Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dear Indiana Government Officials and Indiana Educators

If you live in, or anywhere near Indiana you know that there is a raging war of words between our governor and the educators of our state. The governor believes students will be better served by implementing new accountability standards for educators and negating their right to use collective bargaining in contract negotiations. Educators believe the governor's plan sabotages public schools, pours money into ineffective charter school programs and undermines teachers' ability to receive fair contracts. I think I got most of it in this tiny nutshell. If you want the nitty gritty details, trust me, you don't have to try too hard to find them from either side of the issue!

I don't have a solution to make everyone happy. Honestly, in the political arena, there is seldom ANYTHING that makes everyone happy. I am torn myself on the issue and have been researching both viewpoints. I DO know that the way the 'debate' is going now isn't productive for anyone, including taxpayers and students of Indiana. So I have this radical, crazy idea that I'd like Governor Daniels and all the others involved to at least consider.....

How about we start from here on out with some ground rules for the debate:

1.) When entering a meeting with the 'other side', greet each person with "Hello my friend!" Yes, I'm stealing this from my son's special education kindergarten teacher. It's amazing how a friendly greeting can start things off on a good note.

2.) You may only use kind words in your speech bubble. Yet another gem from kindergarten this year! There will be no personal attacks, no name calling, no accusations of wrong without proof.

3.) There will be no shouting over each other to be heard - if you need them, I will provide sets of my turn/your turn signs for the meetings. Remember, the first rule of good communication is LISTEN. That one comes from a super autism consultant's social skills lesson.

4.) Take a break if you need one. It's better to take 5 or 10 minutes to calm down than waste hours having a meltdown. I'd suggest having some sensory tools on the table like fidgets, chewing gum, mints, etc. An overstimulated, overwhelmed debater is a cranky debater ;)

I'm sure you've noticed that all of these rules come from special education classrooms teaching students with autism. Have you also noticed that these rules can, and should, be used ALL the time by everyone? Maybe what Governor Daniels, the state legislators and educators need is a week or two of social skills lessons and kindergarten morning message. Conflict is inevitable on hot button issues, but if I expect my 5 and 11 year old children with autism to play by these rules I think it's reasonable to expect adults debating education reform to follow them as well.

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