String Theory

Screenshot 2016-05-12 11.12.45

This piece is dedicated with love to the B family! You are awesome. Thank you to The New Yorker Magazine, 16 May 2016 edition, for a cartoon which best explains the complexities of connections in and around who does what when it comes to a 504 and/or IEP.

Looking at this image is the ever present reminder the student is in the middle of a complex, abstract equation of life –  every single connection is to the student, yet the strings often have to be connected, manipulated and flexed by the parent(s). The toughest job I have as a teacher/tutor is to assist in getting the right strings pulled in the exact right way to obtain the most appropriate assistance for any student.

Some days it is rope pulling (when I wish to keel haul someone); some days it is floating spider silk so gently, so discretely no one realizes they are caught in the ‘web’. There are days when only wool tapestry thread , coated with wax  will mend the hole and some days where the finest, purest and cleanest cotton must be used for carefully suturing voile with no known evidence. There are meetings where a hole needs to be made and sewn together later. I have had to use verbal seam rippers at times to be clear.

The existence of  confirms it is not just my perception, it is the perception of those of us on the front lines who wish to change the perception of special ed.  Before we had the label special ed, these children were often beaten, mentally abused and not cared for or about. They were and continue to be expendable based on how our various legislatures dysfunction in the U.S.

Most of our prisons are filled with people who fell into the category of special ed, if someone had but only noticed the discrepancy and got past the issues of race, poverty in upbringing and children who did not conform to a model of normal. The foster care system, coupled with special ed is almost a direct ticket to one of Dante’s  seven levels of hell as you rarely find anyone interested in weaving the fabric to make some one’s life whole.

I prefer to see the ‘system’ as a weaving machine. The better I become at woof and warp, shuttling the yarn, adjusting the tension, the more likely I can obtain the services to improve the quality of life for many, deplete the folks in line for prison and give the gift of loving to learn.

To be able to partake in the belief and then the journey  Sakichi Toyoda  began and his son Kiichiro continued would be to move special ed from flour sack rags to

MATERIAL from Theory

  • 88% wool, 12% silk
  • Dry clean
  • Italy
STYLE #: G0171201


It took a long time to get us the Toyota car of today and the perseverance was extraordinary.  We can get there!,default,pd.html?dwvar_G0171201_color=B7H&start=5


Autonomy is NOT for the weak of spirit.

In the final months of 2015 and beginning 2016, I learned how the word autonomy is often carelessly substituted for it’s  more distant cousin, tenure.  In the State of Iowa, educators at the K-12 level determined the use of the word autonomy  was a great way to cover many aspects of teacher professionalism, including stagnation.  I am sure autonomy was meant to reward teachers for persistent professional development and changes in their professional practice in much the way tenure is handed out. The problem is tenure and autonomy do not mean the same thing, do not convey the same entitlements and both are not a singular, crowning achievement. Both words are based upon concepts of good judgement,  efficacy and use of prudent thought- especially in the realm of education.  Autonomy does not mean ‘right to self govern’ by caveat and it is not an excuse for poor teaching practices.

Autonomy has now been bandied about in a number of  meetings I have attended at the bequest of parents for students who fall in the category of being entitled to a 504 ( ) or IEP (   It is the practice of misusing the term autonomy which has become an anathema to the education process. I have reason to believe administrators at the school, district, county and state levels inherently know the mis-appropriation of the word and yet have nothing else to use to cover what does not happen in the classroom.

Although I understood the context of how autonomy was being used, it took multiple school districts and situations for me to determine the consistency of the application of the word to get around students with different needs. The common practice  in Iowa seems to be identifying a behavioral problem instead of the learning issue/disability preventing the student from succeeding.  While it is disturbing to see so many students not receive appropriate services and disheartening to see it covered up by selective use of vocabulary, it does not change the fact – Iowa can and should do better.

In my brief experience(s) with local schools and districts, I have witnessed a pretty firm degree of  intractability and disengagement from teachers and administration. I can not help but wonder how things could be different if these self same people decided to work with students and parents.  I need to introduce the word fulcrum . Fulcrum is much more useful and seems to actually change situations.


Sad In(deed)

The common comparison to business and education is oil and water as  oil is immiscible in water.  The reality  is much more complex. Business and education are more akin to taking sludge from a landfill, adding it to  water  and wondering why nothing grows.  If the sludge has nothing living in it and can not photosynthesize food, it can not live and grow. Business people lack the understanding of why you need to start with something living and feed it or expect the organism to photosynthesize. What a business person sees is some dirt which they wish to monetize if they could just force it to grow……

A business person will do everything in their power to force the sludge to grow, in spite of every scientist stating it can not happen. Business people hire marketing teams and business development specialists who tell them to ‘plant trees’ and the sludge kills off the forest and then some. The board  will then hire more marketing and business development people (who tell them to plant different trees) and the routine continues as they make money off the planted trees while they stay alive.The problem of the murkiness in the water eludes them. Instead of talking to a scientist, they make up explanations and continue to believe they can sell their idea.

The best marketing, business development and sales teams are those which can help in suspending belief long enough for the business to metaphorically grow and be sold.

Not all businesses in education function this way. It is the indiscriminate use of resources which fails the business idea, not the fact it is related to education.  The resources are misappropriated as a business person can not logistically interact with an educator under any pretense other than money. An educator generally commodifies education as a process, journey, undertaking for life which has no explicit monetary value. In fact, education is seen as its own reward to most educators.

The best example I have of where business and education mixed to make something wonderful: Khan Academy. The dream started so small and became something so large AND the money followed instead of directed what Khan Academy did as an organizations.

My experiences of businesses and education have proven  out. at least twice, they do not work together and in fact, business is toxic to education. In addition, all I have to do is read the news about for profit schools and feel equally nauseated.

I have been involved with organizations who have knowingly done the type of ‘deal’ where they even obtained not for profit status, as if this would some how cleanse the soil, so to speak. Aspire Public Schools, a charter school venture and now Wyzant, an online tutoring site which decided to walk down Wall St. with Accel Partners have both attempted to grow the trees and neither one has a forest worthy of even making toothpicks.

Aspire Public Schools has used taxpayer money and investment money to mis-educate children under a premise they could never demonstrate as advertised/marketed when they began. They have not been able to do anything substantially different from any other public school, including getting kids THROUGH college to graduation. In the case of Aspire Public Schools, what is so insidious is the level at which they have marketed their program to the most dis-enfranchised and have not delivered.  In the case of Wyzant, I have hopes they will catch on to what will be part of their reputation if they do not right the ship.

Both organizations in my example were founded by people with a simple-minded and limited view of education.  In the case of Aspire, almost anyone of any worth ran far and fast from being affiliated with them.  This includes Stanford University and many people, such as myself, who taught at Aspire under what were found to be false pretenses. This involves professors from universities and principals/administrators who were misled.

With Wyzant, it was not until Accel Partners came in and laid down the behavior expected that things became turbid.  There was some degree of transparency and trees were being planted. Accel Partners ruined that by convincing Mike and Drew they could ‘sell out’. What started as something which may have had (I am not sure) some degree of morality, became a system to make a profit off of students and their families.

Wyzant went from allowing anyone access to a variety of tutors at different price points, even those of us who take on students and reduce price in many situations and try to work out a deal, to a system where Wyzant selects tutors who are at lower commission splits unless the consumer is SAVVY enough to do their own computer search and apply to different tutors.  By directing clients to these tutors, the vulnerable students/parents are given what Wyzant has not yet been able to shape or form with sufficient reviews and other metrics. This means in many instances, the student(s) are not getting the ‘best’ possible tutors, rather, they are getting the tutors which are profitable to Wyzant.

At first I thought this situation was unique to me. Then, suddenly, something which had been long brewing – allowing tutors to have access to one another, happened. We began to share our stories and found out we were all experiencing similar issues.

Amazingly, with the openness of the social media (LinkedIn) conversation, not once has Wyzant flinched at this conversation and probably has no intention of doing anything as they are happy to be rid of those of us who obtain too much of their asset pie. The real issue is, those of us who stuck around are the ones with the good reputation, the outstanding work with students and the tutors who are so much more than Kaplan and Mathnasium storefronts, etc.

Once you lose your reputation, it is a challenge to regain it. In the meanwhile, those of us who stick with Wyzant end up carrying the burden of their poor business decisions and some icky moral/ethical baggage.

Coming Around, Slowly and Surely

In October 2014, I wrote Logic Applied……nothing new under the sun. in response to Jim Plagakis in Drug Topics. I needed to write the piece as  the once money-making enterprise, being a pharmacist, finally become an issue for reflection – at what price is the salary providing satisfaction in professional and personal spheres of life? As long as the money was good, it seems pharmacists were willing to overlook so much regarding their profession. This does not mean pharmacists do not work hard as I know otherwise. The good pharmacists work long, hard and diligent hours on behalf of their patients.

What the reflection does mean is pharmacists are finally realizing they have  the reasons and power to change their profession in general and healthcare specifically.  Their job is no longer one in which the pharmacist works for one employer for life. People such as Oluwole Williams realized it was not about the legacy, rather it was about thinking what one could do with their experience and knowledge within a specific field. Mr. Williams addressed a number of wonderful and promising ideas in the Dispensed as Written column of which I only could have added Peace Corps Volunteer. And then Kelly Howard wrote 2015: The #YearOfTheRPh, where she explained a very personal situation which changed her for the better.

There is the thinnest glimmer of hope in thinking the pharmacy profession will reach into the 21st Century. More and more pharmacists are seeing the bigger picture and looking at what they can do to create change rather than talking about what should be done. It is inspiring as pharmacy is a field which can change people’s lives. Instead of licking, sticking and filling, pharmacists can provide patients a degree of education and efficacy in the medicinal choices they make. It has been a long time coming and I am thrilled.

Instead of hospitals, insurance companies  and health care institutions defining good patient care, pharmacists now can look at how to use their fulcrum.  Amazingly this benefits ‘patients’ and  students – those who study the sciences. There will be new opportunities and careers allowing people to use knowledge and skills in different ways.

As a pharmacy tech, I am looking forward to being able to work with people who will take an interest in their patients as people and DOP’s who have an interest in more than cost metrics. Clearly Ms. Howard indicated it is time for those in the pharmacy and medical fields to stop being doormats. This is all it takes – one or two people to decide the profession has to change.

As a teacher, I am inspired to see people taking on the corporate mentality. Sharing with others the varied and rich options available through what used to be seen as a stagnated degree is exactly what education needs to see. Teachers, similar to pharmacists, have been licking, sticking,counting and ‘filling’ (in the case of teachers, student brains) far too long.  If the long-standing tradition of pharmacy can change, surely education can progress as well.

When Parents Choose NOT to Conform and Help Their Children

When I was a classroom teacher there were always parents who could not or would not conform to the basic rudiments of organization and being a back up support to their child. Part of it was the parent lacked education and was disorganized in their own life, part of it was living a complicated life with multiple jobs and then there were the parent(s) who for whatever reason had the resources, where with all and time and refused to conform as if my asking them to play a role in their child’s education was one step too far (they brought them into this world – apparently this was their entire job in their world view).

Not amazingly, the most impoverished children had  parents who tried the hardest as they realized the difference an education would make for their child. These particular parents would have sold a kidney if it would help their child. The kids of these particular parents had the message loud and clear – you must achieve something more than your parents.

It was the middle class, upper middle class and upper class (oh yes, I taught at a private school in Santa Monica, CA) who could not be bothered with the drudgery of following through on assignments, making sure the child sought out help from the teacher, hired a tutor, etc. It was these self-same parents who became nag monsters when their child was doing poorly and they wanted me to fix the problem as apparently it would seem teachers are given magic wands with their diplomas.  These parents could not be bothered to attend Back to School night or contact some one for help navigating the on-line school website portal where student agendas and grades were located.

Now, many years later as a tutor, I continue to confront these same issues with the same cast of characters. When I attempt to impose order on chaos, I am right alongside with this year’s flu vaccine……you want the shot except you might be run down for a day, your arm might hurt, you have to schedule it and so forth so you don’t obtain the shot and get virulently (literally and figuratively) angry when you get the flu.  In today’s world, most teachers post assignments on-line and computers can be checked during the course of the day. Teachers are able to respond to e-mails instead of attempting phone tag. So many things are more efficient and yet the same small group of parents can not get it together.

Whether it is fear and/or arrogance, it does not benefit your child to make the choice of not conforming. It teaches your child (without any words) what one type of lazy behavior may be and allows them to follow suit. Trust me, kids know everything – even when you tell a fib.

As a teacher, I often had anywhere from 30-180 students depending on grade level and subjects taught. Following up on one student took all my time. Uncooperative parents meant I did not ever get to sleep as I had to respond to them.  As a tutor, I typically have 20 students at various ages and abilities over different subject areas. In my case, up to 50% of those students have an identified special need which can be ‘on the spectrum Autism’ to full-blown ADHD with missing executive function skills and lack of impulse control, severe dyslexia, visual or aural processing issues, etc.  If I have 10 of those students a week, this means I must rely on the parents of these children to do what I can not do when I am only there once or twice a week.

When the parents of these and my ‘regular’ children choose not to conform and be helpful, I am limited in what I can do. The school is limited in what it can do. Change is NOT what some one else does to your child, rather it is what you create/instill/demonstrate/work on with your child. You have it all backwards if you believe a tutor or teacher has that much control over outcomes for your singular child. You are the person who needs to support the teacher and tutor in making change occur.

Sometimes parenting is difficult. Life is not fair – ever. You may have to give up your favorite TV show or social activity so you can check your child’s homework and review on-line the assignment. You may need to actively engage in studying, which is not homework; Studying is what good students do above and beyond homework. You may need to go to bed late. You may not be able to over schedule your kid and need to think about what can be cut out for the time being to get things back on track. You might need to review Algebra on Khan Academy so you CAN have a conversation with your child about math.

Whatever it is which needs to be done – please do it! This is YOUR child. Help me help your child to learn, succeed and be a productive member of society. Help me achieve the goal of self efficacy for your child by pulling your part. I want to work WITH you…..not alone.

This disease of COALG and the unfolding on college campuses everywhere.

 Idylls of the King

I found Him in the shining of the stars,
I marked Him in the flowering of His fields,
But in His ways with men I find Him not.
I waged His wars, and now I pass and die.
O me! for why is all around us here
As if some lesser god had made the world,
But had not force to shape it as he would,
Till the High God behold it from beyond,
And enter it, and make it beautiful?
Or else as if the world were wholly fair,
But that these eyes of men are dense and dim,
And have not power to see it as it is:
Perchance, because we see not to the close;—
For I, being simple, thought to work His will,
And have but stricken with the sword in vain;
And all whereon I leaned in wife and friend
Is traitor to my peace, and all my realm
Reels back into the beast, and is no more.
My God, thou hast forgotten me in my death;
Nay—God my Christ—I pass but shall not die.

-Alfred Lord Tennyson

During my childhood and into my adult years,  I was fortunate enough to know a woman named Yvonne Oshiro. She was no ordinary woman. Not by a long shot. She was the mother everyone should have, most especially if you were a child with special needs. Yvonne had a love larger than the sun and hopefulness beyond the rays of said sun. If belief could make something into being, Yvonne would have been the most important and significant alchemist.

What I learned from Yvonne is too large to put into a blog, journal or book. It was the experience of a lifetime in small bites over a long period of time. I learned there are no Children of a Lesser God, there are only children who become adults. Don’t get me wrong, Yvonne did not think every born child was functional. She knew better. Yvonne grew up in Italy bordering on France in a time when surviving winter was an endeavor. Yvonne knew some children were not able to live. She loved them anyways. For the children who did live, Yvonne waged a campaign on ‘the system’ to make sure those children had access, education and human rights/dignity. Each child had a purpose and was going to live a life worthy of dignity.

Throughout my life I have worked with students at various levels. At times I am hopeful a child has  some possibility at living a meaningful life and I know when I wish we had better euthanasia laws in this country. I do not say this with cruelty or any sense of mean spirit. I say it from the point of view of the oath doctors take – do no harm. We can and often do things which are beyond reason in the name of keeping some one alive and we rob them of their dignity while providing them with something we call being alive. I also say this about cancer patients as many people seem to think being alive is the same as living a life.

In the case of children with special needs, they have a purpose beyond the medical establishment and studies surrounding what and how something happened. These children can often learn productive skills and have a life beyond a vegetative state. Many of these children would pass for Children of a Regular God if we understood what we, as a society, needed to do.

Unfortunately, even teachers in Grade K-12 have limited exposure to students with differentiated needs. There is generally a requirement of one or two courses to obtain your credential and the rest of your ‘learning’ is on the fly, in the classroom.  Since my background is speech pathology, I took years of classes in development both pre and post-partum. My learning continued on the fly, in the classroom – it was a different experience. I also had years of Yvonne ‘experience’ and wisdom under my belt.

I now work as a tutor and my students span K-12 and college. Until last year, I only had collegiate students which were ‘normal’ and needed to learn how to study. Supposedly they had the ‘capacity’.

Over the course of Fall of 2013 and Spring 2014, I was contacted by a family to tutor a student at a local private college. The conversation went in fits and bursts. A parent letting me know what the student’s needs were and being frustrated and angry, a phone call regarding navigating the behemoth of the registration department at the private college,  etc. and so forth. In the Spring of 2014, I was asked to tutor the student as things had headed south and the family was hoping there was some way to turn things around. This was a turning point for me. I so wish Yvonne had been alive to give me guidance for what I faced and ways to think about navigating the ‘system’.

All the rules and ways in which ADA works are  upended on college campuses. Colleges and universities have limits on the amount of support/assistance/help they can provide to students who are not ‘normal’. Since college professors outside the education department are not required to know about how students learn and differentiated instruction, I was left trying to explain to various PhD professors what should be done differently for this particular student so they could succeed. None of what I suggested was challenging or difficult and all of it would benefit any other student. It was definitely not ‘routine’ lecturing and assigning essays. Furthermore, who the hell was I (I do not have a PhD) to tell a professor how to do their job. In the process of advocating for a student, I saw the unabashed ugliness of professors  and heads of departments who may be top in their field yet lacking in expertise of sharing the power of their knowledge. It was horrifying to be condescended to by professors as a tutor when both of us should have the goal of helping students learn. The hands of the director in student services (students with special needs) were also tied and the registrars office made things much more complicated and less streamlined than necessary. By time all was said and done, the student was severely penalized on a number of fronts. I was penalized by not being able to help the student. I was brought on to late to unravel a mess  even the best knitter would call something worse than frogging.

Whether the student did or did not succeed, whether the student could have succeeded without a tutor and support is a discussion for a different day. What is at hand is the very elemental idea of providing a student with the pieces in place to succeed.  A college education at a private university should not be cobbled together from duct tape and baling wire not even provided by the registrar or dean of the school.

When a college or university looks to accept a student, one of the elements under consideration is whether this student has the capacity to persist and finish their studies so they may obtain a degree. At this particular university, the student was not allowed to enroll in the fall as they had to prove they could handle 3 + classes at a time (full-time status) instead of the one or two the student had been taking at community college previously to meet undergraduate requirements. Since this had not been explained until ‘after the fact’ to the student or parents or me, it was an unfortunate delay. The student was then ‘registered’ into classes by the registrar and put in classes with professors least likely to be willing to work with the student to help them succeed. In point of fact, some of the professors pointed out the student ‘seemed’ normal and did not understand why they might need an extension on a due date or why sentences may not be perfectly written but actually made sense or why doing oral/aural Socratic method would have told the professor everything they needed to know as the student had a challenge writing. I do not actually think there were more things this university could have done to make the student uncomfortable and to feel hopeless.

Instead of doing the task at hand of educating a student, this university did everything as obstructive and not conducive to learning as was possible. This was not the end.

I was subsequently referred to another parent and student new at the university for Fall 2014. The student was not given the help and support on day one to meet their needs. They actually changed classes the second week of school which created a large obstacle which has not been entirely overcome at this time. The professor(s) from the same department as last year’s grief, did not learn a thing so they have made things entirely difficult.  One of the issues is the professors need to go off on tangents during lecture which is incredibly challenging for this student who has processing issues. I have seen the notes from the note taker SELECTED by the professor……they are an outline. This particular student needs more than an outline.

It is unclear what the professor (HOD) is trying to prove – they can make  a student so miserable they will leave the campus, they will make the student rue the day they ever thought this subject was important (it is, trust me), they can prove they have a PhD yet lack the substance of actually being an educator……I could go on and on. I have no clue what motivates this person to think they way they do about education.

What I do know and what I think is important would be classes on college campuses for students who need more TIME.

Some students would actually benefit from one class stretching two terms. It may be a student who is a parent, going back to college and they work full-time. They can not commit 20 hours a week and do well and have the information matter in their education. If they had two terms, they could succeed, do well and actually learn something.  It might be a student with needs for differentiated instruction. We have different high schools around the country which have block scheduling and students can have two hours a day of Algebra for one term or they can have one hour a day for two terms. Both situations fit different students. Selecting one over the other is a fancy way of selecting which students succeed…..I don’t think I need to elaborate.

No, college is not high school. Yes, we should figure out how to educate more students. What is wrong with helping students succeed if they need more time, better notes, oral/aural discourse instead of writing a paper, books on tape, etc.? What is it I am missing which makes educating the ‘not normal’ students so wrong? Would we deny a returning service member the assistance to succeed? Yes – we do that all around the country. College campuses should be beyond needing to ‘see the disability’ to serve it and yet we do it to those who would benefit so much from an education and in turn benefit our community and country.  What is it we fear so much we can not actually do what is right/correct?

Somehow something seems fishy if students are accepted to a private university and actually set up to fail. It reeks of…….making money. Children of a lesser God  seems to be the way I would describe people who see money as more important than education.

Introduction of a new acronym: TINO-Teacher in name only.

As a teacher, tutor and student advocate, my plate runs pretty full. You would be well within reason to assume I need to spend the least amount of time with teachers, principals and SPED staff at schools when dealing with students of differing needs. Alas, most of my time is sucked out by teachers pretending (and I mean this is the broadest sense of the word) to have competence in their subject, working with differentiated instruction AND communication with parents and/or myself.  On top of dealing with teachers who should be embarrassed by their inferior skill set (and not wishing to seek help/support), I have to deal with principals and district office personnel who seem to have mastered the Peter Principle so fully, they can not even provide communication.

For the above mentioned reason, teacher tenure needs to be resolved.  Don’t get me wrong. I have many teacher colleagues and principal friends who are the top 2% of all, unfortunately, I can name them on my fingers and toes – the rest have retired.  Tenure has become code for the most egregious and intractable behaviors towards students I have ever seen.

I am not anti-union. I am  absolutely against any teacher who goes into the profession to NOT interact with parents and students, most especially those who qualify under the phrase ‘Children of a lesser God (and not only due to deafness)’.

Please find what I had to spend today doing. This is after more than 10 hours of IEP work last school year (the first six hours done in one and two-hour sessions) with a marathon four-hour session which was supposedly to get this all on track.

At the end of the day, we need to start calling these folks what they are: TINO’s.  There is no other explanation.

On Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 9:34 AM, <Natalie.Berkowitz wrote:

Dear SPED DIRECTOR NAME  and PRINCIPAL NAME,     In addition, superintendent of district was sent e-mail.

I feel compelled to express my disappointment and dismay at how this school year unfolded for STUDENT NAME and, my speculative guess would be, other SPED students at this school and probably within the district.

SPED DIRECTOR NAME made it  clear to me when the marathon four-hour IEP was completed last year with both of you, the  2012-2013  school year experience would not be self-perpetuating. It is unclear what happened or who dropped the ball. It is evident with STUDENT NAME leaving  to attend a private school the ball was dropped multiple times with multiple people.

I can start with the e-mail I sent to both of you the first week of school in Sept. 2013- which was never responded to in any way. I had reasonable concerns about STUDENT NAME transition this year and apparently my concerns were well founded.

According to PARENT NAME, STUDENT NAME mother, teachers were too ‘consumed’ with work, most especially the math teacher. I repeatedly worked with PARENT NAME to ask for various things to happen so STUDENT NAME could have better success. Prying a copy of teacher or other top student notes for STUDENT NAME was all-consuming.

The math teacher hand wrote her assignments and tests – the WORST possible situation for STUDENT NAME. Not only were they handwritten, the quality would have been better if I gave 12 monkeys a laptop.  If nothing else, the layout of the assignments and tests could be organized. I am unclear where MATH TEACHER NAME obtained her credential and how she manages to work with students of varying needs. She is unwavering in her unwillingness to change and do  anything to benefit students. There is a free version of math typing software  (equation editor) which could be used.

MATH TEACHER NAME excuse of decimals and fractions being the most difficult section of the math book does not excuse doing all which is possible to assist students with alternate needs. Amazingly, when I wrote out the problems in DARK large writing, STUDENT NAME was able to do the work. It is not ‘teacher prerogative’ to write-up assignments and tests if there are students with IEP’s and specific needs.  MATH TEACHER NAME would benefit from a refresher course on what tenure provides.

Due to no adults (STUDENT NAME math help class and regular pre-Algebra class) doing even a mediocre job of follow through, STUDENT NAME had completed work incorrectly on a number of occasions and it then had to be re-done. It reinforced the wrong concepts when she was allowed to do work and not have it checked. Again, it would have been very easy for a teacher circulating the room to note this or give STUDENT NAME a couple answers on a note card so she could stop if the work was wrong. How/why STUDENT NAME never cried when work had to be redone is beyond me. It is testament to her good attitude in spite of a system hell-bent on letting her down.

When PARENT NAME told me about the delayed test scores, I was horrified. As a teacher, I know/knew which students would benefit the most from immediate  feedback as their learning disabilities required extra time and effort. Not making STUDENT NAME a ‘priority’ is ridiculous. There was a parent and tutor on board. I can not believe 15 years of teaching experience has not provided MATH TEACHER NAME with better decision-making skills.

As a credentialed math teacher, my students were taught how to do math as if it actually mattered and did not write on the assignment sheet or test. It was definitely more time-consuming to grade and look at work. It benefitted the students, not my hours of  work in the day. I am unclear why MATH TEACHER NAME could not see STUDENT NAME did her best work on graph paper (sent with her from home) and to make sure this is what STUDENT NAME used and stipulate this is what would be accepted. Likewise, in all this time, why was PARENT NAME not contacted so something could have been done.

I put together a list of questions and recommendations for PARENT NAME as I knew she was frustrated with the school. PARENT NAME submitted them to MATH TEACHER NAME.   The two which stand out most glaringly is how MATH TEACHER NAME works half a day and yet has 150 students and could not be bothered to find another math teacher, etc. at SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MIDDLE SCHOOL NAME to give morning and/or afternoon support to STUDENT NAME as needed.

The second issue was not seeing ‘highlighter pen’ on IEP.  I clearly remember wanting this on IEP last year as I have worked with teachers such as MATH TEACHER NAME. It was NOT put on IEP.  MATH TEACHER NAME should know using a highlighter is COMMON SENSE, not a modification. I have used highlighters with regular ed students to help them track negatives and decimals. It is not proscribed as SPED.

As I asked last year, do teachers in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SCHOOL DISTRICT have such bad union agreements  they only perform ‘work to rule’?  I ask this as I have never in all my life had teachers tell students they may get help at break, lunch or during class but not before or after school, where STUDENT NAME could have benefitted from a small group in an un-rushed setting. The only time I have witnessed this is when there were contract negotiations and some teachers were being a bit too hard-headed.

I also asked for PARENT NAME to be given a copy of problem answers so she (and myself) could check STUDENT NAME work. Teacher response: I will speak to somebody about having an answer key.  I also do not see this accommodation on her IEP.    Why would it be wrong to give a parent an e-mail with the answers?   The parent and tutor wished to help the student, not sell it on the black market.

In addition, MATH TEACHER NAME indicated it was difficult for her to contact all the parents of students receiving D’s and F’s on an exam.  Frankly, this indicates a re-teaching situation as the teacher did not manage to succeed in getting enough students ‘on board’. This should never have been a punishment to STUDENT NAME by not contacting PARENT NAME so something could be done immediately and I could have given extra time to the situation.

To be clear, last year I was frustrated. This year I am inconsolable at how things unfolded.  Hopefully the last 10 weeks and all of last year will not be a complete wash and STUDENT NAME will get the support she deserves.  I urge you to find out why your teachers have so much animosity to parents and tutors. Please discern  if these teachers might benefit from some refresher work on interacting with special needs students, their parents and tutors who have been on board.  It would be a complete disgrace if all students were treated in this poor manner in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SCHOOL DISTRICT.


Natalie Berkowitz

Nothing is created or destroyed. Things are transformed. Study your chemistry and zen.

Success is what an individual achieves. Progress is what happens when the world is raised up!


Parent response to same group of people after I submitted my letter with parent permission:

I want to begin with well said Natalie. Sometime you can be straight to the point and come off as harsh to some (What the IEP team thought of you last year).. However I now see why. If I would have sit back like most of the parents do and think that these teachers and principle knows best and our children are in good hands STUDENT NAME  would be left behind at this school.

I want all to understand that I have TRIED and put A LOT of trust in the school and especially PRINCIPAL NAME. I really wanted this year to get better. I do not have the time to be a single mother, a full time professional and a “principle” of the special ed dept. I have however tried to keep in contact and email all. But I get NO response back. TEACHER NAME said after our meeting face to face in his office this week he would get back to me by the end of the day… he did not. He told me that he himself has worked with special ed for a long time… Come to find out thru SPED DIRECTOR NAME that was not accurate… I ask where is the written progress report (last years excuse was system was down.. I wonder what this years excuse is) that is supposed to come home from the teachers stapled to the regular progress report… Ast. principle had no clue and has never seen that as a requirement in all his years. This shows that there is a huge disconnect. I really have no idea how to do this. I feel Very bad for those “special students” that get pushed aside, or parents did what I did and believed in the team. Then come to find out nothing actually gets followed.

I can not force teachers to be there for students. I can not change everyone’s teaching. You can not instill “caring” for students… that is something teachers should have internally.

I do not blame MATH TEACHER NAME for everything but her emails about she has 150 students – she does not have the time to reach out to me because there are too many. And that she does not see all of STUDENT NAME accommodations. It seems like another teacher with excuses. I am in AWH and very sad.

SPED DIRECTOR NAME- I know you tried. I appreciate everything you did for us last year. However once you walk away from the school, it seems to me everyone just returns back to old habits.

I work very hard to keep up with STUDENT NAME. I know she has tried and she could be a lot more successful if a teacher had the time or followed her IEP. Such as pulling her out for testing… I found out that STUDENT NAME gets pulled out for test and put into a huge room with other students not even taking test… how is this RIGHT? Why PRINCIPAL NAME do you not know what is going on with these children? Why has STUDENT NAME not even seen her aid. Why on 10/30/13 did I send an email to TEACHER NAME and PRINCIPAL NAME begging for a parent meeting and have yet to hear a response.

The state and the district gives funds to HELP! But when a parent reaches out NO one is there… so as you guys forget or are too busy to respond I feel your letting my STUDENT NAME suffer… which means you do not care… I really do not understand where the funding goes if no one helps.

I can not save any of the other students. And I did NOT want to change STUDENT NAME school but I am so overwhelmed with the lack of cooperation.

This email will not help STUDENT NAME but I am hoping that someone can make sure her friends are not having to go thru what STUDENT NAME is going through.

I want to be clear SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MIDDLE SCHOOL NAME does have some great teachers. TEACHER NAME and TEACHER NAME, and TEACHER NAME all have been great and I appreciate those. STUDENT NAME loves TEACHER NAME class as well, however she never seems to have time to help me figure out this IEP mess.

I am sure last year this is what teachers wanted, for me to take STUDENT  NAME away. Its always easier to have the student leave then fix the problems.

I wish everyone the best,