself and in love.

Who do you envision as your lead characters?

A young Gabriel Byrne would make an ideal Garrett because he has the brooding and angst down cold. Emma Stone (when she’s a blonde) would nail Madeleine because she’s feisty, quick-thinking, and has a sense of humor.

Do you have any advice for an aspiring writer?

Read. Constantly. I’ve met writers who say they don’t have time to read. Well…MAKE that time! Read in your genre; read outside of it. You can learn a lot about pacing and characterization and conflict from all kinds of stories. And write, write, write. Half of what you get down will be awful, but you need to keep flexing that muscle. Don’t wait for the spirit to move you; you move the muse!

I’d also add to study your craft as much as possible. Join RWA. Attend workshops (online, locally, regionally, or nationally). Find a critique group. All of these have helped me grow as a writer.

Where can your readers stalk you?






Here’s Lauren’s cover. Isn’t is gorgeous? And who does love themselves a little Jimmy Thomas?

Music For My Soul

Tell us about your new release. 

As the third wife of an abusive French vineyard owner, Madeleine Bouchard hasn’t produced the expected heir after three years of marriage. Fearing he plans to kill her, she flees during a trip to England. Unable to make her way home, she joins a troupe of traveling mummers and reinvents herself as the only woman troubadour in the land, captivating audiences with both song and story.

Nobleman Garrett Montayne’s fascination with Madeleine causes him to pay the troupe to bypass their next stop in order to journey to his estate. Though he suspects Madeleine of being a thief with dark secrets, love blossoms between them under the magical moon of summer solstice.

But Madeleine’s past is about to catch up with her, as her husband is set to arrive to conduct business with Garrett. Madeleine determines to free herself from her loveless marriage and make a new life with Garrett, no matter what the cost.

Do you have an excerpt?

Garrett peered into the angry face of the woman who haunted his dreams by night and left him absent-minded by day. Their encounter had been brief, but he doubted he had ever met a more remarkable woman. Not even his petite Lynnette had brought such a sweet longing to his loins as did the bewitching creature before him.

Her honeyed hair, loosened from its intricate braid, curled around her shoulders. Tiny beads of sweat had formed just above her upper lip. Without thinking, Garrett reached his thumb towards her and wiped it away. She flinched slightly, her dark, amethyst eyes glowering up at him.

Garrett smiled in spite of himself, offering her a hand to pull her to her feet. He had forgotten how very tall she was as she stared at him, her cheeks flushed with anger.

“Perhaps we could arrange a trade?” he suggested.

She eyed him suspiciously. “I’m not sure if I could trust you, my lord,” she countered.

“Trust me?” he sputtered. “This, from the woman who traipsed about the countryside claiming to be my wife?”

She shrugged nonchalantly, an almost Gallic air about her. She didn’t sound French, but there was an unmistakable manner to her movement. Garrett spent enough time in France to recognize the behavior. However, when she spoke, he quickly put it from his mind.

“I chose a bloody awful name to scare away anyone who accosted me on the road! How was I to know I’d run into you?” She snorted in an unladylike fashion. “I had heard tales of the wicked Lord Montayne, how he frightened old and young alike and gobbled up babes for his dinner. Why, the very mention of his name would cause grown men to plead for their lives and their loved ones. Oh, no, my lord, I was an honest liar. You were the one who resorted to trickery and hid your true identity from me.”

Her accusation so startled Garrett his jaw flew open. No sound came out for a moment. The woman lifted her chin high and turned on her heel. That brought Garrett into motion.

He grabbed her elbow and pulled her around to face him. “Not so fast, my lady.” He studied her a second.  Her eyes narrowed at him, but she remained silent. Finally faced with her visage square in front of him, Garrett was at a loss of what to do. His emotions swirled out of control as he spoke.

“’Tis curiosity,” he sputtered.

She looked puzzled. “Curiosity?” she echoed.

He nodded, his words spilling forth rapidly. “I know not who you are, nor where you come from. I’ve dreamed of you since that night only to awaken to an emptiness.” His voice became low and tinged with sadness. “I don’t even know your name.”





When Did I Get So Old?

So I went up to the university to discuss the possibility of getting a PhD on Tuesday.

And there was something I noticed. Something different about the University.

Not the building, because that’s still the same (although a ton of new buildings have been built, the clinic is still the same). The clinic rooms are largely similar. Shoot, most of the professors are the same.

The main difference? The grad students.

They’re…. They’re babies.

I swear, I’m not an old lady. Right?

My kids are still little, at seven and five. I’m young, right? (Though given my health of late, I’m like an old lady. If I start describing in detail my latest trip to Hof’s Hut, I will dye my hair blue and order you to fetch my teeth, youngster)

Only, when I look at the grad students, they’re so young. Impossibly young. At the lecture I sat in on yesterday (yes, I went back), we watched a video from October of 1993.

Dated, yes. Did I think it was old? Not really. Instead, I started singing Pearl Jam in my head.

Behind me, a girl giggled, “Wow. I was three when this came out.”

What? I was in college.

Okay, so I’ve been out of grad school for 12 years (don’t you judge me! Everyone spends seven years in college, right? Sure, they’re called lawyers, but whatever). I guess I should have anticipated the clinicians would be a little younger than me.

But not THAT young. Not “I taught your preschool class and changed your diapers” young.

Sheesh. When did I get old?

To PhD or Not to PhD… That is the Question.

It’s been a super crazy week here in Meggan-land. Actually, it’s been a crazy couple of months.

Other people do personal posts really well–they’re poignant or funny or simply deeply honest.

I’m not certain I’m that person. I think my personal posts are… whiny. Which, since I listen to an absurd amount of whining, just makes me go ugh.

So, consider yourself warned.

After a really long week of dealing with bullshit, getting drooled on, being insulted (twice!), being told, essentially, that I’m useless, I’ve come to following conclusions.

I love my job.

I hate all the bullshit. (And Lord, there’s so much of it)

So that got me to thinking: what do I want to do with myself?

I have a couple of options: I could ask to switch locations (don’t want to do that, not really. It’s the same everywhere, and at least now my commute is short). I could look for another job (meh). I could get a PhD.

Uh, what? A PhD?

And the more I thought about it, the more I was like: Yeah! Let’s do that.

Now, if I have one virtue (and I’m pretty sure I only have one), it’s that I am very self-aware. Painfully self-aware. I understand my own motives, even if I think they’re less than honorable. I get me. I’ve learned, over time, that not everyone has this particular skill set.

My reasons for wanting the PhD are multifold:

1. I always wanted a PhD, but it took me about five years to get over my Master’s thesis. And then I had a baby. And then I had another one. And now I have debt.

2. I like academia. No really. I love the research, I liked designing my own study, and I have a bunch of questions I can’t find the answers to.

3. I think it might be fun to teach adults.

(Husband’s question on this point: Do you really think you could teach something you’re really passionate about to a bunch of adults who don’t give a shit?

Me: Sure. Not sure how that’s different from what I’m doing now.)

4. People in my field respect the PhD in a way they don’t respect the MS.

5. I really like being right. I like it even better when people respect my rightness (Like that sentence? Me too). Because, in this country, teachers get very little respect. You know the old adage: Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach. The adage is complete crap, by the way. You can’t teach it if you can’t do it.

6. Oh, and the timing is good. Or, to put it better, it’s the best it’s ever going to be, at least until M can retire.

(Like I said, not all my reasons are honorable).

But I have to weigh my reasons for wanting to get more education against the cons. So here they are:

1. Money

2. Time

3. I don’t want to completely remove myself from the clinical side of things. I actually like the kids. I like the puzzle of figuring out what’s going on with them. It’s my favorite part.

4. I seriously just paid off the Master’s degree last year. Can I really do that to myself again?

5. Money

6. Time.

I’m already super busy with the full-time job, the kids and their various activities, and the writing gig. I know something will have to give. I don’t know what. It can’t be family, because I’m not completely driven by my career. I like it, but I’d give it up in a flat second and work at (Insert local burger joint here) for them if I had to.

The job I need to pay the bills. I have two little mouths to feed. I can’t afford to spend a fortune in loans. I’ll never retire if that’s the case, and God knows I’d retire tomorrow if I could get away with it. With a Master’s degree, I can work just about anywhere (except in academia). We could afford the cost of my tuition if I was working full time–it’s not so different from day care, actually. But I don’t know if I can work full-time and get the PhD. I rather suspect I can’t.

Also:  I don’t need a PhD. I want a PhD.

I want something new and different.

If I had my druthers, I’d be a full-time writer. Alas, there’s a lot that needs to happen for me to be able to do that. For instance, I need to write a book that actually brings in money after I’ve paid for all my stinking advertising.

So, until I am making Stephanie Meyer money, I guess I’ll have to settle for the day job.

I wonder, am I in the middle of a midlife crisis? I think this means I need a Ferrari and a boob job.

Oh, wait, the way my luck operates, if I went in for a boob job, I’d come out with testicles.

I guess I’ll have to continue to contemplate the PhD.


However, I am taking donations for a Ferrari if someone’s buying. Oh, and would you mind paying the student loans? That’d be great.

Blogs…And Other News

Join me on the SMP Author’s blog today to find out how my Master’s thesis prepared me for working with an editor.

I blog other places, just apparently not here. **sigh**

In other news, I just finished edits on Wandering Heart, my western novella, due out late this summer. And my steampunk, Jessie’s War, the first in my series War of Silver and Steam, is set for a January 2013 release. Yay!

Also: Edinor is going camping! Be prepared for pictures! Is there anything that wacky tyrannosaur can’t do?

Geography Lessons at Recess

So, a few days ago on the playground, as I was doing my lunch recess duty (oh, the joy), I overheard the following conversation on the swings between two fifth grade boys.

Boy 1(der): Wales? Yeah I’ve heard of Wales.

Boy 2: I have to do a report on it. I don’t even know where that is. I always thought whales were just fish.

** I wanted to point out that a whale is not a fish, but hey. **

Boy 1(der): Nah, I’ve totally heard of Wales.

Boy 2: Really?

Boy 1(der): Yeah. My mom makes me watch the Miss World pageant every year. So I’ve totally heard of Wales. I think it’s by Greenland. It’s got beaches and stuff.

Technically, he’s right about that, but it’s better known for its sheep and its rain than it is for its dazzling beaches. Whatever.

And maybe he won’t win the Geography Bee any time soon, but that conversation made me smile all day.

A New Rant

I wasn’t going to rant on my blog. In fact, I’ve really made an effort (lately) not to, because honestly, very few people actually care about what little pissant crap ticks me off.


Here goes. (Sorry)

Now, I mean this is in nicest possible way… But if you don’t know what someone is doing, but you think it might be wrong, maybe… just maybe… instead of, say, going to their boss… you should talk to them first.

Because now, you’ve just ticked me off.

I guess I should actually tell this story. Today I went down to work with some kids at a preschool. They went into the library, and I was about to follow, when I remembered that the library might be closed. So I went to the front office and asked.

I was told that it would be, so, here is my actual response. “Okay. I’ll just go to the tables in the quad.”

I wasn’t angry at this point, so I can’t imagine that I came off as peeved. I wasn’t. I just moved the girls to the other table. No big deal.

So, we’re there, playing a game, and I have them working on their speech sounds. It was a fine session. I took data in my phone (I’ll lose paper, but I won’t lose my phone, so that’s where I keep all my data. Seriously. It works best). The timer went off (I set the time so I don’t have to check the clock), I kept the girls for an additional three minutes, and then sent them back to their classrooms.

And here’s where the peevishness comes in.

By the time I got to my school, the “director” of said institution had already called my boss, demanding I be removed, because I do nothing but text and play on my phone for the entire session. They talked for ten minutes, according to my boss. It only takes me four minutes to get to my school from this particular preschool, which means that they called my principal before I’d even left.

They never once asked me what I was doing with my phone. I would have told them.

But that doesn’t matter.

This woman made up stuff. She said I got a phone call (the timer did go off, but there was no phone call. Again, I have proof, which I offered up to my boss, but she declined to look at it), and that the session went down hill from there. It didn’t. It was over. She said the kids aren’t making progress, but since I dismiss 50% of my preschoolers within one year of qualifying them, I’d say they do. The proof is… in the child’s clearer speech… and my phone.

In any case, I showed my principal the data that I took–right there in my phone–as well as the data from the previous times I’d been there. Apparently, even though they  have “therapists there every day,” they’ve never actually seen one take data. Therefore, the only person who is actually doing their job and not reporting on crap they just guessed at/made up, is me.

I have data, and running proof of progress made. I didn’t just make it up. Anyone else who comes in and doesn’t take data in some fashion is doing just that… Making up the progress at a later time. Guessing. Saying, “Oh, I guess they were 50% accurate, so that’s what I’ll say.”

A guess is not data.

Now, I’m not in trouble, because I have documented proof of what I was doing. But the fact that I had to defend myself against an attack is mind boggling. The fact that I had to spend my time calling my bosses and making sure they knew about this before it becomes an even bigger issue pisses me off.

This place pisses me off.

I suppose, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should say there has been bad blood between this site and myself in the past. Monk got kicked out of this site. They said she was “autistic.” They said she had a language impairment. Apparently forgotten what her mother does for a living. They were wrong, I knew they were wrong, and I told them so. What makes things worse is that Monk’s preschool teacher–at this same site–told her she didn’t like her. I know this is true, because Monk told me, and then I heard from other parents that this teacher would talk about my child to them. All while Monk was standing there.

Monk was two years, four months old. (I know, right?)

Needless to say, I pulled her. But when I got assigned the site, I took it, because, well, it’s my job. And it had been three years. I’m a big girl.

The lady at the front insulted Monk to my face my first day back in that building. I said nothing, but I wanted to claw her eyes out. In any case, I know they didn’t want me, and I think they’ve been trying to get rid of me ever since. I know they say stuff to parents behind my back. Sometimes, I even get to hear it.

I guess we’ll have to see what happens when I go back next week.


The Rant

In the year since I started this blog, I’ve never ranted about politics. Seriously, never. So I’m going to break my own rule about discussing politics and have my rant. If I offend, sorry about that. It’s not my intention to offend.

But, seriously, amidst all the budget cuts, I can’t help but post about the cuts to education.

I know, if I manage to offend anyone, that the first thing someone will say is, “Just be thankful you have a job.”

But here’s the thing… In my profession, I’m already underpaid. Unlike most teachers, I could go work private sector and make more money, and I can’t tell you how often I’ve been tempted to do just that. I work where I do because I love the kids, and I thought, by working in the schools, I could make a difference. And, IMHO, I’ve done just that. I’ve taken nonverbal kids and taught them to communicate. I always used to joke, “Oh, no one ‘s gonna die if they don’t get speech.” But you know what? That’s not true. Being able to communicate wants and needs is a basic human right. Being able to communicate thoughts and ideas, to be able to express what lies in your heart, is at the core of what it is to be human. To give a voice to a person who doesn’t have one is not only noble, it’s a gift.

So don’t tell me I haven’t saved a life. I may not have performed CPR, I may not be revered the way a doctor is, but in my own way, I have saved a life. When you meet a speech pathologist, thank her (or him, but mostly her) for the gift she’s given to the people she works with. She’s given them the ability to communicate. Provided them with the ability to express that spark that makes us human.

But, apparently, I’m not worth the money they’re paying me. I should be grateful they’ve decided to pay me at all, I suppose. I’ve even heard people–being interviewed by CNN, no less–say that the best teachers would do it for free, simply for the love of doing it.

And I wanted to vomit, because that, my friends, is bullshit.

It’s bullshit because only the independently wealthy have the wherewithal to work for free. I love what I do, but I need to feed my kids too.  People who work for free are called volunteers. I went to school for seven years to do what I do, and not just anyone can do it. I am not a volunteer.

Would you get up and go to work every day if you didn’t get some sort of monetary reward for it? Most of us wouldn’t.

I love my job, and I’m glad I have one. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be paid for it.

Teaching, like many professions that are dominated by women, is undervalued. So many people think that because they went to fifth grade, they can teach fifth grade. What people don’t understand is that teaching is hard. It’s harder than the coursework. It’s working long after your contract time. I don’t know a single teacher who works 9-3 (in fact, we’re contracted for an hour beyond that), and I don’t know a single teacher who doesn’t come in over vacations, or correct papers at night, or work long hours planning. We get paid for seven hours, but I can guarantee you, the children we serve get far more of our time.

When the economy was great, construction workers weren’t volunteering their time to educate children. No, they were out making more money. I didn’t see the people who were making money hand over fist offering teachers raises, either. In point of fact, my mother, back in 1973 (the last time she subbed), made only ten dollars less per day than what a sub does in 2011. In my eight years in district, during the time the state was flush with money and had a surplus, teachers got one four percent raise, spread out over two years. So, no, don’t cut our pay. We have to make a living too.

And, weird, laying off teachers doesn’t help unemployment rates. The private sector doesn’t create more jobs to stimulate the economy because a whole passel of teachers got laid off or had their pay cut.  In fact, laid off teachers don’t spend money. And teachers who take a ten percent pay cut spend ten percent less.

I think that means the private sector suffers too.

Teachers didn’t mess up the budget. Teachers didn’t cause the economy to tank. And when the politicians scream about no new taxes, what do they really think a pay cut is for teachers? Essentially, my friends, it’s an income tax only teachers have to pay.

Teaching is a noble profession. It’s a calling as much as being a doctor or a pastor  or a nurse is (another undervalued profession, IMHO) is. It’s a passion and a way of life. Without teachers, there would be no doctors or lawyers, no nurses, police officers, businessmen or politicians. There’s not a single profession today that isn’t dependent on teachers.

Well, maybe professional panhandler isn’t, but someone must have taught him to write “Will work for food.”

Just sayin’.

An Atypical Typical Peer

On Friday, I took Chewey in to be the “typical peer” in the classroom for preschoolers with autism.

I say “typical peer” in quotes because he’s been being pretty wretched in his own preschool classroom. He’s been doing things that mortify me as his mother. Basically being difficult, but many of the things they say he’s doing I’ve never heard him do. Not once.

On Thursday, he had a really bad day, and I decided both Chewey and his teacher needed a break, so I took him to my school, on the pretense that he was trying out being a typical peer in our room. This wasn’t exactly true: I needed  to go to work, and I thought, with me in the room, he might be able to hold it together.

I worried, because we have some very difficult behaviors in that room, and Chewey’s behaviors can be… difficult. I worried he’d try to take on the most aggressive kid in the class and get his tiny rear-end handed to him. I worried he’d pick up on behaviors. I worried he’d actually demonstrate bad behavior to kids whose behaviors are, often times, really, really difficult.

He surpassed all of my expectations. The other “typical” kids who’ve come into that room have spent the morning crying and not returned. Chewey, having attended daycare since he was 12 weeks old, ignored all the bad behavior–and there was plenty of it, seeing as how it was the last day of school. The behaviors–everything from biting to screaming–didn’t even phase him.

What was more impressive was how the other kids followed what he did, and how Chewey recognized that he was the leader of the group. He had them all lined up on the wall when I told him that’s what we did. He convinced five of the eight to be quiet. One boy, who puts up a fight every time he has to clean up after snack, cleaned up on his own after watching Chewey do it.

He greeted everyone in the class. He introduced himself, and started conversations with everyone, even those who are nonverbal, and he waited with a patience uncommon for an adult for their answers. He offered up fields of two when his conversational partner didn’t answer.

Example conversation:

Chewey: “How are you?”

Partner: No answer.

Chewey: “Are you good?” (Demonstrates thumbs up) “Or bad?” (Shows the thumbs down).

Partner: “Good.”

One boy, who never answers these kinds of questions, actually looked at his shoes and said, “I happy.”

We were all amazed.

But what was the most amazing was when Chewey had the most aggressive boy in the class engaged in pretend play.

He and this other boy, after having a brief conversation, played pirates. I know it was all Chewey’s idea, because all of a sudden, the other little guy started using words like “swashbuckle” and “scalawag,” which are Chewey words. They played for a good ten minutes, pretending to slay sea monsters and steal treasure, something this child has never done without adult support.

I have never been so proud of my son.

I have never been so convinced of the power of a typical peer model.

We’ve been working on greetings with some of these boys for months. We’ve been working on desensitization to touch since October with others. But the one they talked to first was my son. The one they all wanted to hold hands with as we walked to the park? The same.

The one who got them to pretend, the one who got them to make eye contact, the one they took turns with was not a teacher or an aide, but a typical peer who didn’t judge them for being different. Who offered them choices without being told to do it.

Chewey recognized they were different, and was totally OK with that. He wasn’t scared of them, as the other children were. He was ready, willing and able to be their friend, and they responded to that.

He showed me he can be a leader. I knew he had a kind heart, but I never knew how kind.

I have always loved my son, but I don’t know if I ever really knew him. I think you can judge another person’s character by how they treat those who are different, who are less fortunate. Chewey is a lot of things, but he showed me a compassionate nature I don’t think I ever recognized in him. He’s not afraid of people who aren’t like him. He demonstrated an empathy toward these kids that I don’t think most adults have.

After all, I’ve seen the stares in the WalMart. Everyone with a child with autism knows how adults will stare, and make rude comments, and walk the other direction when that child throws one of their colossal fits. Shoot, I’ve gotten those stares and comments whenever I’ve had to do the “walk of shame” with one of my typical, albeit volatile, children.

Chewey didn’t do any of those things. Because he’s better than that. And bless him for it.

He showed me that he’s the perfect typical peer. He’s been in daycare, so he knows the drill. He knows to ignore behaviors. But the one thing he did, that you can’t teach, was forgive and move on after a child calms down. There was no judgment in my Chewey. They’d calm down and he’d play with them. No comments. No stares. No crying in the corner like the other kids did.

Just acceptance.

We could all learn a lot from a four-year old.