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. 

You Are Wrong

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There are days I get so angry that I don’t see in myself what I so readily see in others. I preach about building others up and at the same time I fail with my own child. How often do I tell him what he gets wrong? How often do I bring up a conversation about something that has resulted in his failure?  How many times can a kid hear, you are a screw up and you can’t do anything right? How many times can you beat a kid down before he just stops trying to get back up? How many times can you say your best is never good enough? Is this the only voice he ever hears? Could it be? Here is a perfect example in this email that I received yesterday from his teacher.

On Quiz #3 Chase didn’t include the reasoning and evidence part of the explanation. He touched on one of the three but did not explain why those results occurred due to molecular level interactions (which is the standard). On the second question he did a great job at explaining why water had a stronger surface tension than ethanol however that is not what the question asked; the question was about why ethanol had a weaker surface tension than water. 

 The result? A 45. Call me crazy but isn’t explaining why water has a stronger surface tension than ethanol the same as explaining why ethanol has weaker surface tension than water? 

Am I like this teacher too rigid and closed off to see his right in this so called wrong? Am I more focused on proving myself right than allowing him the opportunity to be right?

So many questions. So much guilt. So much struggle with trying to be a decent parent. Maybe I am too hard. Maybe the teacher is too hard. Maybe the world is becoming hard. Maybe parenting is too hard. 

Lord, help me to remember how important my voice is and to use that voice to make my child feel good about himself. Help me see more opportunities to commend him and hold my tongue when I have the urge to criticize. Please help me make him feel more like an A instead of a failing grade. Take my hand and guide me in raising this child and elevating his self esteem. I know I cannot do this alone.

Amen

The Best Thing My Daughter Learned In School This Year´╗┐

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I’m feeling really grateful today. It’s been a long tough school year and today is finally the last day. We can finally let it go, leave it behind and finally move on. There is a ridiculous amount of information these kids are expected to learn in school. It’s almost like middle school and high school classes are almost equivalent to my college classes and sometimes the kids don’t have the maturity or comprehension to understand the depth of the information. 

My daughter had one particular teacher who has taught her more than any other. He is a stand out and I am grateful she had the opportunity to be in his class. Throughout the year he has offered several opportunities to improve your grade separate from the excessive tests that seem to be an obsession in our schools today. If he told them he would have a paper graded by a certain date and he didn’t follow through, they would get extra credit. He taught them by example to be accountable by putting himself on their level and holding himself to the same standard. 

The truth is, we have come to believe we are here to judge people. We feel obligated to label people and force our beliefs and lifestyle on the ones around us. If they don’t obey, we feel the need to punish and make an example of them. I say we are not here to teach people lessons at all. We are here to love, support and lift people up. When we can help, lending a hand to someone in need is one of the nicest lessons we could ever pass on.

Today my daughter forgot her physics packet. She is not the compassionate type and is resentful I do so much to help her younger brother in school. She really believes I should back off and let him fall on his own behind. Today though she asked me to bring her the packet she left at home. I could have thrown her own attitude right back in her face but I didn’t. I drove that paper right over and you know why? People make mistakes. We forget things no matter how responsible we think we are. Who am I to think I need to teach her a lesson? When she came out to the car, she handed me a token for a free drink at Sonic. Her teacher had sent it out to me as a thank you for driving her paper across town. Did she learn a ton of physics in there this year? Probably not but what she did learn was one good deed deserves another and that kindness really does count. There are no words for the gratitude I feel toward this man. That is the kind of lesson parents only hope our children will learn in school. All’s well that ends well and if this is the last and only thing she will ever learn from her junior year, I am extremely grateful.

Answer The Flipping Question!

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For the life of me, I cannot understand why it is so difficult for someone to answer a simple question. I feel like I’m up against this all the time. Whether it’s my husband, my kids, a teacher, I can’t help but wonder if people have lost the ability to respond coherently. The worst part is I’m not going away until I get my answer and if it takes several attempts for me to get it, each time I will be less and less nice about it. There is nothing more disrespectful and purposely deceitful than withholding something when someone asks about it. 

So, when someone wants to know something I am begging you to get it over with and just tell them. You always have a choice not to be an idiot so why not start today? Oh and by the way, that was a question so I expect you to answer it. Just kidding. But seriously, why is it so difficult?

Time To Move On

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I have wasted an entire year of my life. In just a few days I will turn 45. The older I get, the faster time seems to fly by. I got caught in a sticky web of the things I couldn’t control. I let them own me. I called them boss. I can reflect back and feel disappointment or I can learn from my journey and choose a new, better road. I am excited about the path ahead and I won’t be turning around wishing I could go back. I am ready to leave it all behind and walk away feeling lighter. I am choosing not to carry that load anymore. I do have a choice and I am choosing to move on and let go. They say everything happens for a reason. I think we are handed a lesson and until we finally learn, it is given to us over and over again. For those of you who have followed my journey over the past year, I have finally found the courage to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights and not try and handle this school trauma anymore. I have let go and let God and whatever happens from here will have to be. Thank you for your support, encouragement and friendship during a time I let myself fall apart. I am forever grateful. 

What Goes Through Your Head at Midnight?

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I was up last night thinking ridiculous thoughts. This constant pressure of work, work and more work sits on top of me sometimes and weighs me down. I missed valuable hours of sleep picturing a giraffe with bunny ears. Maybe an elephant with a giraffe neck would be easier to make. Don’t worry, I haven’t lost my mind. We just got the instructions for another time consuming, useless school project. I won’t bore you explaining the details. I will let you see them for yourself. As if we don’t struggle with the work we already have to do. As if we don’t already sit at the table from four to nine every night to keep up with homework and studying.  Now this? At what point could they have decided the project was enough? Couldn’t we have done only one animal and proved the student understands the concept? Is it necessary to make a model a certain size and out of recycled materials? Let me know what you think. 

   
   

Catching My Balance

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How do you keep a sane perspective in the middle of chaos? I found out today that Chase has 5 tests this week and a writing assignment due next Tuesday. I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to communicate these days and give parents and kids more time and a sufficient heads up to prepare for whatever they need to do. Tonight on top of an hour and 15 minute time consuming biology assignment, we tried to study for the two different quizzes in the class on Wednesday and Friday. At 8:30, while I was reading to Chase and trying to help him understand photosynthesis, he fell asleep. My first reaction was anger and I am saddened by the way I treated him when I told him to go up to bed. My second reaction was reality. There is only so much one can do in a day. Like it or not, sometimes we run out of daylight sooner than expected and we just need to call it a day. It’s only Monday and the poor kid is drained and exhausted. Perhaps instead of giving these poor kids packets of questions to read and answer themselves, maybe someone should attempt to actually teach the information. Not every kid can be self taught and reading comprehension plays an enormous part. The information is confusing enough and the way the questions are worded in these packets are ridiculous. I know because I sit by his side and help him try to do them when I can’t figure out the information myself. One day at a time. One class at a time. As a mom, it’s my job to make him believe he can do this. I just have to remember it’s important he doesn’t only do this. Balance is the most important lesson of all. I’m finally understanding that really well.

Focus On the Positive

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I’m trying hard to stay positive and get my mind off all the anxiety we have at home because of school. I help Chase spend countless hours doing work he doesn’t even slightly understand. Tonight I looked in his backpack to look at his two most recent tests. I couldn’t believe both papers had mistakes when it came to grading. One test had two mistakes and the other had one but the point is he works too hard to be cheated out of even 1 point he deserves. I feel like I already do so much already. I have palpitations and high blood pressure and I actually start to shake when I have to communicate with anyone at the school. I have limited those interactions. I have been meditating and even went back to the gym after nearly a year of doing nothing but yoga. I am trying to recover and get it together because that’s what my boy needs me to do. Now I have to check and make sure papers are graded correctly too? On a positive note, I just got notification that his grade went from a 72 to an 84.6. That’s a significant difference. I’m glad I caught the mistake. Breathe and let it go. These are the wrong things to dwell on, the ones that don’t really matter. We will get through this and everything will be alright. Focus on the positive and keep moving forward, one small step in front of the other. I’ve got this. There is no other option.

Here We Go Again

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The anxiety is starting to reach a level that I am finding difficult to handle. Tomorrow I have a meeting with the Director of Special Services and a new principal and the stress of having to go over and over this with new people year after year is starting to take its toll on me. I am at my breaking point spending endless hours trying to help my son at home and being on the receiving end of backlash from the school the entire way. I actually reached out to the Office of Civil Rights and the lawyer on the end asked, why have you waited so long to file a complaint? I didn’t even have to think of an answer. The truth is, I thought all teachers cared about students. I really in my foolish heart believed that teachers would do whatever it would take to assure their students would be successful in school. Boy, I was so wrong. Even when by law they are required to provide certain accommodations, there are a few that will resist on every level. So how does the school react? They attempt to change the words in my sons 504 to protect these same teachers that refuse to meet the accommodation. Are you kidding me? Is protecting a law breaking teacher more of a priority than doing everything they can to make sure a child learns? I guess I didn’t believe anyone could be so cruel, so uncaring that even when you ask for their help, they will not give it. I am so naive when it comes to people. It is hard for me to not expect the best in them because I could never act that way myself. I am a parent and I do whatever it takes to help my son because as a mom, I know I am the one person in the world who will always have his back. I am sad and broken and trying to ignore the palpitations that keep me up at night. I will continue this fight because the support from many of you gives me the strength I need to carry on. Wish me luck tomorrow. I will give it one final shot and then I am left with only one other option. It’s time to move in a different direction.

Can You Help?

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I need some help. I am really struggling with something so I thought I’d reach out and see if anyone has suggestions. I need to get my son the help he needs in school. The problem is, teachers are not being entirely honest because I am assuming they feel the need to protect themselves. I really do believe they think we are critiquing their ability to teach when we are struggling to understand Chases ability to learn. Here’s an example. When you look at his grades in algebra he has all b’s. This is a false representation of the truth because he has never gotten over a 67 on a test except for one which was a 77 after 10 points of extra credit. The teacher acted like she didn’t recall that and did not leave a note next to the grade indicating the 80 was a retake. Also, it was suggested by administrators that maybe Chase wasn’t putting in his best effort and we should expect him to get a b the first time. Otherwise, why bother trying when he can retake it. When he asked us why we thought he was capable the second time I explained when he does a retake, the teacher sits beside him and guides him through. She told me he does it all by himself and acted like she didn’t know what I was talking about. On the way to school, I asked him to tell me exactly what happens during a retake in math. He told me his teacher sits beside him and helps him through. When I asked if he ever took one in a seat away from her, he said no.

What do I do about that? How can I go up against people who do not care enough about a student to just tell it the way it is? How will we ever get what he needs if it appears he is doing just fine? I am devastated and in shock that someone would sit across a table and cover her own backside when she isn’t even on trial. It’s not about her. It is about helping him. Let me add that last year, his teacher used to send him home with a blank test because he couldn’t even do one problem independently  in class but I bet that isn’t on record anywhere either. And the nerve to pass it off as his lack of effort? I really need some advice. I am destroyed over this and this is just one example. I thought adults were honest. I thought I could trust teachers with the well being of my child and this is what we get? He deserves better. All our kids do.