Swimming up Stream in the Education System

When people in power use silence, lying and manipulation with the goal of making you go away, they do so based on experience. They do it because they have experienced success with those strategies and it works.

Every time we do not agree to follow the path they lay out for us and we decide to swim upstream, and it does certainly feel like we are swimming against a very powerful current, we are upholding all of the advocacy work done by parents who fought the fight before us. 

My grandfather’s sister was Deaf and his brother had a son with Down syndrome. My great aunt was an advocate in the Deaf community for over 30 years. My great uncle with his wife and other parents founded a school for disabled children who were being denied an education, and named it after their son.  Parents who were getting together for support in their basement ended up founding a school. Stories that have been passed down in my family make it clear that we have come a long way. We certainly can accomplish things we never expected when driven by our children, don’t we? We validate and honor their work when we decide to not accept the discrimination but instead we decide to swim upstream. 

The tactics schools use on parents, they use it because it works for them.  Quite simply, we need to make their strategies not work.  We may feel like we are fighting our own individual fights, but we are each a raindrop filling up the bucket. 

Building relationships in the path of advocacy cannot be overstated. It’s these micro daily interactions that be the most impactful. Sometimes the most gentle actions holds the most power.

I had concerns about the daycare my son was in and I wrote them a very detailed and thoughtful email outlining all of the concerns. It was straight forward. I didn’t sugar coat the reality, but it was also no way aggressive, and was still written with care. Still….the first face to face interaction, I was nervous by their reaction. The manager said I was the third parent to express concerns in the past 2 weeks and obviously something was going on here. She said, to have one parent complain is not unusual, but to have three parents about the same issue in 2 weeks, that is alarming to us. Those first two parents have NO IDEA that because of their complaint, mine was validated and the daycare took action and changed staff and their whole program focus. I have no idea who these parents are, but THANK YOU!!

We are the enforcers of policy and human rights. Those words written on those documents of paper are meaningless unless someone stands up to enforce those policies when they are not being followed. 

Before social media, before the mass sharing of knowledge, communication and support, there were individuals unaware of anyone else taking great risks to stand up for their children and what they knew wasn’t right.  

Any advocacy you do in the system is never wasted. And if you do think it was wasted, never stop talking about it so we can all learn too!

We need to swim upstream. 

We need to be a raindrop in the bucket whether its confirmed to us that we are making a difference or not. 

Even people who identify themselves as advocates get tired. We need breaks too. Even people who don’t identify themselves as an advocate can unexpectedly be a swift force of change. Never underestimate the quiet ones sitting in the back.

Silence, unethical practices and discrimination need to stop being success strategies for administration on how to deal with staff shortages, poor inclusion frameworks and chronic underfunding.