Saturday, November 10, 2012

Meeting Mrs. L (and the FUN she got to share with me)

This year, I have been horrible when it comes to my relationship with Phoenix's teachers. We missed Back to School night and haven't been able to go on either of the two field trips he's already been on. There are more to come we'll miss out on too but for me to go this long into the school year without even meeting his teacher was just nuts.

Last night was our first chance to meet. At Parent Teacher conferences.

I always get nervous for these things; I try to stay positive but there is always a veil of anxiety around me that I just can't shake -- I know how these have gone in the past. I greeted her and apologized for not being more involved in Phoenix's day-to-day school life. The choice to let him take the bus to and from school has put a real kink in the Parent-Teacher Pipeline.

We quickly got down to the nitty gritty and I was shock.

BLOWN. AWAY.

When he was first assessed at Sac State in the spring, his language skills were two to three years behind his age level and he'd slipped for the middle of his Kindergarten class to the bottom. Since that first semester at Sac State, going to summer school and getting into the CH class he's in now, he has EXCELLED in amazing ways.

He's graded a little differently than Gen Ed kids; he doesn't get labeled as exceeding/meeting/approaching/below standards because the curriculum isn't the same as a Gen Ed class. She did grade him in Math, though, because he's at grade level. He's a slow learner but he could be in a Gen Ed math class and do well. HELL YES. I suck at math so this is AWESOME news (and makes me think of my dad and his love of math).

His report card is also a bit lengthier than a normal two-pager. Every subject is broken down, a grade level is assigned and a description of abilities is listed. Phoenix scored at the first grade level on fifteen of the twenty subjects he was graded on. Only FIVE were below grade level and on those subjects, he was just a year behind, at Kindergarten level.

I was astounded, in the best possible way.

So much hard work has gone into finding a solution to his speech problems; to find a solution before he fell so far behind, he'd likely never catch up again. In all honesty, I just wanted to hear my son talk. I wanted to understand him. I needed to know what he was telling me. And I knew he needed the power of speech more than anything.

Every parent says their kids are smart; few have challenges like this that leave you wondering whether or not it's true. As a parent you never want to think there's something wrong. I knew there was but I knew it wasn't a matter of intelligence. This kid is way smart. Too smart for his own good, like figuring out how to climb out his window at three years old. I can finally say, without a doubt, that my kid is smart. It's on paper. 

I can't even begin to describe how euphoric it was to hear all this incredible news when Mrs. L got real serious and said there was some "unpleasant" things she needs to talk to me about.

Oh Jesus. I thought. Here it comes...but wait. Didn't Phoenix tell me about some awful shit that happened on the playground today?? Yeah, he did. And if I were a teacher, the conversation his teacher is about to initiate with me, isn't one I'd want to have with a parent. EVER.

She started to tell me the same story Phoenix had --

It was recess. He was playing with his friend, Why (obviously not his real name), and a gaggle of girls on the swings when Why decides he wants the swing Phoenix is on. Being a six year old, Why doesn't ask Phoenix to get off; he pushes him off. Then pants' Phoenix, undies and all. Right in front of that gaggle of girls. 

I've already heard this from Phoenix so I tell her as much. She's fighting back tears because she thinks I'm gonna lose it and flip the hell out, crazy Mom-style and yeah, I probably should have. But I didn't. Why didn't I?? Because she handled the situation the best way she could. Why got sent to the office and I'm assuming Mom & Dad or whoever Why belongs to, got a call down to the office to talk about the incident and take Why home for the day. She talked with Phoenix about what had happened and explained why it was wrong and that Why had made a very poor choice. 

She was utterly mortified to be relating all this to me and I felt bad for her. 

These kids are a reflection on her and especially when they are in her class but she's not their parents and she doesn't make their choices for them. She is simply a part of the village helping to raise them into adulthood. As a parent, I applaud the way she took care of Phoenix after all this happened. He didn't come home crying. He wasn't 'traumatized'; he very calmly told me, "Why pulled my pants down at recess. And my underwear. I need a belt.". Six months ago, he wouldn't have been able to say that. His teacher understands this and made sure I knew what had happened and that the issue was being addressed. 

I have my first positive Parent Teacher conference, Phoenix gets hazed and receives his first spectacular report card, all in the same day. Part of me wants to be a fly on the wall for Why's conference, the other part of me is glad I don't have to be there. I'd rather avoid any kind of confrontation with a parents who's child has harassed/bullied mine, thankyouverymuch. I don't like getting all 'Mama Bear' on folks and sometimes, face-to-face conversations make that all-out impossible. 

I talked with Jay about everything when I got home and we sat down with Phoenix together to go over what had happened and make sure he had a chance to tell us how he was feeling and what he was thinking. He said he's still friends with Why but that what Why had done was "unacceptable" -- his very own word -- and you shouldn't be mean to your friends. "You always needs to be Responsible, Respectful and Safe.", he said. 

I'm stunned. 

Once again, he forces me to stop & take a real, long look at him. My son is still there but he's no longer a little boy, struggling for words. He's a smart, witty young man who has finally found the power of speech. 

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