Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Tomorrow is Parent Teacher Conference.

It is also the day I meet with the school psychologist and special education team who oversee Emily's IEP.

In many ways, one could assume that I am a pro at these meetings. I have been dancing this dance since she was  three years old and I asked for testing for her speech issues. Not to mention the whole multiple degrees in education thing.

The truth though? Is that I dread these meetings.

In past year, it was Emily's teacher that I disliked.  I dreaded having to sit in a room with her and listen to her talk about my child, whom we both know she didn't like. Well, to be fair she didn't like anybody who required her to put any effort into differentiated teaching, and my kid had the additional misfortune to have two parents who were educated about what Emily needed and prepared to be as loud a pair of advocates as ever befell this teacher.

I have no doubt that there was a celebratory drink and cigarette had by her the day she realized that we were insisting Emily be removed from her class.

Now that Emily has moved to a new classroom, this issue does not worry me. Her new teacher and I have met a number of times, both informally and more formally. We email, we send notes, we talk when I am in the school volunteering. I feel confident that she views Emily through a similar lens as her father and I view her.  Smart, Capable, Funny, Tenacious...but needing certain things in her learning environment modified in order for her to be successful.

No, it is the psychologist that I dread meeting this time.

The system in place for special education in Montreal is, quite frankly, abysmal. I can't speak for the French schools in the city, but the English schools? Just awful.

When I hand delivered Emily's IEP to the school when we arrived, I knew something was....Off. In the States everything is highly regulated, by law.  You have X number of days to assess, then X number of days to call a meeting of the team, then X number of days to implement.  Here? There is none of that.

In New Hampshire, Emily was receiving speech therapy, occupational therapy and specialized phonemic exercises. Here? I was told that the one speech therapist that is shared by the schools in my district would not have time to see my daughter. Besides, her issues were not nearly bad enough to warrant therapy. And Occupational Therapy?  After they stopped laughing, the answer was No.  When I asked about when the team would meet to discuss her IEP, I was told that someone would "read it" and "get back" to us.

Two years later, I finally got someone to talk to me about Emily's IEP when the school got a Resource coordinator.

It has taken me nearly two additional years to get the school district psychologist to see Emily. Two Years of calling in favors from people I know at McGill to get names of the right people to talk to, two years of writing letters to School District officials and government representatives.

In September, the school psychologist came in to "test" Emily.  Why? When her father and I have pointedly disavowed testing?

Sigh.  In Montreal, in addition to having a terrible special education system also has language laws.If we plan to apply for permanent residency ( which would give us health insurance...since we have been living here and playing taxes/filing income tax with Canada since 2006) then she would be forced into a French Immersion school.

Unless....Well, unless I prove to them that to be placed in French Immersion would be more detrimental to their system than is worth for them.  As in cost them far more money to service her special educational needs in French, in addition to all the other things.  If I can prove that, then and only then will they give me a waiver to keep her in English school. It's a game. A sick game of who has to pay and superiority of language and culture.

I hate that I have to play it. I hate that I even have to wade in the English versus French bullshit that goes on in this city. I hate that the English school system receives far less funding than the French schools which makes their special education systems even worse.

But I do it, because above all else, I must protect Emily's desire to learn. Above all else, I must make sure that she is in a place where she can learn. To do that, I have to wade into cultural issues that are far beyond my comprehension to fight for the right for my daughters education to remain in English.

This psychologist is a gatekeeper of that right, with her tests.

Tomorrow, I suit up again. My armor is a bit more battered from every battle survived and I am getting tired.
I must lock my mother love of my daughter away, far under the armor, so it can not be used against me or catch me unawares and expose my soft and vulnerable places.

Which remains, as always, Her.

My child. My External Soul.

4 Baleful Regards:

Diane Evans said...

My sympathies. I live in Ontario. I love Montreal and Quebec but hate their language policies. I have even had my kids educated in both French and English but that was by choice!

The special ed program sounds dreadful, truly underfunded and understaffed and over bureaucratized!

Emily is very lucky to have such knowledgeable parents who are not afraid to to all momma bear on someone when necessary!

Dawn said...

Thanks Diane.

I certainly don't object to Emily learning French - she gets about a third of her day in French as it stands now, with both the language and French Social Studies. Its just that when you have a kid who struggles in her Mother tongue, the idea of plopping her in French immersion is ludicrous.

As you know, the language laws here are filled with anger and cultural punishment. The history between the Anglo and Quebecois is one that is still simmering directly beneath so many of the things that happen in the city.

Part of that is the funding of the schools. French schools get MUCH more funding, while the access to English schools is highly regulated ( meaning less students) which justifies not funding them.

You would think that a province with a 70% graduation from high school rate might worry about some deeper seeded problems they are clearly facing...

Diane Evans said...

I understand. Voluntary 2nd language instruction is wonderful if it works for your child. Compulsory instruction is ludicrous.

The Quebec model is punitive. Canada is a dual language country and education should be available in both official languages for the parent and child to choose. It should not be imposed upon families, especially english speaking families who wish to have english instruction.

all my best to you!

Anonymous said...

I completely empathize with you in regards to the blatant disparity when it comes to funding for english schools vs. french schools in Canada as a whole. I live in Winnipeg and it is more than common knowledge here that a school will only be constructed here if it is french. We have an overwhelming amount of overcrowded english schools as well as many new subdivisions created without any plans for an english school to be built. It is, sadly an tolerated practice here in a city which is home to the largest french speaking community west of Quebec.
Frankly, I think this is all about to come to a head and soon the non-french speaking Canadians will be speaking out against the reverse discrimination that is ramapant in our country and then perhaps our government will start to act in the interests in all of Canada's citizens.

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