There are plenty of reasons to worry about the kind of teacher your child has. I can never forget that it was my Grade 2 teacher who taught me that grown ups can be mean, really mean.
Three years ago, we traded in our home school lifestyle. It was daunting delegating some of our children’s education to perfect strangers, especially our (then) nonverbal and sometimes challenging youngest. We went a bit overboard researching schools in the area – and got mixed reviews for every single one.
I’m not such a Pollyanna that I don’t realize the frustrated/disappointed/outraged stories are often true, or at least have some element of truth/hurt/miscommunication to them. I’ve had my own scuffle over speech therapy in our school district.
But we have good stories to tell too. And too often those are ignored or downplayed. They aren’t nearly as entertaining as the Bad Teacher tales, after all.
We are very happy with our little country school. The teachers there are the good sort. And we think they can teach us something too.
The Gentle Encourager: The Grade 6 teacher is a quietly enthusiastic, fun-loving and genuinely sweet lady. When I close my eyes, this is the kind of woman I imagine my eldest will be someday. It’s a good daydream.
The Challengers: We’ve seen a sharp increase in homework and level of difficulty in Grade 4. There has been complaining, muttering and foot dragging… so I gave out stern talks: “Christie, you are the Mom. Set a good example and just make it happen.” This teaching team has won us over with their great communication and creative projects. Our dinner table has been awash with interesting facts about whale blubber and pirate ships and the antics of Ramona B Quimby. C has never been so engaged!
The Supporters: We call them Special Education Assistants, and they are the hands and feet of inclusion. This year we had a great team. They consistently go above and beyond and are more friends than staff to us. Mrs. H is always reading and learning and sharing her ideas. The resource teacher and her daughter raised money and joined our run for Down Syndrome. Mrs. A is a kindred spirit, an extension of our own nurturing and parenting. Her whole family has taken B under their wing.
The Advocate: Every morning B runs into the classroom, throws her arms wide and yells, “Smelling!” This is her version of “Ms. Fleming,” and it earns her a hug and an enthusiastic greeting. Kids can tell if you really enjoy and appreciate them, especially B. Which is why she has continued to blossom this year. She has always been loved by her teachers, and in turn by her classmates, which is no coincidence. It’s not because she is all sunshine and gumdrops, but even in her difficult moments her teachers have seen HER beneath it all – especially Smelling.
The biggest gift this year has brought has been Ms. Fleming’s choice of thesis for her Masters degree: Teaching B to Read.
I’m sure it’ll have a long complex academic title, but for us it means that next year B will participate in the reading program (newly developed by the Down Syndrome Research Foundation):
the one we couldn’t afford
one on one
with her favourite teacher.
She asked if we would be okay with that. If we would mind her basing her project on B. If she could spend several days training with DSRF to know how to use it. If she might be able to establish it in our school and district.
Today we will add our Thank You notes and gifts to the pile and pray that somehow they will adequately express our gratitude. We’ve entrusted them with the most precious part of ourselves: our children. This is why the outrage is so fierce when we feel betrayed, and this is why that coffee shop gift card seems so paltry when we feel so amazingly well supported.
So here’s me: school’s out for summer and I’m going to miss the help. What are the chances that we’ll have so many good stories next year?