Monday, August 24, 2015

The kids who don't fit in

Since the start of the school year is upon is, I wrote this on my Facebook page:

Hey teachers and educators, the new school year is starting. As you get to know your new students (and do a hundred other beginning-of-the-year tasks, I know, I know) I ask you to take a couple minutes to consider your weird student. The odd kid. The one who doesn't get along and doesn't fit in, either socially or academically or behaviorally. Perhaps he has a special ed label, or maybe she doesn't and you wish she did. The one who's a pain. That kid.

If that kid is a pain to teach, imagine how painful it is for that kid to learn.

Being the perpetual odd one out is hard. It's a heavy load to carry six hours a day. Think back to the last time you felt left out, and multiply it by 180 days. To you, that kid is that child, school can be impossible. And don't think that kid doesn't realize it...the girl who can't attend to task, the boy who can't control his outbursts...they know they're different.

So please, try to find the good in "that kid." You believe it's in every kid - it's why you went into teaching, right? Make this year about what he can do instead of pointing out again and again where she doesn't measure up. Maybe this is the year your weird kid can find his place.

I was heartened not only by the people who "liked" it, but the people who shared it. I hope people see it, and that people are willing to raise their fist - or, at the end of a long day, raise a glass - to the kids who don't quite fit in. The kids on the special ed of the spectrum, the gifted end, and everyone in between.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Open House

I got a mass mailing letter from my kids' school today. They're having their Open House before the school year actually begins to allow families to drop off school supplies, meet teachers, and check out classrooms before the school year begins. They're also going to have a meeting about the school's progress, and have a big celebration as they install the new giant art project the students made. They even invited community members who don't have kids at the school, so they can see the great things going on in their neighborhood school.

That letter felt like a punch in the stomach. Because when we all left for the year at the end of last year I was no longer on speaking terms with my kid's teacher, they were complaining about the evaluation that found him gifted (after all, he was so different, it HAD to be a disability!), they had no firm plans about how to accommodate him this year, and I got the definite feeling that their attitude was, "Don't call us, we'll call you (maybe, eventually)."

They want me to celebrate a school that doesn't celebrate my child?

Part of me is holding out hope that I'm wrong. That I'll get to my son's classroom and his teacher will be excited to have him and he'll slide right into the dynamics of the room. And part of me wants to barge right in and demand his rights, to show them my phone with my school board member on speed dial. But being stupidly optimistic or extremely angry won't be a productive way for me to advocate for him. Even though I'm angry and feel slighted by what happened last year, I have to swallow it and get over it so I can be effective for my son.

Sometimes I hate being the mom.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Looking Forward to School

My kids have nineteen days until they go back to school.

My anxiety is in full swing. I'm having nightmares...last night I dreamed that I went to the school's Open House (which occurs a couple days before the official first day of school) and found my son's classroom in an old, abandoned third floor, with acoustic tiles falling from the ceiling, cracks in the walls, and rain being blown through broken windows. The teacher refused to talk to me without her principal present, and for some reason my parents and in-laws were there asking me why the classroom and the school were so bad. When we went to my daughter's classroom we found her teacher had been replaced by a troll who refused to teach because bending down to talk to kindergarteners gave her backaches.

A dream interpreter would have a field day with that symbolism.

During the day I think about school and I feel my chest tighten up. At first I thought it was allergies but now I think it's anxiety.

When I ask my son about school he simply says that he's fine, and then asks how many days of summer vacation he has left. However, once he did say he was looking forward to it because he wanted to learn about animals. I sincerely hope that he gets to do that.

Part of my anxiety is about when and how to approach the teacher. Should I email her now, before school starts? Some teachers are setting up their classrooms next week and might prefer meeting with a parent before they're hit with meetings and kids. My husband thinks we should wait until Open House but it just seems like school is in full swing then with meetings and prep.

I'm an educator. You'd think I could handle this better.

Monday, August 3, 2015


Tonight I'm so excited because in two days I'm going to be attending training at my son's school district to become a facilitator for SENG parent discussion groups. I'm excited to meet other parents, excited to learn more about my son's giftedness, and excited because they said there would be mid-morning snacks.


I'm also nervous, though. My son is very bright, but my husband and I just let him meander down his own path. We don't try to direct or funnel his gifts in any way. So instead of being a piano prodigy or a junior scientist, he dives into varied topics, and some of them are very typical for his age. One day he'll be studying evolution, then two weeks later he's watching Minecraft videos with the same intensity. His current obsession is Lego...before that it was therapod dinosaurs, especially spinosaurus. I've read that switching interests like that is typical of gifted kids, but I'm also afraid that the other parents there will have kids who are building working rockets or composing poems.

I'm also afraid that they will be all chatting about how much their kids like school and how successful they are...after all, the parents who are most likely to show up to district volunteer opportunities are the parents who are happy with their kids' school. What if I'm the only one who dreads what the year will bring?

I'm so nervous that I sewed myself a new tote bag to bring to the meeting. Most women would buy a new outfit, but when you sew...this is the type of thing you do. They'll respect me when I come rolling in with this, right? Who wouldn't want to chat with someone whose bag is covered with an adorable Japanese fabric featuring vintage cameras?

Mostly, though, I'm very excited and curious. I can't wait.