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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: Exceptional Children
July 8, 2010 - 7:48pm

There is a concept in Labor Economics known as "internal labor markets," which notices that many firms hire employees only at specific points in their career paths and then train them with very firm specific training once they are there. This is a concept that most of us in academics readily acknowledge, as many faculty members are hired at the assistant professor level and then progress on their career paths within that one institution. As I write about in my essay in “Mama, Ph.D.”, my first attempt at this labor market was not terribly successful, and I soon found myself looking for a way to repackage my Ph.D. in economics into some other marketable form. Ironically, one place I looked, long before finding my job here, was at Ursuline College.

Ursuline College has a program that is rather popular called the “Master’s Apprentice Program” (or M.A.P.) This program allows students who already have a degree in some subject to attend school for one year and earn educational certification that would allow them to teach that subject in the school systems. I have seen many students successfully complete this program, and am particularly proud of one former math major who is completing the program now and of one former student who completed it several years ago. The latter went on to teach in a poorly-funded school system where she teaches science. She is known for spending Saturday afternoons rounding up her students for extra study sessions so they have a better chance of passing the mandatory standardized tests that are the hallmark of Ohio public education.

I learned recently that a class in the M.A.P. program in Special Education was looking for parental volunteers to come speak to the students about their experiences navigating the world of Special Education. As I looked at the questions that the teacher hoped someone would share with her students in this important area, I was reminded of several people I have met throughout my life.

I thought first of the couple who raised a child with (mild) Cerebral Palsy to adulthood, through Catholic grammar and High School (where she was a member of the National Honor Society) and almost all the way through a large public university before anyone ever noticed that their daughter also had a serious learning disability. Today that daughter has a Master’s Degree and works with people with developmental disabilities, while spending the rest of her time raising the beautiful (and very smart) child she parents with her husband.

And I thought of the family that I know whose child has a degenerative muscle disease. The child goes to “mainstream” school in a wheelchair with a helper dog and an assistant. The whole school rallies around him as he triumphs over this horrible illness.

Then there is a pediatrician that I know who has made a life commitment to making sure that all children have access to appropriate education. This commitment is shown clearly in the way she parents her oldest child who had Down’s Syndrome. Thanks to Special Education programs, she proudly tells us that he read “To Kill a Mockingbird” with his classmates last year.

I also remember the parents of a friend from high school who, long before I grew ill, had a run-in with a brain tumor herself. Surely there are many parents out there who could share their wisdom with this class of students!

And so, I want to open this up to you. I am copying the list of questions that the teacher hopes her visiting parents will address. Should I receive any thoughts from my readers here, I will share this link to this site with that class, so they can hear from you themselves.

The questions are:

  • What is your child’s, disability, age, and grade?
  • What type of services do they receive?
  • Your experience with teachers in regards to placement and academic issues-do you feel like they have worked with you?
  • The challenges you have faced raising your child? What impact if any has this had on your family?
  • What type of support you have received from others?
  • As a parent of a child with special needs, what do you want teachers to know?

I, and I assume they, would love to hear your thoughts on these questions. This is your chance to speak to a new crop of teachers, all of whom will be teaching and helping our children succeed in less than one year.


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