The fall semester brings my favorite season and also, this year, an unexpected bout of teaching Intro Phil, which class only enrolled after registration closed so I was rather unprepared, the class that is by far the hardest class I teach because there’s no room whatsoever for winging it and I have to think “deep thoughts” and understand them, at least momentarily, so it takes a ton of prep, which is hard since I did not think I was teaching and took on other work, and even I don’t know where this sentence is going.
Frankly – and perhaps the above is indicative of this, hmm? -- my life generally feels out of balance, especially because of the difficulty of earning a living in a rural area while raising two high-needs kids. I’ve taken some steps to try to remedy this, but the biggest one was going to be firmly establishing a new, wildly lucrative line of work (Ramp up the editing? Finish book proposal and become publishing sensation? Teacher coaching???) this semester while I wasn’t teaching.
My Laotong (old same, best friend) recently shared some thoughts on balance. She said one of her wise teachers once told her that stable, even balance is a myth. That to really accomplish something you need to pour everything into that bucket, rather than trying to just dribble a little so your other bucket(s) stay(s) evenly filled. Except. If I pour any more energy into my career there just won’t be anything left for my family...and meanwhile my career is a hodgepodge that’s confusing even to me.
It’s also time for G’s three year evaluation. At times like this -- with multiple daily emails, calls, written correspondences, meetings... -- parenting my older child alone feels like another full-time job. Our last three-year eval was a Battle Royale about which I wrote in PROCESS, REPRESENT, TOOT, so grueling I am loathe to even recall it. But recall – and strategize - I must. His current school is proposing more testing, including adding testing for ADHD, which I thought was ruled out by/folded into his autism diagnosis years ago. Their explanation is that with more results they will be able to develop more tools for helping G succeed as he heads into high school next year.*
But I have to balance the school’s need for testing, documentation, and tools with how much G hates testing, how vulnerable he is to feeling singled-out, how much time this barrage of testing will take away from his much-needed academics. And we also must, at the same time, make sure their assessments reflect how G really behaves in real life contexts (he’s great at social skills in a two or three person small group environment, for example; outside of that, not so much; there’s a similar disparity for academics).
I need to try to get the right balance between the labels/tools/testing bucket and the acceptance bucket. And it’s hard to even know how to find that balance when I am facing piles like that in Figure I in addition to my work piles (not pictured).
Figure I -
The Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning
The Social and Atypical Behavior Questionnaire
The NICHQ Vanderbilt Assessment Scale
The Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition
Figure II –
When you see such a plethora of tests you cannot help but think as to how this is your child's LIFE! The answers to these questions will be used to evaluate a human being, your beloved child.
You want them to be accepted and celebrated as they are, as well as situated in school so as to best Learn. You wonder how the oversimplifications of what feels like millions of multiple choice or scaled (always-often-sometimes-never, and so on, see Figure II) questions can possibly reflect your child, and pray the testing will somehow be helpful.
You never, ever, ever want your child to read these generalized forms that aim to identify, problematize (so as to receive services), and label (ditto) and feel bad about him or herself, or judged, or reduced to a standardized series of questions and answers.
You have to go to the bathroom many times while filling them out.
Or maybe that’s just me?
Consider that while I try to find balance in testing and school in general for my son, the time this effort takes shifts the aforementioned balance I am trying to find in work...and the balance I am trying to find with my zooming into teen-land-three-years-early (she just turned 10!) daughter...
I need less in the bucket that holds stuff like me crying in the bathroom for an hour because I suddenly find out there’s a random, last-minute half-day and my schedule is so precariously micro-scheduled that this puts me over the edge. That’s a balance that’s too delicate!
When I look around me, I see that I am not alone in feeling unbalanced. Perhaps that’s because I now know – thankfully! – a lot of other families and people who fill a Full Spectrum of their own. But it’s not just them. As my fall 2015 Intro Phil students say, this system is hard. It’s impossible for most of us to do as Aristotle advised and become a “happy philosopher,” spending your time reasoning and pondering...
But we get up every day and go after that elusive balance, don’t we? Perhaps that’s what balance is in the real world?
Full Spectrum Mama