Awesome

A lot of people have asked me how Jack is doing in his new school. I’m going to let him tell you.

We ran into Jack’s second grade teacher (and my friend) this afternoon after school. She asked him how school was. His response? An enthusiastic, “Awesome!”

Jack adored his teachers last year, but the work was really stressful for him. He told his therapist that school was “like a crash on the head”—or a bonk or something similar. I don’t think it really matters what sort of collision with his head he specified. It wasn’t good. Before school started this year, he told us that he was worried. He was worried that the work would be too hard. I was worried that he would be miserable, like he was last year. His reaction to school last year is the reason he has a therapist now.

He is in a class with a total of six kids and he is mainstreamed for a lot of the day. But the part of school that he has the hardest part with—reading, writing, inferences—that gets taken care of in his small classroom. He has kids he likes in the class. One of those kids lives only a few blocks away from us. His teacher is nice. His homework load isn’t too heavy. His bus schedule has worked out.

He thinks school is awesome.

He is happy.

Now, one of the things Jack’s prior school was really good at was pushing him academically, probably farther than I would have done on my own, and for the most part, it was good for him. I have to make sure that he remains challenged, because Jack has an awesome brain that needs to be engaged. Based on what I’ve seen, the teacher will likely be good at making sure he gets challenged the way he needs to be.

But, honestly, at this point, I don’t care. All I care about between now and parent-teacher conferences in November is that he is happy. That is my total goal. I want him to learn that school can be fun—or at least not like a head injury.

I think that might be happening.

Jack has been reading more lately. He’s read all of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books a zillion times. This morning, Jack asked me to get him a notebook he could use as a diary, so I found one and had it waiting for him when he got home. During homework time, he ignored the math worksheet I kept trying to put in front of him and instead he started writing in his new diary.

He told me to pretend to drink my can of soda and look over the top of my computer at him. Which I did, in between sneaking photos of him.

Jack writing in his diary

He kept looking up to take note of what I looked like.

Do you know what was happening here? Last year, two or three times a week, Jack was supposed to read a book for a half hour and then write in a reading response journal. It was a nightmare. Forcing him to write something relevant and coherent after I’d forced him to read? It didn’t go well. At a certain point, I just stopped making him do it.

This year, Jack’s teacher asked if I wanted him to have to do a reading response, to which I vehemently shook my head no.

But look at that. That is a reading response. On his own terms. And, frankly, it is better than any of the paragraph-format reading responses he wrote last year. See?

Jack's diary

He told me I could look. I asked first, I promise. It is a diary after all.

I’m aware that this notebook probably won’t end up filled with a daily record of Jack’s life. But the way he merged his real life with what he was doing and with the bar graphs on his math worksheet and my soda and my tank top and, holy shit, that awesome picture of Alex?

I love that he could do that and that he wanted to do that.

At least for now, I feel that Jack is in the right place. He is happy. He is learning on his own terms.

And that is awesome.

*****

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18 thoughts on “Awesome

  1. We too made a school change because I wanted my older son to like it. It was becoming loathsome to him for reasons that were unnecessary. Also, he loves the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books too. I had to buy them in hardback because they were so worn.

  2. This is the kind of school where the music teacher, a recent winner of the Distinguished Music Teacher award from Yale University, took the time to MacGuyver a special recorder for my hypotonic, undercoordinated daughter so she could stay right in step with her classmates. She also puts on musical productions for every grade, every year, often writing her own songs to accompany them.

    It’s the kind of school where the art teacher last year devoted her free period once a week to giving my daughter and her classmates a special, adapted “art therapy” class to improve their visualization and fine motor skills, just because she cared so much about them. She was never compensated for her time except with my (intense, slobbering) gratitude.

    It’s the kind of school where even the least strong and coordinated students love P.E. because the gym teacher is just that incredible. He is an institution at the school and is the most gentle, encouraging, supportive coach I’ve ever seen. If I’d had a gym teacher like him in elementary school, my lifelong attitude toward physical fitness might have been entirely different.

    It’s the kind of school where the resource teacher, knowing that my daughter was obsessed with animals, bought a stack of old Ranger Rick and Zoobooks magazines with his own money to dole out as rewards for meeting her academic and behavioral goals. He took the time to know her not only as a student but as an awesome person, and that friendship motivated her to keep going even when the going got tough.

    It’s the kind of school where the staff just *gets* our kids. Where I don’t have to debate the necessity of every accommodation my daughter needs–the staff understands exactly why they’re needed and often suggest them to me first. Where my daughter doesn’t have to apologize or feel ashamed for needing time to decompress in a quiet corner, a keyboard to write legibly, or extra time to complete a test. And the staff, rather than resenting the need to accommodate, embraces it–embraces her and her peers, for exactly who they are, with genuine affection. And her grades and attitude reflect that acceptance.

    No, it isn’t perfect–no school is. And she still struggles; that’s why she’s there. But I don’t think there’s any other place in MCPS where the support system, staff, and facility work together so well to help kids like her succeed. I’m so happy my daughter and Jack found their way here. I wish *every* student like them had access to this place.

    In short, Jack’s right. It’s awesome. I’m so glad he’s happy.

    • ^^ This is my favorite comment in the history of time. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that you have had this experience with these amazing educators. I am so looking forward to experiencing it as well. Thank you.

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