Sometimes, Public School Doesn't Suck
I'm still not over the whole Kathy Cox textbook debacle. Seriously. I saw her on a television program not long ago, and I wanted to punch her in the mouth. It wasn't so much the proposal...I've lived here long enough that I expect that kind of crap. What was really disconcerting was the fact that she had a lot of support.
It worries the hell out of me that my children are being educated in a state where something like this is not instantly laughed right out of existence.
But I digress.
I've also been concerned about the public classroom model, and it's ability to teach children who are anything but average, conventional, typical. I've worried that my kinesthetic learners are becoming increasingly apathetic because they are not motivated, inspired or challenged.
I've been disgusted beyond belief by the standardized testing that has become the cornerstone of educational bar setting, as well as the fact that our kids are being taught to take tests, instead of being taught to discover and experience knowledge for it's own sake.
Time and time again, I've considered homeschooling my boys. I don't think they will ever excel academically under the current manifestation of classroom standards. My kids are off the charts smart. But because of their respective disabilities, on paper, they are just one more number; neither outstanding nor unique.
But I lack the patience. I know this about myself. And I've had to admit that trying to homeschool my children would be an unmitigated disaster.
So we struggle along, putting out fires when we can.
Unfortunately, Pubescent One is not doing well this year at all.
He is in 8th grade and struggling with the whole testosterone fueled psycho sexual cocktail of awkwardness and angst. His ADD has gone into overdrive in tandem with his hormones, and for the first time, his behavior is becoming a problem as well.
We are trying to manage things, without much success. Because aside from all the issues that come with his learning disability, we have the added pleasure of A-TI-TUDE.
Those of you whose children are still young and cute and guileless...appreciate it. Because thirteen SUCKS big hairy donky balls. If my son makes it to 14, I will march myself down to the nearest Baptist church and accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, because it will be a bona fide miracle.
I've been getting emails continually since school started, and Pubescent One has had to serve detention twice. The 8A team asked us to come in for a meeting. The ubiquitous "not living up to potential" meeting. Been there, done that. But of course we agreed.
Husband and I went in there ready to do bidness.
I had gotten the feeling from a couple of emails that he was being labelled unfairly as a discipline problem and that his issues weren't being given the consideration they deserve. One thing I've learned over the last 5 years, is that not every educator is willing or able to understand how profoundly ADD affects a child.
One teacher in particular, I felt, was being rigid and nitpicky and looking for reasons to mark his behavior card. There was a "tone" in her emails that I didn't like.
So I expected a lot of finger pointing and accusation.
I have to confess that I felt a little intimidated when we entered the classroom and saw all of them sitting there in a circle. I did not do well in school myself, and I had flashbacks to my own struggles with teachers and administrators. I felt my throat grow dry and my palms grow wet.
I was, quite frankly, surprised to find that my fears were completely unfounded.
The entire team of 6 teachers seemed genuinely interested in and concerned for his success and wellbeing. They acknowledged his disability and expressed willingness to make concessions where necessary, if it was within their power to do so.
They also recommended him for a new program called "AVID" (Advancement Via Individual Determination).
"The AVID program is a support program designed to boost secondary students in the academic middle towards a higher level of college preparation. AVID aims to shift the student’s mindset from a “path of least resistance” to an approach focused on personal achievement demonstrated by successful participation in honors and advanced placement courses by graduation.
AVID places selected students in an elective class with direct instruction in critical thinking, writing to learn, college awareness, and academic collaboration. Students receive support from their AVID tutors and teacher so that there are “no excuses” for poor academic achievement. AVID students are challenged to raise their effort levels significantly in order to reach their personal goals for academic success. The AVID elective teacher and site team are provided annual professional development to that end.
In the process of implementing an AVID program, schools are challenged to rethink preconceptions of student ability. An AVID school becomes “AVIDized” when the belief systems of its teachers are transformed so that they recognize and capitalize on the capacity of all students to become critical thinkers and academic achievers. Thus the AVID program impacts not only selected students but the whole school culture."
This program is designed to help kids just like my son, who are very bright, but struggle in a conventional learning environment. They provide one on one support and direction, as well as peer interaction and group exercises to teach organizational and study skills.
This is the kind of thing he has really needed all along. Though he is amazingly smart, he has trouble breaking down tasks into manageable pieces. He is easily overwhelmed, which demoralizes him and causes him to shut down, give up, or both.
The 8th grade advisor, who is also the AVID program administrator, was very excited about the potential for him to excel within the program.
Husband and I expected to leave the meeting feeling disheartened, confused, and helpless. Instead, we felt positive and empowered.
You have no idea what a refreshing change that is.
Maybe these are the winds of change blowing. Maybe. If not, at least it's a small swirling eddy of hope for kids like mine.