Greetings friends and family and my goodness how time continues to fly now in 2016. It's been some time friends since last entering updates to this blog. Not since the turn of the new year have we really taken time to reflect and write.
We are currently in Tulsa OK on this mid morning Tuesday. We'll head to yet another state park on our way to Wichita KS for our Wed. show then head east to Nashville and working our way up to Chicago before heading west. This run seems to be one that continues indefinitely possibly lasting into August which would be a full year of this family/teacher/musician experiment.
We with the help of Todd Tue, Logan Nickloy & their families, volunteers, students, fellow teachers etc. have managed to drive over nearly 28,000 miles covering nearly every state of the lower 48, playing well over 110 shows, talking with hundreds if not thousands of peeps via face to face, email, phone calls regarding the challenges of teaching in our present day system of public education; namely Special Education. My goodness there's some reflection needed.
Why? Why have we done this? What have we learned? Can it change anything within the realms of education? What will we do after this coming August as we plan to enroll our kiddos back into a structured learning environment? So many questions:)
As to the why; like any young family we're searching for answers. We're grateful for opportunities and freedoms but still asking "What's the best way to live for our family?". I think that's a valuable tool for anyone. If the 'drudge' begins and the head is hanging low far too often take a breath. Within a family nucleus having children that can become an impossibility. One has financial obligations, health concerns etc. With that being the case we all have to choose what best fits within our lives to answer these questions of "why". But I do feel certain that sacrifices of comfort and stability are well worth it. Yes it's damn hard ha ha but at the same time so very giving:)
Regarding the impact on education/special education; I'd say this 10 month journey thus far has answered one thing very clearly. We are not a country or people that values quality public education based on the limited resources allotted from such enormous wealth. And the only thing that truly determines success for a student in Special Education is the specific skills and convictions that individual teacher and parent advocate for and provide.
Granted the overall system has improved yes since EHA/IDEA of the 70's. That must be acknowledged. The climate of how Special Education is perceived and talked about is one of intervention and advocacy. Parents know that the Law is on their side when fighting for the rights of their children within public schools. Social media is exploding with amazing video clips of how students with varied diagnosis are being celebrated for their accomplishments. Technology within our schools provides communication and avenues of peer development. Specialists in PT, OT, Speech Pathology continue to raise the bar for modifications and training. Parents are organizing amazing communities for their adult children with job placements and relationships that are meaningful and loving. YES THINGS HAVE GOTTEN BETTER:):):) But........in my opinion (disclaimer here) if we look at the overall picture; the turn over rate for SPED teachers, the amount of dissatisfied and isolated families at the hands of Public Ed, the fight for additional services and funding, the ratio imbalance of teacher/student, the rate of unemployment and possible incarcerations due to a lack of intervention, the battles that pit District against Family due to a lack of state funding/servies etc. It's clear that we can be doing better and SHOULD be doing better if properly prioritized.
So with that being said it goes back to one simple truth "ACT LOCALLY". At this point legislation at the state and federal level cares not for the grumblings of a balding 40 yr old fiddler, however I will still vote into office (hopefully) those that prioritize education. I will still call my elected officials to express my concerns. I will sign petitions, walk in marches, wave banners and cry out loud "SAVE OUR SCHOOLS SAVE OUR STUDENTS!!!" but all the while I will volunteer at Special Olympics from time to time. I'll visit students in the community or within schools. I will reach out to parents to just talk and catch up. I will give my time when I can in order to improve the reality for this wonderful community of families and students. See I'm not saying that in order to CHANGE the system we need to drop everything and revolt ha ha. Though I've felt this way for a long time. No rather if we all at the LOCAL level acted just a wheeeeeeeeee bit more, say 45min a month even, in providing relationships, social opportunities, mentoring, tutoring, parent nights off etc. for families of a child in need we could actually improve the 'system'. In that way WE BECOME a branch of the system that is there to service the child. WE as a community acknowledge that we can do MORE. And YES I've seen this but there needs to be MORE of it VAST AMOUNTS MORE.
I could continue but I see this is far too long already and my guess is a good many of you tuned out and have moved on already ha ha ha ha. I too have a limited attention span and children currently poking me in the butt pleading "Come ooooooonnnnnn Daaaaaaad". But I do want to end on this final thought. It's clear that legislative change and state/fed funding will not improve over night. It's clear that good teachers will continue to leave this profession due to varied challenges, budgets of salary and levels of stress. It's certain that parents and students, our friends and neighbors, will face many obstacles and be made to fight for the limited opportunities available. The reality is difficult plane and simple. BUT oh yes B B B B BUT if you and I and he and she and they and them spend just a tad more time thinking of these challenges and then actually act by reaching out to families, volunteering at schools, volunteering at Special Olympics functions, creating a eCard train, buy a grocery shop etc. the life of someone in need improves. It freaken' improves and that's the difference. That's the difference between always hearing "No that's not possible" to "YES I'd love to come over for a picnic!" or "YES I'd looooove for you to baby sit or play or hang out with my kids tonight!" or "YES you can totally come with me to the dentist cuz it's crazy and isolating when I go alone!" ha ha ha. And though this may be a natural response meaning "help out, volunteer, reach out" when folks are in need I myself feel hopeful. Hopeful in knowing that though I may not be able to change the beast of SPED I can do my damnedest to help the child and family from feeling dumped on over and over again.
Whooooosh that felt good to write. Whether this has been read or not it's a good thing to process as a Dad, a Teacher (still licensed and within the heart) and a Musician. In order to find the answer ya gotta ask the question BUT ha ha ya gotta be willing to figure out what the answer is. In my case I had to drive nearly 30,000 miles and live in an RV with my family for a year ha ha ha ha.
Peace to ya friends hope to see ya on the road picken' or in the classroom:) Cheers - Konrad