There Is Always Another Way

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We are afraid to take the leap out of the life we know and into the life that is made to fit us so much better. We become trapped in the idea that there is only one way, one option, one normal despite the fact that the one way we think is the only way completely paralyzes us.

It has been 7 years that I have been fighting against a school system who never enforced or followed through on my sons accommodations. I have barely survived year after year as the people who were supposed to support my son and family did nothing but destroy us and my faith in any good coming from a school. The stress and anxiety and panic attack’s that we have had to endure have been tough growing pains but today I leave it all behind as we venture into the new normal of charter school. As I sit here tonight, the relief I feel that we are done dealing with the disaster traditional public school has become, leaves me with a peace I have not known for quite some time. No more emails unanswered. No more waiting weeks for a single assignment to be graded. No more meetings of empty promises and wasted days. We are done and never looking back.

Do not suffer on a path if you have another option. Do not try and fit yourself into a box you could never fit into to. If something isn’t working, do something different. My only regret is that it took me so long but I have a feeling next year will be one of the calmest and happiest years we’ve had in a long time. We are not meant to struggle or be miserable. There is always a way out and a new door that will lead to a life that is so much better. The door is open. All you have to do is walk on through. I hope to see you on the other side.

When School Fails the Child

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I had one of those dreaded meetings today. Just like many other times, the short time revolved around the teacher defending her teaching techniques rather than how we could work together to come up with a plan to help Chase be more successful in the classroom. I don’t know how to tell teachers that none of this is about them personally. Every year, another teacher is replaced by a new face. What I do find disturbing is their unwillingness to budge from their ways. As a parent of a kid who struggles more than most would understand, I have had to admit to myself that he just does not learn like other students. Teachers make assumptions about him based on other children and I really think it’s unfair. One obvious example is this teacher told me when she tells the students to brainstorm what the answer might be or why an experiment might turn out one way or another, he just sits there and writes nothing. Instead of asking why, she jumped to her most obvious conclusion. When I explained that Chase does the brainstorming in his head and a few minutes does not allow him to get his thoughts from his brain through his pencil and onto his paper, I think she finally understood. He is often misjudged in the classroom and so many things could be cleared up if the teacher simply asked. I get they have a lot of students but he is just as worthy of learning as every other kid sitting at a desk in a class. It’s not his fault and I wish teachers understood the amount of sacrifice, anxiety and extra hours these kids put in just to keep their heads above the water. It makes me sad that it’s the same conversation every single time. My heart breaks every night before I go to sleep wondering what ball will fall on top of him the following day. It’s always something and the anxiety it causes all of us is excruciating beyond belief. Shout out to parents who know this struggle. My love and support go out to you because I know the toll this takes on you too. Sometimes I wish I could do a reality show on this subject. One that might actually change what is going on in our public schools and give these kids the break they need to survive a school system who will never meet their needs. 

Why Am I Feeling So Grateful?

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I’m sitting here with tears rolling down my cheeks. As another school year comes to an end, I am reminded of the tremendous amount of extra effort Chase has to put into school. It’s been a difficult year for both of us with me playing bad cop and him playing overwhelmed, discouraged kid. Right now I am so grateful that he had a handful of classes whose grades were not dependent on tests alone. His effort has paid of and even though I had to pull his teeth everyday to keep him on track, he did it. Grades have never been important to me but to see a grade reflect his determination and effort warms my heart. He is in his last year of middle school and challenged himself to take 3 high school credit classes. I am so proud of him that he had the courage to take a chance on himself and that is why these 2 simple pictures brought tears to me eyes.

These are his grades with 3 weeks left to the school year. I could not be more proud of his effort. The grades are just a bonus. And these were 2 of the high school classes.

Sometimes, when you don’t believe in yourself, someone else has to do it for you. At least until it catches up.

Are You Insane?

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They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. 

I have another meeting at the school today to discuss new accommodations for Chase. They aren’t really new ideas but rather worded in a new way they hope will be more specific for teachers to understand. This is their sneaky way of getting away with doing nothing. If we continue to talk about ways to change the 504, we never then have to focus on how to enforce it. Usually on days where I have to sit down with the same administers that have caused me nothing but grief, I have an increased amount of anxiety and border on melting down into a full blown panic attack. Today is different. I have a new calm and a new confidence and they can no longer shake me. The meeting is pointless. The world will not be fixed in one day and certainly their word will not mean a thing overnight either. Like it or not, people are predictable and often they repeat the same patterns over and over. They are not really willing to change but always eager to talk a good talk. Today I am going to listen without interest and without any hope for change. It’s like that trip to the dentist every six months that you aren’t psyched about but cannot avoid. You just go sit in the chair, stare at the light and hope the time passes quickly so you can get up and leave. That is my approach today. I will not get worked up or upset by people who do not mean a thing. These people have shown their true colors and are never going to change despite the millions of times we set aside to meet. Wish me luck as I allow my thoughts to fade into the light. They will no longer tell me who I am in there. I am strong, I am confident and I am a mom who would do anything to make sure her child gets what he needs. I know now that so don’t need their help to make that happen. I can do it all on my own. 

A Devastating Lesson

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The single most powerful tool for winning a negotiation is the ability to get up and walk away from the table without a deal
Paul Gauguin

After months of negotiating with the school to try and find a way to get Chase’s accommodations followed through, I happened to stumble upon the quote above. The only thing this constant meeting with administrators is resulting in is a decline in my health and a dangerous spike in anxiety. I realize, there are some fights I will just never win and there are people who will lead me along and pretend to negotiate when the only change that will even come about is the loss of precious time. I gave it my best fight. I still am saddened and disturbed that teachers will stand against what would help their students succeed. I am devastated that a vice principal and head of special education in the school would suggest maybe his struggle is due to lack of effort or laziness. I am alarmed that this same man will accuse me of attacking teachers because I have the audacity to question them and call them out. I am physically ill that a school would protect teachers who break the law and knowingly choose not to comply with a 504 and try and bully me to try and make me go away. I am disgusted that the school does not look out for the best interest of my child. Who will protect him? In Chase’s case, the most tasking thing we asked for are the notes. How can a teacher refuse when it is in the accommodations and especially when there is no textbook for the class? I realize now, it is not about the kids at all but rather a battle of control. Who loses? The kids every single time. 

Each and every night I go to bed I say my prayers. I pray that our lives won’t be ripped apart anymore by the ridiculous demands of school. I pray the palpitations and panic will eventually slow until they come to a stop. My biggest prayer though is that all this constant stress on Chase doesn’t start to take its toll. I pray that a test grade will never define who he thinks he is. I pray his self esteem will not be damaged everytime he tells me he thinks he’s just stupid because no matter how hard he studies he can’t seem to do better than a D on a test. I pray that my heart won’t break in half each night as I watch him struggle at the table for hours to learn and complete his work. I pray for some peace of mind, body and spirit. Maybe, just maybe that quote is right. In this case, maybe the only way to win is to walk away from the table. It is only there where they hold the power.

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I learned today that the truth does eventually come shining through. Life would be so much better if we were all just honest from the start. Unfortunately, that is not always the case so we must learn to be patient and navigate around any obstacles that tend to show up. Fighting lies does not do anyone any good because a liar is never going to admit their lies aren’t the truth. So we have no choice but to sit back and wait for them to eventually stumble over their own words.

I am pleased to say I survived another school meeting today. I was able to stay calm and just tell the story the way it is with no need to become defensive or prove any point. When something was entirely misconstrued I simply chuckled to myself because really there was nothing else necessary to do. Having a mediator  made all the difference. There was no room for pointing fingers, passing insults, or intimidation. We simply just told our story and since I have been living it for three years, it was pretty easy to do.

Remember, always speak your truth even when your mouth becomes so dry that your teeth stick to your lips. Eventually you will remember to bring a water bottle and everything really will be okay. Always do the right thing even when no one is watching, because in all honesty, there is always someone who is watching. Be a mentor, an example of what you want  to see more of in this world and at the end of the day, smile to yourself because you know, even when it seemed extremely hard, you have always done your part. 

Feeling Thankful

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Thank you to all of you who have been so supportive lately. I did have my meeting at school yesterday and I do believe we made some headway. Already, two teachers have followed through on their part of the 504. The new principal was clear that teachers do not have the option to comply or not, they must comply. Only 3 out of 6 teachers showed up so that was disappointing but baby steps are better than back steps. I am exhausted and drained today. These meetings and my constant fight to stand for what’s right takes its toll on me but I will not back down. Someone has to do it and somewhere along the way, I have been chosen. It is in my nature to be an advocate for kids. I just cannot help myself. Your kids, my kids, the neighbors kids and every other kid out there is my responsibility. It is my mission to stand up and fight for what is best for everyone, not just myself. I have been shunned, called names, humiliated, been left standing on my own but I will never give up. I just need to recharge and take it easy today. Thanks again for all the advice and encouragement. I really appreciate everyone’s kindness.

Lying

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Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies~ Dorothy Allison

After sitting in on many meetings, I’ve learned not to get as nervous anymore. As a parent, we care enough to know, period. When I go to talk to teachers about my child, believe me I know all the facts and I have fact checked. That’s a fact. It’s so obvious when I ask a question if someone is telling the truth. They are confident in their answers and more than willing to offer the necessary information to clear up any misunderstanding. When someone is lying,  they tend to go right on the defensive and start to blow tiny facts out of proportion to make themselves look better. I say this. If you are guilty of something, just own it. Fix it and let everyone move on but to make up a lie that can be checked from several sources is just wrong. We are all human. We make mistakes. Lying is not a mistake, it’s a choice. Don’t do it.

Help Me Hang In There

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We are a couple weeks into school now and my old familiar anxiety is starting to creep back in. My son has ADD and his lack of focus and organization has been an on going challenge. We decided to take him off his medication last Christmas and found out with our constant nagging, the teachers staying on top of things and Chases determination to do this on his own, he will get there one day at a time. It’s a big responsibility for me to oversee his work. Trying to maintain the right balance between schools expectations and his struggle to do the work leaves me in a tough place. He is very smart. Everyday, he surprises me more and more. Sometimes though, when I start to relax a little too much, disaster strikes in a moments notice. I checked Parent Portal this weekend to find Chase is missing 4 math assignments. We have a 504 that is similar to an IEP that requires teachers to contact me at the first sign of missing work or when he is falling behind. This is what happens when I don’t check and they don’t let me know. It turns into a massive stress fest at home and my husband and I feel the brunt of it. He spent all weekend trying to re-do the work he seemed to misplace. The fact that his writing wrist is broken does not contribute to the cause in a helpful way. Every year, the transition of getting used to new teachers in addition to the time lapse of them discovering his 504 seems to take longer and longer. On a good note, we try our best to work as partners so Chase can be as successful as possible. High school starts next year so this is a big transitional year. He is in 3 classes now that will give him high school credit and I am confident he can handle them IF he keeps up with the work. There’s always that one class he slacks off to make up for the amount of work in other classes. I hope this will be the year he finds his balance and I lose some of this worry and anxiety. I am looking forward to the day he gets his cast off and can get more of his work done in class. Two more weeks, hold on, almost there.

9 Days

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9 days. That’s how long it took me to get a response to an email. Chase was learning slope in math and needless to say he was having a difficult time. He had a homework paper due the next day followed by a quiz. I emailed the teacher in hopes to bring it to his attention that Chase was having such a difficult time. I am terrible in math and we were at a swim meet until 9:00pm so by the time we sat down to help him he was frustrated almost to the point of tears. I told him to go to bed and I would email the teacher.

A lot can happen in 9 days. The world moves on, life moves on and the progression of math skills marches forward. Today, I finally got an apology from the teacher telling me he was behind on reading emails. Seriously? 9 days is a long time and if you ask a parent of a child who has slowly fallen more and more behind, I have a feeling most would agree. Let’s not forget that this is the second apology, the first one going something like this. Mrs. H, I am so sorry I missed the boat on our weekly emails(504), I promise it won’t happen again. That was several weeks ago and the last time I heard from him until today. We have to do better by these kids. Perhaps someone who cannot keep up with academic emails is too overburden by teaching to then coach extracurricular sports. I just don’t get it and it really makes me sad. What I’m the world is going on? I have sadly learned to accept this. I am not new to it at all. Only now, I do not let circumstances like this one rob me of my sanity. We are doing the best we can to bring him up to speed at home but it is clear, neither my husband nor myself are very good teachers.