August 25, 2010

Mea culpa

Fighting the battles for a special needs child changes a person. I suspect every parent of a kid with a disability will tell you the same thing, how the people they've become are so far from where they began. And while it's fashionable and swell to talk about the positive changes and the ways we grow as people, the reality is that we also change for the worse. We harden to the world sometimes. From our positions of desperation and occasional lack of empowerment, we become cynical or jaded. Or even paranoid.

At the very least, we can become overly sensitive.

I can make all the excuses I want about why we reacted the way we did to our first meeting with Schuyler's new mainstream teacher. I can talk about red flagging, which is a very real phenomenon. I can talk about how we truly felt, in that moment, that we were being snubbed. I don't wish to minimize how that can feel, and how very often that is the case with parents of kids like ours.

But the thing I need to do now, most of all, is to apologize to Schuyler's new teacher. I received an email, never mind from whom, that shed a lot of light on the situation, and made me realize that yes, we almost certainly misread the situation. And because I am who I am, I took that misunderstanding and put a microphone in front of it. For that, and for hurting the feelings of a good public servant, I am truly sorry. I look forward to the opportunity to make that apology face to face.

Here's the other thing I need to say. As humbling and even mortifying as it is to come before you and make this apology, I'm still happy to do so. More than happy, I'm relieved and cautiously optimistic. This teacher apparently loves Schuyler, and while I can't imagine she'll ever grow very fond of Schuyler's jackass father, I nevertheless believe that she WILL be open to trying to help us reach our daughter. The fact that my take on the situation was so completely wrong could mean that a different, better experience might just be possible. It's worth a try.

Am I an asshole? I think probably yes. But my daughter isn't (well, not most of the time), and I'm hopeful, even in my contrition, that things might just work out for her.


Anonymous said...

To become cynical, jaded or sensitive is the 'right' of every special needs parent. Actually, it is the burden of every special needs parent. We want to be able to fight for our child and, yet, dread when we have to fight that fight. It drains us to our very core to make others believe in our child the way we do. It doesn't make sense, sometimes, to us that others don't see what we see in our child.

To be able to apologize for underestimating a person in our child's life is, in a way, a gift. A bittersweet gift, but a gift. It means that others see what we want them to see without us. Without us telling them what they should see.

I am glad for both of you that you've found someone who can see the value in your child.

Tracey said...

You are NOT an asshole. I know assholes, and you are not one. Really. Assholes don't give a shit. You do.


kris said...

Rob, I'm so happy to read this. I've posted replies on your blog off and on over the years, always respecting and admiring your commitment and devotion to Schuyler. I'd been struggling with whether to/how to respond to your last post, as a reader, a 'fan' and an educator.

I think after last year's meeting, your defenses were up--and understandably so. But I also really wanted you to give that teacher a chance. Because while teacher's usually don't know *better* than you, they can know differently and they can express their own love, commitment and devotion in different ways. I'm not making sense...but I'm glad this teacher is going to get another chance. And I hope that she's willing to start on a totally fresh page too. Schuyler needs you both (and Julie) working together.

We teachers may have 15, 21, or even 35 (yes, I had 35 2nd graders) kids in front of us every day, but that doesn't mean we see them as a mass of children to be wrangled. We know each of those kids very well--we see them as individuals--and we desperately want to help them to succeed. I can't tell you how many days I drove home in tears because I felt like I failed one of my kids. And how many nights I laid awake in bed wracking my brain to figure out another way to teach something so that I could connect with him or her.

In conclusion--could you forward the first and second posts to our politicians and media outlets? This whole idea of "I was wrong, I'm sorry, let's do better"--we could use more of it in this world.

Sherry said...

I have all kinds of respect for what you just did here. I salute you, Sir.

CarrieT said...

I am so glad things are looking better for Schuyler's school year!! And it takes a big person to admit they were wrong and apologize. As someone suggested, there isn't much of this in our society, especially among leaders and role model figures. (politicians!!!) Thanks for the good example!!

Carrie T. - mom to 4 from Korea

Karen said...

I'm breathing a huge sigh of relief on your behalf. I don't know what the actual circumstance was but I would have read the teacher's reaction in exactly the same way and would have been Soooo upset. I do hope things work out and that you can all work together to help Schuyler.

Melissa Luxmoore said...

Nice one Darl.

Julia Roberts (really) said...

Been there, done Jackass. But we were able to move on and I know you (and she) will too.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to hear this, because in MY school, a "red-flag parent" receives MORE of my time and attention. In fact, sometimes, too much. I was shocked to hear that any teacher, to be honest, with such a high-profile student, would be ALLOWED to react to you in such a manner. I am so glad that there was a good explanation.

I teach in a self-contained school housed within a gen ed school, and even at the elementary level, we encounter SpEd prejudice. Not all the time, but we do. And even as a teacher without children of her own, I become a mama bear when someone (even within the SpEd community) undervalues one of my kids, or talks "over" them, or is in any way demeaning to their humanity. That said, I get even more incensed when it's a parent guilty of these misdeeds. I GET that the parents not only know the child in a different way than I do, but better than I do, and when a parent under-believes in their child, I see red.

Thank you, on behalf of all teachers that love (and yes, that IS 99% of us) for not being that parent. And for also being able to admit when you are wrong.

Daniela Goldstone said...

I'm so happy to hear the teacher loves Schuyler. I am very impressed by your apology. Don't beat yourself up too much though. As parents of children with special needs, we can all get a little paranoid about how our children are welcomed into any new situation. We've all felt the pain of having our children be rejected and looked down upon. I'm sure the teacher will be relieved that you can both work together!

Niksmom said...

Meh, even good people can be assholes sometimes. What's most important is that you realized there was a mistake, a misunderstanding and you want to make it right. Even better? The teacher thinks well of Schuyler. I hope things work out for the best and you forge a strong alliance to help your fabulous daughter learn and grow even more.

Tansasser said...

Rob - Thank you for making this apology public. I often find myself in your place - misreading a situation and getting all in a huff about it. I then find it very difficult, if not impossible to go and make amends, even when it is clearly me in the wrong. Emotions run high when we are dealing with things we are passionate about. That passion is vital to our lives but it can also complicate matters. Thank you for being a role model of what to do in these situations. I hope I can be more like you someday.

Anonymous said...

It's great that Schuyler likes her new teacher and that things are going well. It's so easy to become overly sensitive as a parent. My son's teacher is literally an award-winning teacher, yet, in reading the teacher bios, I was convinced that he should have so-and-so. He's in a private school, and they painstakingly match students with teachers, and make sure the class is a good mix, etc. Yet, I thought I knew better. Of course, he's having a wonderful time in class, and she's an amazing teacher. It's probably good that I don't have a blog--who knows what I would have said!

Leightongirl said...

We could all compose a little mea culpa every now and then. This is a good one. Now, carry on, because you are officially absolved.

Nicole P said...

I wouldn't use jaded, cynical, or asshole to describe you - or Julie, Rob. Determined to do the best for your little girl? Yes. Willing to sacrifice to do it? Yes. Wanting to give other people tools so that they can fight the good fight too? Yes.

A cynical, jaded, asshole wouldn't have apologized.

A cynical, jaded, asshole would disregard additional information and just gone on their way, headed forward without regard to the others involved in the situation.

I don't think you did that with your first post. And, well, you certainly aren't doing that here.

I am so pleased you've found a possible window into what might just be an excellent school year for Schuyler! That's the best possible outcome here - regardless of the fumbley, strange, outright human way everyone involved got there.

Anonymous said...

ditto Daniela's comment.

This was within the email sent from our school's principal last evening:
"The evening is meant for parents to become acquainted with teachers and not to conduct parent/teacher conferences."

We all suffer from unmet expectations. Barbara

Kizz said...

I have no horse in this race other than being a reader of your words since Schuyler was a wee chubbin but damn I'm relieved to hear this was a misunderstanding. I hoped it was but you never know. So glad someone stepped in and helped clear that up.

Becky Burdine said...

What great news!

Don't be too hard on yourself, Rob. We all make incorrect assumptions, and it is hard not too with the kids we are sheparding through the world.

I hope the teacher will see that its just because you and Julie love Schuyler too.

Elizabeth said...

You have courage to have written such a graceful mea culpa. I'm happy that the situation is resolved and hope that all goes well this year for your daughter.

I often say that I found my inner "bitch" when I became the mother of a child with special needs. It's difficult to back off sometimes, to be less fierce when, for the most part, one's child is even alive because of that "bitchiness."

Mara said...

You are not a asshole. You are human and make mistakes, just like everyone else. I hope that Schuyler is enjoying her time in school. I sincerely hope and pray that this is her best year ever.

katiep. said...

I have worried about this on your behalf and the teacher's since I read the first post, but I think there's still a point to be made. It was good of you to apologize, and certainly it had to be done as publicly as was the pillorying, but I do wonder if you understand the shockwaves you have sent out. Do you think that this teacher is ever going to forget that you opened a forum for strangers to call her hateful and rude and bad at her job because you got your feelings hurt? I know, you apologized for being a jerk. And hopefully, she’ll accept it. But she certainly won’t forget that you went there and neither will the next teacher.

Robert Hudson said...

Well, it's the best I could do. I can't undo the mistake I made, any more than I can undo any of the other human errors I've ever made in trying to advocate for my daughter.

Thanks for pointing that out, though. It might shock you to learn that the thought had already occurred to me. Funny, that whole "I'm a human being, not a character in your favorite online soap opera" thing.

MDS said...

To follow up on the serious long comment from the other post...

Rob, everybody has an asshole moment. Some of us, me especially, have them more often than others. The fact that you had the chutzpah to talk about it in a public forum, and then (more importantly in my opinion), you apologized in the same public forum. The complaining in public is something I see a lot... I hardly ever see somebody apologize for it. I won't hold my breath waiting for an apology from the red-flag parent I talked about in my other post who complained to central office without ever talking to me, or any of my building administrators and giving us a chance to fix what the parent perceived as wrong. But, your post gives me a little more hope that maybe this year will go better. I wonder if I should point her in the direction of your blog...

H said...

As everyone would probably agree, it would be best if there were no misunderstandings in the world. However, I think more than anything else, these posts remind us that in most situations, there are two sides to every story, that we don't always know someone's motivations or what it might be like to be in their shoes. These are very important concepts for you and your readers, and are particularly meaningful in Schuyler's situation and for everyone who cares for her and plays a role in her life. So while it would be great for you to have the ability to turn back the clock and undo this, I think the lessons learned are pretty valuable for all involved.

DK said...

I read the blog of a friend who has a child with autism and she suggested that I read "Monsters" as well. The one about your visit with your child's teacher was my first.

It was my hope that you had misread the situation. I am also a teacher here in Texas - I teach a self-contained class of students with autism and MR in a nearby district - and I hated to hear that you had a bad experience. I try very, very hard to make all my students' parents feel that they are getting the time and information they need but I only have a fraction of the number of parents of our gen ed teachers; and talking to the parents of a special needs child in the presence of other parents can sometimes be tricky because you want to have a real conversation about the student but you must maintain confidentiality.

I read your blog and others like it because I want to know what's it like to be on the other side in an ARD meeting, what it's like - to the extent possible - to be in your shoes. And I can say without a doubt that I am a better teacher because of blogs like this. I had a parent apologize to me yesterday for both the behaviors of her child and her increasing demands for the support he receives. I told her to stop apologizing, that advocating for her child was what she was supposed to do and it was what I wanted her to do. She only wants her child to be successful and to be respected as a valued member of our school - the exact same thing every parent wants.

Trust me on this - most teachers would much rather have a pain-in-the-ass parent advocating for their child than a parent who provides no support at home and does not follow through on what we try to build at school. We all want the same thing and we do what we do because we have a passion for it. I love to see that same passion in my students' parents.

That having been said, I do believe that the appropriate course of action to take would have been addressing your concerns directly with your child's teacher. If your blog was completely anonymous, I don't think it would matter. But I gather from other posts that there is a chance (or probability) that your child's teacher - or friends or coworkers of your child's teacher - read your blog? I have seen amazing, caring teachers be hurt by accusations and misunderstandings and while it never affects their ability or desire to work with a child, it does sometimes push them just a little bit closer to another career or retirement. (Luckily, most of us have developed a bit of a thick skin because you can't be effective if you are always getting your feelings hurt). Thank you for your apology. It is certainly more than some would have done. Best wishes to you and your family.

Cathy said...

Please visit my blog and comment on the Toys R Us Differently-Abled catalogue. Please ask any other special needs Mom's you know to do the same. Cath

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I make deals with fate or whatever "controls" the universe. I will say that I will accept situation A (something negative) as long as I can have situation B (what I care about more) go well. Can't say it always works, but I think I should get points with the fates for acknowedging that it is not fair for me to have EVERYTHING go my way. (LOL!)

Reading this post makes me think of my dealmaking. You could say to yourself, "I was willing to trade coming off as an "ass" rather than have Schuyler have a less than positive fifth grade experience."

Consider that you have thrown yourself on your sword in order to better her experience. Does that help?

Now go forward in peace -- and I hope Schuyler has a wonderful school year!

P.S. I have deep respect for anyone who makes a sincere apology -- and yours was in public as well! Kudos to you.

-- Joan in PA (a teacher, by the way)

Robert Hudson said...

Please visit my blog and comment on the Toys R Us Differently-Abled catalogue. Please ask any other special needs Mom's you know to do the same. Cath

Well, Cath, thanks for visiting! Let me address a few things all at once here:

1) Visiting your blog would be a lot easier if you would provide a link.

2) Differently abled? Are these toys for kids with super powers?

3) I'd love to share this nonexistent link to the flying superkids website with all my fellow special needs moms, but I just did a check in my pants, and sure enough, still not a mom.

Thank you, come again.

Anonymous said...

I was Anonymous @ 4.01 am on the last post. You were right, my sarcasm was uncalled for. (It stemmed from being screamed at by a father because his son had bit another little boy and somehow it was everyone's fault but his son's.) What I meant to say was that some parents - not you, not Julie, from what I can tell - don't seem to recognize that their child (like every child) is capable of being less than an angel, less than perfect. It makes my job of educating harder, it causes professional problems for me when it such matters are unfairly posted on blogs, and it has left me and my colleagues in tears more than once. Most of all, it hurts their kids, and the other kids around them.

And to Julie's point, I continue to contend that I didn't sign up at this salary to have every one of my actions, often misconstrued, posted about on the Internet with no real recourse for defense before having a conversation with the parents. (If there's anything that blogging parents have changed for the worse, it is that some of them - again, NOT you, who from what I can tell maintains good communication with teachers - never bring concerns to my attention. At the same time, yours is an example of a blog with remarkably positive effects - but my original post was trying to explain why I am wary about blogging parents.)

I am so glad to hear that Schuyler's teacher knows and loves her. I get frustrated with my kids, and I get more frustrated with their parents more often, but I love them. And am pretty sure I don't need to look for another line of work. I just wish more parents would be willing, as you were here, to step back and reboot. And I know I will try to do so as well.

Anonymous said...

Mama said...

Yesterday's post was the first I'd read on your blog, having found it somehow -- I suppose through another blog I read.

It hurt my eyes and my heart.

I'm a Texas public school teacher of both gifted and special education students, and I'm mom to both "kinds" as well.

As a mom, I've had my feelings hurt by teachers in both those arenas, and I've probably hurt feelings as a teacher in both.

Yesterday, I thought you sounded like an amazing father to an amazing little girl. Today, I think you sound like an amazing human being.

Apologies can do that, you know.

btw, I kind of think we've shared a few other experiences, too, given that I read that you left a certain oilfield town in West Texas at just about the time I arrived there. I taught at the Black and White school -- wondering where you attended.

Carry on. I'll be back to read regularly.

Mama said...

And another thought I want to express: katiep's remark kind of hurts my feelings. See what I mean?

Really, does katiep think that teachers cannot move on? that they are incapable of forgiving? what the heck??

Anonymous said...

Rob: Cathy of the differently-abled catalog actually put the link in her own name on Blogger. The catalog she's referring to seems to be here, and is sponsored by Toys-r-us.

Her own blog seems to be a separate thing, and something not to my taste....

farmwifetwo said...

Sometimes we have to be "red flag" parents to get what we need for our children. Personally, I have found we've been abused by the system oftener than we may have abused the system, and the system needs to realize that whatever happened before, can and will colour our reactions in the future.

My eldest may be in a class with a teacher this year he's had before. One we had considerable trouble with - actually I didn't know about the trouble until 3 days before the end of Gr 3 when we got blindsided by the problems... The new VP (started last year) has heard my end of the story, what happened at the end of year meeting and the following year that huge changes were made... I'm not sugar coating it, I'm not claiming to give him more than an inch - I suspect we're with the other teacher - and I'm certainly not appologizing either for my concerns.

I read your other post below... had that been me in your place, I would have viewed her reaction in exactly the same manner.

I expect teachers to teach. I expect as a parent to get every service, every piece of equipment into that classroom to make my child and their Teacher's experience a positive one and otherwise stay out of it. I "after" school and do extra on holidays etc.... that's when I teach. Last Dec I threw another one of those hisses... My youngest goes to Spec Ed this year - my request and a special class for slow learners... first non-verbal ASD child in it and she's taught it for 10yrs or so now (most with his dx land in an ASD or behavioural class, this is NOT one of those).

Jaded, cynical... oh yeah.... but fair and honest too.

BethE said...

I'm glad to hear that the situation is working out.

You should read today's Dear Abby, it discusses communication with a Big Box of Words. You can find the column online at

Anonymous said...

I have read red flag and Mea culpa several times. How did you misread the situation Rob? Was it because at this meet and greet it wasn't the time or place to explain your expectations for the year and to make an over believer of the teacher? I am a special ed teacher and I worry all my parents are red flagged. One method I have suggested is to arrange with the general ed teacher ahead that some conversation is needed with a certain parent and they will be glad to wait to the end of the allotted time or make another appointment. It doesn't always work but that is a lot better than having the parent feel blown off. I understand why you felt the way you did. Your mea culpa went beyond what I think was necessary and I hope she accepted it. No doubt she will read your blog daily. :-) . Keep us posted if you feel you can. Teacher Sherry

Michelle said...

I think that as a parent standing up for your child, you have the right to put on the Jackass hat when you need to - and not just the parents of special needs children, but any parent. I've done it myself. It's that primal instinct to protect your young. And, I believe, it becomes even more prominent when you're protecting the broken. I really hope that this year is the best yet for Schuyler and that this teacher far exceeds your expectations. I hope, you get to apologize to her many, many more times. That would mean she's one of the good guys.

Unknown said...

Dude. As a teacher and also as a parent of three kids (including one with an IEP), let me add to the chorus of voices saying that we are all assholes at some point. What makes you someone worth knowing (okay, reading, in this case) is that you are saying, in a public forum, that you made a mistake.

Foots said...

Hey Rob

Have you got the message yet? We're all a) glad it's not us (this time, as we've all done it) b) aware that sometimes you have to be THAT parent and sometimes you don't know when to stop and c) all VERY glad that Schuyler has a teacher who loves her.

We can all tell you to ease up on yourself, but I'm sure you won't, any more than the rest of us let up on ourselves for not having got it perfectly right, in situations where hindsight isn't even 20-20.

I, too, am awaiting my daughter's assignment of teacher with trepidation (they start later in Canada) and I can truly say that I empathise with your situation and I hope I will know soon whether my upcoming year will be a nightmare or a slightly-less-nasty nightmare.

Schuyler's teacher will understand. She will forgive you. Please forgive yourself and know that Schuyler knows how much you love her and are there for her and THAT, ultimately, will see you both through. It's the only thing that can.

Anonymous said...

Excellent appology.

I agree with others that hearing the teacher's side before posting would have been more appropriate.

But the teacher could have said this when meeting you:

"Hello! I'm so glad you are here. May we make an appointment now for a time when I can give your family my undivided attention? This is not the time, but I certainly do want to talk with you."

So I suppose both of you could have done better. But hey, we all have memories of missteps that make us shudder with shame. Neither of you came anywhere close to horrible badness.

All the best for a successful school year!