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113 Learning Iwrote and hand delivered a letter to Michael’s elementary school principal after he brought home a project on Native Americans, complete with a Crayola picture of a chief in feathers and war paint, and a story scratched out in his emerging block print. The project was intended to provide a sample of his work, proof of progress or not, and a prompt for discussion at his upcoming Individual Education Plan (IEP). And, what a piece of work it was. The first and only line read, “My name is Crazy Horse because I like to act crazy.” My letter to the principal suggested, that perhaps, just maybe, it might have been a good idea to teach the kids that Crazy Horse was a courageous Lakota named for his father, to talk a bit about Little Big Horn, and to mention the monument in South Dakota. I wrote quickly, because I didn’t want this issue to cloud my son’s IEP which was within a week. I wrote deliberately, nearly breaking my pencil as I pushed words onto paper. I wrote stoically, because I believed the warrior I was becoming needed to refuse to cry. The response was speedy—a retreat of sorts—yet unsatisfying. As Jim and I sat across from the principal in his chilly, cramped office the next day, his pale skin was embellished with two rosy, embarrassed circles, the size of half-dollars. He remarked, “Maybe the teachers thought it would be cute.” The sting of Jim’s foot landing on my toes compelled me to swallow the lava that was about to spew from my mouth. 114 ♦ Life with a Superhero I replaced the venom with a terse, “Hmmm…It’s not cute.” That evening, I received a call from one of the teachers, apologizing for her insensitivity. She explained, “I was in a rush. And, anyway, we let special education kids fill in their own blanks. We just thought funny Indian names were a good way to go. Nothing else fit into the schedule. We have a large number of kids and we had to get done what we could in the special-ed room.” In that moment, as I pondered the plight of children with special needs, I understood an iota of Crazy Horse’s fury at the denigration of his people and the push to remove them from their lives and their land. I lost it. Speaking in decibels louder than, say, a Stones concert, I left this teacher unmistakably aware of my views. In between my sputtering and pontificating, that teacher may have heard me claim that special education students deserve historical truth, scientific facts, and the same information as typical students; that we should not let any child erroneously fill in blanks; that the special education teacher’s challenge is to adapt curriculum in a ways to achieve IEP goals in a general classroom; and, that schedules must accommodate learning and change accordingly. She may have caught on that I didn’t want my child coddled. She probably sensed that I wanted to throw up at the notion of my child being patronized. She most likely—despite the deafening volume of my voice—heard me beg that I just wanted my child included, but only in meaningful ways. I regret the tantrum. I do. It was not me at my finest. But the anger was real and had been mounting for quite some time. ♦ ♦ ♦ It is amazing, how strong and direct a projectile a phone can be; the same object that in one moment is cradled between ear and shoulder, can, in the next flash, be easily grasped and hurled toward the ground. The phone can become a weapon for no real human target, but rather for a metaphorical destruction of words uttered by someone, invisibly , via the courtesy of electric wires. I’ve seen the insides of a phone Learning ♦ 115 tumble out of its protective casing and expose batteries, buttons, and circuit boards. I know it’s an overdramatic analogy, but it resembles what I imagine my heart might look like if it were dismantled from my body, then frozen and crushed; indeed, this process was cold and heart-shattering. And it’s true: I’ve hurled a phone . . . or two. You see, it took months to find a preschool that was willing to include Michael. It took hours of pressing odd combinations of numbers on phones, hoping for someone friendly, someone educated, to answer on...


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MARC Record
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