Monthly Archives: August 2013

A New Year

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I’ve been a teacher for almost twelve years, and I’ve probably had close to 1000 students walk through my classroom doors.  I try to impart a little wisdom about reading and writing and a lot about how to be a good person.  Somewhere, somehow, I hope to have an impact on my students.  However, it wasn’t until I was a parent that I realized how deeply a teacher could touch a child.

We had a rough year at pre-school last year – transitions to a new school, feeling our way though Robbie’s sensory issues, difficult teacher interactions.  Over the summer, I had a hard time not pulling him out and starting over somewhere else.  But, I’ve always heard you shouldn’t make any drastic changes to your hair while you’re pregnant; I figured this fell into the same category.  That, and Justin talked a little sense into me, reminding me that Robbie loved his school and only had one more year there.  And so, unconvinced, we plunged into this year.

There was a lot to orchestrate before school started, including making sure that Robbie was enrolled in Early Start through our school district.  This would ensure that he was ready to transition to kindergarten and give him some additional services.  I wasn’t sure anything would pull together – and it did take much persistence (although I’m sure the people with the school system had another word for it) and patience.  But, two days before school started, we had a plan.

Justin and I went to Open House with Robbie, unsure of how we would feel about the new teachers, given some of our past experience.  I was relieved to find that the teachers had experience with both Early Start and sensory kids.  In fact, they didn’t seem the least bit put out over either.  They simply asked that we share strategies with them and give them information on anything that the school system decided to implement.  It was all I could do to not tear up – these women didn’t dread the challenge.  In fact, they embraced it.

Over the past two weeks, my child has been in “time away” once.  Once.  Last year, he was there at least once a day.  They tell me they redirect him and give him options.  For example, when the teachers noticed Robbie touching his friends in line, they suggested he come give them a hug if he needed to squeeze.  That’s exactly what he does, multiple times a day.  On the first day of school, Robbie snuck out of the classroom to get the gum he had smuggled in his backpack.  Instead of getting angry with Robbie, they kept the gum and told him he needed to come to them to ask for it.  So he does, especially right before it’s time to do a quiet activity.  I didn’t know this had been going on until he’d been there for a week.  Robbie simply explained, “Mom, I get gum when I have to be still.  It just helps me.”

My favorite option of all?  Robbie’s biggest trouble time is circle time.  He has to sit still and be quiet.  For more than two minutes.  His teachers know this and give him three choices.  He can sit in the big bean bag at the back of the circle.  He can actually sit on the carpet with his class mates.  Or, he can sit at a table right next to the carpet and do a puzzle.  Every time, he opts to sit at the table.  As soon as he finishes the puzzle, Robbie quietly slides onto the carpet and sits for the duration of circle time.  He just needed an extra transition, one which doesn’t distract the class or take the teacher’s time away from any other students.  One that allows him to be successful.

These changes aren’t just happening in the classroom.  He’s a different child at home – compliant and pleasant.  He helps cook dinner and rolled two of our three trash cans out to the curb yesterday.  In fact, my sweet child thanked me for doing his laundry twice on Sunday.  I know Justin and I aren’t doing anything different.  It can only be his teachers.

Robbie is in a place where he feels safe and successful.  His teachers are setting him up to believe in himself, despite needing extra transitions or gum.  They are giving my child ownership over his actions and his education, gifts I hope to instill in my own students.  And to see him smiling, telling me how much he loves school.  I just don’t even have words for it.

There was a lot of doubt about all the avenues we pursued over the summer to get Robbie the extra support he needs.  Seeing these accommodations put into place and the impact it has had on him makes it all disappear.  I don’t dread picking him up and hearing what went wrong during the day anymore; it’s a wonderful gift to hear what has gone right.

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Summer…

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It was a futile fight, really.  Summer was going to end, no matter what I did to try to stop it.  Nevermind that I made it through almost all of my incredibly detailed to do list (every closet but one in the house is organized, so are all of the cabinets and drawers).  Forget that we did more traveling in two months than we had done in two years.  Summer was ending.

It was hard letting it go, knowing that I will never have another summer with just Robbie.  There will never be another summer where I can devote all my energy to watching him dig a hole in the sand or learn to jump off the side of the pool with the abandon.  Never another summer where he will learn to catch flashlight bugs or scooter so fast it terrifies me.  There will never be another summer where he turns four, thrilled at the idea of crossing off every day until his birthday.  And it makes me incredibly sad.

Don’t get me wrong; I am so excited for Alex to be born.  He will be the perfect child for our family, rounding us all out.  Granted, I don’t know how he will be, but I know he will be exactly what we need.  But it won’t be the same, and I’m a little afraid of that.  We have a really good thing going, the three of us.  We have our routines and our traditions.  The completely irrational side of me is terrified that it won’t be the same anymore, that it couldn’t possibly be better than it is right now.

And I’m right.  It won’t be the same, ever again.  In my heart I know that it will be better, that it will be possible to love a second child just as much as I love my first (after all, it worked with my second, third, and fourth cats).  I see all the good things that being a big brother has brought out of Robbie and know that he will continue to grow and mature once Alex is born.  But for now, I am trying to relish the days of only having one  child because the start of school means everything is moving much faster, including my pregnancy.

So, it was with great dread that I went back to work on Monday.  I felt cheated out of my last week of summer; with all the rain, there were no more final days soaking up the sun at the pool.  Everything fell short of expectations, making me clamor with increasing desperation to make some sort of lasting summer memory.  Of course, nothing measured up.  It never does when you approach it that way.

Today, summer was really over.  There was nothing I could do to try to stretch it out anymore.  Robbie started in his new classroom and I welcomed new students into mine.  But it was OK.  After all, with school comes more organized family dinners, complete with time spent together cooking, and structured bedtime with a little more cuddling.  So it’s not endless days making the perfect summer memories.  But it is three hours of time building something stronger, and that will be enough to get me through.