The Time's Always Right to Fix What's Wrong

"The whisper in my heart, it could never speak up, the message in my chest gathered too much dust..."

I have fond memories of being a special education teacher.

In my classroom, you learned to expect the unexpected, and I knew that coming to school every day would always be a new challenge. But for better or worse, we were a family and did our best to support each other even when my staff and students felt left out by the mainstream.

If someone polled the families and colleagues I worked with over the years, I would guess they thought I was a pretty good teacher. I may not have been the best with paperwork, developing lesson plans, or crossing all my “Ts” and dotting my “Is,” but I intentionally cultivated relationships with my students and families.

One of my supervisors told me that people used to say, “Tim? Well, families love him.” And then joked, “Don’t let that get around.” But even with this innocuous jest, there was a kernel of truth.

And when you work for a school district, the expectation is that you are an extension of them. This is especially true when you move outside the classroom and are in a role where you support teachers and schools.

So why would some of my colleagues not be that excited about my passion for inclusion?

IMO, the main reason was that each time I wrote an article about inclusive education, spent time talking with a colleague in the hallway on how to think more inclusive, or shared tips with families on how to advocate in their Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, I reminded my co-workers that the educational system was broken. And that is an uncomfortable place to be.

On one occasion, I was told that my message of “inclusion for all” was not the district’s message and that I should be careful of what I say in IEP meetings.

Before I left my role at the school district, a colleague asked me how I separated my advocacy and my work as a special education program specialist. TBH, I am not sure why I didn’t get in more trouble. Maybe it is because I already had a platform like Think Inclusive? Maybe it was because I had more allies than enemies? I want to think that I successfully toed the line between my extracurricular advocacy and work to support teachers in my school district because I never made my advocacy just about my school district.

The problems with segregating too many students with disabilities with my previous employers are not uncommon. They are, in fact, quite universal. Throw a dart on a map of the United States, and you will very likely hit a school district that creates disability-specific programs more than they deliver services that meet the unique needs of students with IEPs.

All this advocacy, words typed, and pleas for change wasn’t solely to change the 23rd largest school district in the US. It was for every school district that has ever said to a family, “No, we don’t do that here.” It was for every teacher who wanted to move beyond disability awareness or exceptional children week. And it was for every time a child overheard someone snicker, “What are they going to get out of being in a general education classroom?”

[GIF] Kenan Thompson on Weekend Update (SNL), playing Oscar Rogers, a “financial expert” who describes a path out of the 2008 financial crisis, the text reads: FIX IT!

There is a (now over a decade old) SNL skit with Kenan Thompson on Weekend Update who plays “financial expert” Oscar Rogers. At the time, the country was in the throes of the 2008 financial crisis, and “Oscar” detailed steps to get out of the mess we found ourselves in.

Fix it! It’s a simple three-step process.

Step one: Fix!

Step two: It!

Step three: Fix it! Then repeat steps one through three until it’s all been fixed!

Y’all, we are all Oscar Rodgers, yelling “Fix it!” to an educational system that isn’t built for inclusion and belonging.

About a year ago, when we were diving headlong into a dark season for educators and families alike, I highlighted a Dead song (Touch of Grey) that gave me hope.

This time around, I have another song for you.

Here are the lyrics to What’s Wrong by half•alive:

[Intro]

The time’s always right to fix what’s wrong

[Verse 1]

Time is always right in past tense

Avoiding is my newest obsession

Started with the right intentions

But left 'em on the shelf

So tell me how to live in tension

'Cause every could've been kills when

Living here has been hell

And I can't hold it myself

[Pre-Chorus]

The whisper in my heart - it could never speak up

The message in my chest gathered too much dust

I can't afford the truth even if it's unjust

Keep it top shelf, keep it all locked up

[Chorus]

So yippee ki-yay, it's not my blood

But every single day it calls my bluff

It's not ok then it ain't quite done

Then it ain't quite done, no

The time's always right to fix what's wrong (2x)

[Verse 2]

Looking through a haze I'm basing

Everything around me on traces

The criminal I've been chasing

Is wearing my shoes

[Pre-Chorus]

The whisper in my heart - it could never speak up

The message in my chest gathered too much dust

I can't afford the truth even if it's unjust

Keep it top shelf, keep it all locked up

[Chorus]

So yippee ki-yay, it's not my blood

But every single day it calls my bluff

It's not ok then it ain't quite done

Then it ain't quite done, no

[Bridge]

Oh, my God, it ain't quite why

Hold on, it ain't quite love

Hold on, it ain't quite done

No, oh my God, it ain't quite why

Hold on, it ain't quite love

Hold on, it ain't quite done (It ain’'t quite done)

[Outro]

(The time's always right to fix what's wrong)

The time's always right to fix what's wrong

Why does this song give me hope?

Because, like with many issues that plague our world, fixing it always begins with us. It requires us to speak up to our friends and colleagues that things are broken. And when we agree that things are broken, we can get to fixing it in our context.

Often, I felt like a failure because I didn’t fix enough of the systemic ableism that permeated where I worked. And that the “message in my heart gathered too much dust” when I was just too tired to fight. But then I find hope because of the people that share with us that they are working to dismantle segregation where they live and work.

I hope you find people that you can “fix it” with. And if you don’t think you have anyone, you have me and everyone at MCIE.

If you ever want to share your frustration or ideas on how we can move inclusive education forward in your neck of the woods, you can always email me. Seriously. I’d love to chat with you about it.

EMAIL ME!

Have a fantastic week y’all!

Tim

ICYMI

I was interviewed on Freewheelin with Carden! Check it out here:

Creating a Culture of Inclusion: MCIE Spreads the Word!

5 Ways Educators Can Learn Autism Acceptance from Autistic People

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What I’m Reading

What I’m Watching

What I’m Listening To

What’s in my Timeline

From the Wayback Machine

When You Include Students, They Learn More, Achieve More, and Are More Engaged

Just Because

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