The IEP meeting

Today our law group drove to downtown LA to attend a hearing at the LA Superior Court, then to a school about 30 minutes east from that location to sit in on an IEP meeting for a student who is finishing his transition from getting assistance from the public school system to getting assistance from a different agency. I’ve been hearing lots of information and even reading reading bits of the basic legislature regarding these meetings, so to finally seeing one in person was quite fascinating for me. At IEP meetings, school representatives, parents, and special ed teachers who have worked with the student come together to discuss and plan an “individualized education program” for the student. This meeting was particularly nice to witness. I’ve heard lots of stories of them being misrun, filled with ignorance and basically being the ground-level breeding ground for the denial of free appropriate public education (which is everybody’s right to have). However, at this meeting it seemed quite the opposite. I can’t get into details, but I will say that to me it was clear that just about everyone in attendance was seriously engaged in doing a great and good service for those who need it. Ultimately, all anybody wants is for the system to run smoothly and do its job: its great to see that happen.

Last day at the office

Today was my last day at the office. I’ve nearly finished the massive list I’ve been working on and have instructed another employee at the law group how to finish it up, which should not take more than a few hours at this point. Today I also translated some things my boss wanted to say to a client who only spoke Spanish. It felt good to be of some immediate use, as well as to employ some old skills. Tomorrow we go to downtown LA for a hearing at the Superior Court where my boss plans to submit some important and newly discovered materials into consideration. Later on we will be attending an IEP meeting. I’ve been hearing much about these IEPs, their regulations, how schools or parents can sometimes express their more animated sides… it should be very interesting to finally see one in person. The only challenge I anticipate I think will be spending a whole day observing without speaking at all for many hours on end, but I think as long as I stay actively attentive to what is going on before me all will be well.

Before going before the law

On Friday, the law group I am working for will be going to court in Los Angeles to attend a hearing regarding a law suit over fees for a case that took place nearly a decade ago. The courthouse has a tremendous ability to animate the office. So many hundreds of hours filing, researching, crafting arguments… but all in the dark corners of a sparsely inhabited workplace. The courthouse brings this practice not only out of the dark, but into the spotlight. The intensity that this polarity creates is awesome to witness. I also had a good conversation with the boss regarding annotations to this document I’ve been toiling with for quite some time, and it is now the case that instead of editing its language I will be underlining significant elements. In my opinion, considering the technicalities of this document, this is tremendously more efficient and I’m very happy the boss and I both agree this is the best way to proceed.

Office vision

My chair, which faces a desktop computer at the corner of my L-shaped desk, points toward a window looking out toward the parking lot of an office complex in which many small businesses base their operations in the town of Torrence. I’m not thirsty, but I keep taking sips out of the red solo cup I fill at the water cooler more than twice an hour. On the desktop there is a folder called “Joe Temes,” in which there is a subfolder I recently made out of another subfolder. This new subfolder contains the contents of California’s English/Language Arts Common Core, organized differently than usual, and the text of which for the next three days I will be editing to emphasize the differences of the hundreds of specific requirements as they progress thru grades K-12. My attitude toward my project is this: there are birds outside, sitting on branches, living in a world that people in situations such as I’m in romanticize… but brother I’d love some fresh air. I will work on a list for three more days. The movement of time is indifferent to me… and I’m on my way out.

Liszt upon list upon list

I am lucky to be working with someone doing important work in our society, and helping a class of people who have been historically mistreated and underserved. But no matter what the purpose is, spending hours on end making one extremely long and complex data sheet into another equally long and complex, but slightly differently organized, data sheet is an activity that can bring even the most enthusiastic employee to a dreadful disenchantment of office life. This kind of work, man, is harder than I imagined. The sheer difficulty of staying alert and productive over the last few work days has been an obstacle… but I have a strategy for coping. This document that I’m so fearful of is important, and must be created, so in order to keep myself stimulated into consciousness as I’m carrying out its construction I’m planning on bringing in some earphones to the desk tomorrow and catching a wave of symphonic energy. Nothing like some Franz Liszt (Hungarian composer) to aid the process of list making.

Call me Bartleby (the Scrivener)

Over these three weeks, the first third of which is nearly done, I’m working with a civil rights lawyer who specializes in special education law. Over the past few days I’ve been generally observing what’s going on, which is very fascinating. It’s great to see the passion Steven (my boss, the lawyer) takes to his work every day. In addition to this general shadowing, I’ve been working on researching the legislative details of the relationship IEPs (Individualized Education Programs; which is something that nearly all students needing special ed who are being served by the state in their education have) must have with the Common Core curriculum in the state of California. There is a clause in the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) which states that even kids with learning disabilities must be involved in and make progress in the general curriculum (i.e., as put forth by the Common Core) for that student’s grade level. I’m not totally at liberty to discuss why I’m researching this, but I find that reading the law of the land and tracing the arguments of cases to find how it has historically been dealt with in certain court cases is very informative and enjoyable.

Another project I’m working on is putting the Common Core into a different format that is more to the liking of my boss. This has been very difficult. The Core is massive, and I’ve tried a few times to come up with different formats but my boss hasn’t really loved the ones I’ve given him. I found a website today that breaks the Core down by grade which I thought would solve his frustration with the format… but he doesn’t want to look at the website… rough. So now I’m basically taking every sub-sub-sub category, copying it onto a Word document, polishing up the page to look more sleek, converting the file into Adobe-Acrobat, and putting all those documents into different folders. Steven has requested this, but I don’t think he’ll be happy with it because it’s also extensive in terms of its length and has a format that is a little difficult to navigate. Unfortunately when dealing with the a curriculum overview for grades 6-12 for essentially over 5 subject areas I think that is inevitable. This has been causing me a little stress, and I’ve tried to talk with Steven about it… but he wants me to finish the entanglement of Adobe-Acrobat folders I’m working on now before we reconsider strategies. Luckily working on the Newspaper over at school for three years has prepared me well for hours on end of staring at screens and endlessly moving documents around until something substantial, by some magic not my own, finally emerges from the ashes of the technological fire storm I sometimes make when I sit down in front of a desktop too advanced for my own good.