The end of the year is almost here, and I cannot help but reflect on my youngest’s school year; actually, on his school career. It is hard to believe that he is approaching his senior year. I am terrified to even think about him graduating high school. I have always felt that he is socially a couple of years behind his classmates and even though he is 17. His maturity is closer to 15-year old’s if we are lucky. (I know boys are always lower maturity level than girls, but it is different with him.)
But, I want to focus on the people that have helped shape who Yaakov is becoming; either those who came along side of me to support him in learning or held both Yaakov and I up when I felt like I was failing him. Yaakov has had an IEP since he was 3 years old. For many years it was for Speech and Language and later he qualified for Specific Learning Disability, and then Autism, and most recently Autism and Specific Learning disability specifically in math.
The secret in education lies in respecting the student.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I want to go back to his first Special Day Class teacher in Kindergarten, Miss Weller. Miss Weller was a God send! I was really at my breaking point when Yaakov was placed into her class after being at home on Home and Hospital for months. I remember saying something to her like… he doesn’t know letter names, sounds, cannot count and his speech isn’t good. She looked at me and said, he will get it, just wait and see. Miss Weller and her team weren’t just there teaching him they were supporting and cheering him on as his mother sat in a corner feeling sorry for her son and herself because she couldn’t figure out what she did wrong why her son wasn’t learning anything. Miss Weller became Mrs. Vargo and our family was there. Mrs. Vargo sat on AiN’s board before moving out of California. I am truly grateful for the love that she gave our family. It was Jenny’s belief in my child that helped me move on and start seeing the value of the special day class and that it is there for children like mine.
No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted -Aesop
Again, Yaakov had a great teacher at the end of 3rd grade and all of fourth. Mrs. Young came along when I knew Yaakov was capable of learning and what was wonderful for both Yaakov and I was that she felt Yaakov could make it in a mainstream setting. She worked hard with him to get him prepared to move into 5th grade mainstream class where he would get math support. Once again, Yaakov would have been left behind if it wasn’t for a teacher’s willingness to see my son for who he is and who could become. I can’t ever express my gratitude enough to Mrs. Young for coming along side me and believing in Yaakov.
In 5th grade Yaakov was put into mainstream with Mrs. Hewgley. For the most part I believed he could do it, but there were a few times I cried, and Mrs. Hewgley held me and Yaakov up. She did a wonderful job that year, but what means the most to Yaakov and I is how Mrs. Hewgley fostered friendships that year between Yaakov, Daniel, and Kyle. Even after moving away, Yaakov considers them his best friends and on his 17th birthday he wanted to go see them. It was her dedication to make sure Yaakov wasn’t just successful in the classroom, but socially. Every time I see the boys together I cannot help but send a thank you out to the universe hoping Virginia will hear it.
This year, Yaakov had to retake Geometry. As, I said before math is where he struggles. For years I was able to help him. He called it window math. I would use the window as a white board and we would go through his school work. But, give me basic math or algebra and I am all good. DO NOT GIVE ME Geometry because it shouldn’t be called math! So, in other words I couldn’t help him which is probably why he flunked it last year and had to retake it this year. Yaakov was placed in Mr. Johnson’s geometry class for the first trimester. He came home immediately and kept going on about how he understood what was happening in class. As the trimester went on he no longer hated math and he LOVED AND RESPECTED this teacher. I requested that he stay with the same teacher the rest of the year; for the first time he wasn’t coming home crying over math. Yaakov got himself into trouble this year, yet again. I was devastated, angry and feeling rather hopeless that maybe my son wasn’t going to become a successful adult like I worked and prayed so hard for. Then when Mr. Johnson recognized Yaakov as a student who has contributed positively to his high school this trimester, things were taking a turn for the better. Once again, a teacher held my son up while I sat in the corner licking my wounds while he was seeing my child as someone who is successful. I myself wondered if he ever would be successful. I am angry at myself for feeling such pity for myself and him, but so grateful that there are people in his corner that help mold him into the young man he is supposed to become.
[Kids] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.
― Jim Henson, It's Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider
It truly takes a village to raise a child; as much as I want to believe I have it together and I know what I am doing. It is others who come along side me to help him in becoming a young man who will be just who he is meant to be and others who take the time to mold him because his mother isn’t doing it at the time.
There have been case managers, principals, therapists, and others over the years who all have played their parts and not one of them is more important than the other. Take the time to recognize those who are put in our kids’ lives and see how they are now part of your child’s tribe.