Friday, May 3, 2013

Make Good Choices!

You remember the line, don't you? Jamie Lee Curtis' character in "Freaky Friday?" Her parting words to her moody teenage daughter, "Make good choices!" It became a joke in our family. Not that I said it, but the vocal inflection in which I used when I said it. My girls knew I meant the words, but I also meant to have them leave me in the morning with a smile.

Mornings are hard in our house. I am NOT a morning person. My husband isn't either, but he can be pretty chatty in the morning. He's learned over the years that I am not really the one to chat with in the a.m. My oldest daughter is like I am in the morning. Not chatty, kinda grumpy. My youngest daughter, on the other hand, apparently thinks she has been saving up all of the words she couldn't use while she was sleeping and share them ALL with us first thing in the morning. I have a look that evidently speaks to her. This look says, "Too. Many. Words. Too. Early."

But usually by the time everyone is ready to go out the door, we're all in a good enough mood to joke around. It used to be with me telling the girls to "make good choices!" For the last couple of years it's been a morning routine with my youngest, who is now 17, which goes like this:

Me: "Did you take your meds? (answer could go either way.) Do you have all your shit? (because I don't like driving to the high school at 7:30 a.m.) Do you have your phone? (same reason.) I love you."

JK: "I love you, too."

Me: "Have a good day."

JK: "Don't tell me what to do!"

I love it. Quality conversation with a 17 year old girl.

Today we had a different conversation. Today it did have to do with choices. Choices of how she can react to her Relationships teacher, an old-school FCS teacher who is on her way out. Retiring, thank goodness. I'm sure she's a lovely lady, but I'm also sure she has no idea how to use the grading program, since she had daily assignments listed in the assessment boxes (which carry a heavier percentage of the grade) and JK didn't give a quality effort on said daily assignments, and at conferences in February it appeared she was failing the class. She wasn't. She hates the class and really doesn't care for the teacher, but she knows she has to learn to get along with people of authority she doesn't like, so it's a learning experience.

I'm also pretty sure she didn't bother reading my daughter's 504 plan, or if she did she has no idea what those letters mean behind her name. Maybe she should look up what "ODD" stands for. Yes, JK can be odd, but that's not what it stands for. Oppositional Defiance Disorder. In a nutshell, it means if you back her in a corner using your position of authority, she's going to come out swinging. Plan accordingly.

But I digress (like I always do). Back to the "make good choices."

In Relationships, they are discussing psychological disorders, and Monday they discussed autism. They watched a video (which I'm tempted to say was a reel-to-reel given how I feel about the situation) about a boy and his severely autistic brother. During the discussion part of the class, the teacher showed her ignorance about the autism spectrum and lumped all individuals with autism in the severely autistic category. JK came home pretty upset, and the first thing she asked me was if autism was a disease. Not knowing where this was coming from, I explained to her that disease was a convenient term to use, but I wouldn't classify it as a disease. She then proceeded to inform me that her teacher talked about how "debilitating" the disease of autism was, and how some individuals with autism have a good chance of functioning in society someday.

Okay, now Mama Bear was beginning to emerge. I asked a few more questions about the discussion, which not only entailed the teacher discussing individuals with autism, but a few students trying to explain that autism was a spectrum, and not all individuals with autism are as severe as the boy in the video. These explanations were answered with a smug smile and a look of condescension and the discussion was moved along according to her lesson plans.

I asked if she wanted me to say something to the teacher or to her counselor, to which she immediately said no, for fear she would become a part of the next classroom discussion. I stored away my angry mother eyes and tamped down my feelings of anger in hopes the next day would be a better one.

Tuesday they discussed bi-polar disorder. JK isn't, but I'm sure she's seen a list of symptoms and has questioned it in her mind. I know I have. Pair that with the fact that her hackles were already up from the day before, and I'm sure JK was ready to pick apart what the teacher had to say. The part she chose to share with me was the teacher explaining how individuals with bi-polar disorder lead such debilitating lives on a daily basis. I took a deep breath.

I tried to explain to JK that this teacher was discussing the extremes of each of these diagnoses, and not the levels of severity they each can hold. JK gave me a look of understanding, but no words. I felt defeated by her expression.

Back to this morning and our discussion; I called her in my room and told her that she had two choices when she went into Relationships today. 1) She could be offended by the obvious ignorance of her teacher's explanations, or 2) she could take them for what they were worth:  the simple explanations of someone who doesn't know any better. (Okay, I added another part in there about it being a bitter old woman whose career was about to end, but that was more of a pep talk.)

Those choices are hard ones to make. The choice of how you react to someone's ignorance or misunderstanding of an issue. There comes a point where you have to figure out if what you say is going to make a difference to the person you're trying to explain it to. There are just some people that just don't get it. And by "it" I mean any other point of view besides their own. It doesn't matter if you present facts to them that contradict what they believe, they just don't care. They have an idea in their head and that's that. End of story. 

So over the years you learn to smile and nod and let them think whatever it is they want to think, no matter how incorrect or inaccurate or ignorant it may be. It might be that what they think is written in ink on their lesson plans and there is no room for discussion or alternate ways of thinking. It might be that they read it somewhere and if it's in writing, then it must be true. It might be how they were taught or how they were brought up, and they just don't know any better, and they don't have the ability to entertain other opinions. Or it could just be that they're ignorant assholes and there is just no way you are ever going to change their minds.

So tell me: what good choices did you make today?