Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Trip down Memory Lane: My daughter Graduates!

I am going to post twice today, please feel free to skip this post if you are uninterested in the making of a graduate who was unlikely to make it out of the 9th grade. This post is more for me to reflect, and NEVER give up on your kids.
Yesterday, my daughter graduated from High School. A common occurrence for many but a major feet and a day, I once never thought would come. She started off like most kids, attended pre-k was always liked by her teachers and had many friends in elementary school, but by the end of 1st grade when I suddenly realized she wasn't "really" reading, I knew there was something wrong. In searching for a school that would meet my older child's needs, (he was diagnosed with ADHD) and stay clear of the inner city school, I had transferred my kids to three different schools by the time my daughter was in 3'd grade. Perhaps that had nothing to do with anything, but I believe it did. They both started out at Pursy Hughes school, I quickly found out that this school was NOT where I wanted my children or quite frankly any child to obtain an education. (I had actually attended there as a child myself, but the place had changed). At every visit all I heard was the principal yelling at some kid, all family functions were disorderly and out of control. At the school talent show for example, kids were in the audience laughing and making noise during the performance. I just knew I couldn't keep my kids there. From Hughes, I sent my kids to a newly developed school in the area promising to be everything the current city schools lacked. The Charter school. My daughter had kindergarten there and we liked it enough, but my son's second grade teacher; and his all time favorite (Ms. Mauro) had fore-warned us of what problems this new school district was entering. She had suggested getting them out, and as it so happened the school failed miserably and no longer exists. At a loss of either sending my kids back to the same inner city school and concerned with my son's academics my focus became finding a placement that would ultimately benefit him. I found it, so I thought in a transitional school that in retrospect was a year that amounted to nothing for either of them academically. This is not to say that "some" kids might do well in such school environments, but mine did not. The New School was what it was called( it also came with a tuition fee, which I worked hard to pay for) and it taught in a style that at the time seemed to make the most sense for a kid, who lacked his own motivation, drive and conformity to the "system". The school taught in an untraditional fashion, there were no defined grades and the entire k-6th worked together "independently" in some respects guiding themselves to achieve their own personal grade level. My hope was that my son would learn to achieve and gain satisfaction from his own personal worth. ( I was also hoping to have him remain free of the suggested narcotic medications recommended to treat his ADHD). In my case, neither child "really" met with anyone's standards most certainly NY States. The school was "fun", we did lots of parent hands on activities, and both the kids enjoyed it, but it wasn't until the end of the year that I was told my son spent most of his "private learning time" sitting at his desk poking his pencil into the wall. The hole was there to prove it, and the demand for socialization that would have assisted him in positive self guidance was lacking. He struggled to make positive relationships and often tried to hard. Most of the kids found his behaviors funny at first, but soon a distraction and an annoyance. He was never ostracized,  but finding a peer role model to take under their wing (part of the program was peer mentoring) suffered as a result and he just never meet with the success of the program. My daughter socially fit right in, she was always "a favorite" to most teachers, and well liked by many of her peers.  She worked hard to be liked, and as it would so happened was liked well enough to be over looked when it came to if she was learning or not. By the end of 1st grade, she was still not reading, and the school's response was "She always appeared to be reading during reading time". I guess they never bothered to teach her or insist that she read to them. In part I blame myself, most of these "√©lite" kids had parents who were professors or home school types to begin with and their children entered the New School already reading. Regardless, I knew they couldn't continue at the New School. Now what? Another transfer. I had high hopes with the city school Solace and petitioned for a transfer the minute that became available, They got in. The smaller elementary school and the Amazing principal sold me the first week. I also put my son on the recommended medications. The small class size, medications, encouragement of parental involvement and the teachers paid off and they were finally working on making progress. My son has said now that he hated it and remembers ONLY the mean bully kid that use to punk on him and several of the other students. But regardless, they both finally seemed to be making progress, and I was satisfied. My daughter did finally learn to read, but continued to struggle, and we were moving to a new district. Goodbye Solace, hello JD. My daughter started her fourth year at yet another new school. Jamesville-Dewitt is perhaps one of the best schools in the area, and I was grateful for the opportunity to get my kids into the school, I was also grateful that one teacher had the incite to see that my daughter was having more difficulties with her reading then she should. An evaluation was requested, and a diagnosis was made. Now no one wants to have their child labeled as different, but I knew this was what she needed to help her stop pretending to be something she wasn't. She was deemed to have comprehension problems and given an IEP, which allowed her special time for testing, (also her tests were read to her) special classroom recourses and allotted her additional help in areas that she struggled in. Relief. My son seemed to be having more difficulties despite his own IEP and special resources. My daughter became less of a focus (as often she was in her younger years) as I was addressing the needs of my son who was according to the resources teacher a big concern. My son's resources teacher was awful. She made several inferences about my parenting styles and even commented about it directly at an IEP meeting surrounded by many members of the school district staff. Apparently I was the reason my son was not being successful in school. I had done everything I thought was possible including picking him up from school everyday and going through his books and assignments before we left the school, (as recommended by this stupid witch of a women, my thought were he needed to start being accountable for himself) to make sure all homework assignments went home with him to be completed. We worked on the assignments at home, took games and privileges away he was just not interested in school or what the teachers demanded of him. We moved again during my son's 8th grade year and my daughters 6th. ( I was actually glad to rid my son's resources teacher) My son's pattern continued into high school and I continued to fight with teachers and counselors. He became another success story, despite it all. My son failed the 9th grade and the teachers reported that he really should not even continue due to his lack of engagement. At 9th grade, mommy could no longer go to his school and obtain his homework assignments, and he was left to his own self to address the demands of his current grade. He failed at it miserably.  The one guidance counselor had recommended the 2 hour a day ( In my opinion BULL SHIT school) as an alternative. I had worked with kids in these types of school; they are messed up kids, kids with emotional and behavioral issues, drug abuse and a host of additional concerns that my son did not need to become involved with. I saw the recommendation as a cop out for the guidance counselor, and pretty much giving the kid what he wanted all along, not to have to address his education. The guidance counselor had the nerve to state by sending my son to this school (I have even forgotten the name of both the school and the Guidance counselor I have angrily blocked it from my mind). He would be saving me and my family from having a 23 year old unemployed drug abusing son living on my couch the rest of his life. I was appalled!!! My response was, sending my son to this school would give me exactly that and no different. We appealed to the principal who went out on a line for my son and got him into the Career academy. He excelled in this school setting,  graduated last year with a high school diploma and although he decided to drop out spent last Fall in his first year of college. I am still trying to convince him to return to school, but he is an adult now, and he proved to everyone that he could do it. Now he is working with plans to explore an education that will further him at his current job working for Fed EX. He does not use drugs, and has not lived with me or on my couch for the last two years. We often joke about going back to his 9th grade guidance counselor and saying look YOU FREEKEN MORON!!! Anyways....this memory lane trip was about my daughter. My son's story was important because it does involve my daughters own difficulties. You see, my son's struggles became for most of her life, my biggest battle.  My daughter although it was apparent, not as academically intelligent (My son tests even proved such, he just wasn't willing to put forth the effort) She was willing to put forth the effort. She worked hard independent of her mother, who quite honestly was tired and grateful that she was doing it on her own so to speak, after dealing with her brother. Her grade reflected a c student, with comments like tries hard, a pleasure to work with, and always willing to help others. Where he lacked in drive and motivation she shined! As time went on, her drive started to fail, somewhere along the way, I lost her and she lost herself. I believe she grew tired of "trying" so hard, grew more and more aware that she just couldn't do as well as the others despite her efforts, she also couldn't win over on her teachers with her charm as she continued into the higher grades. Once in high school, her pretty smile and willingness became bitter self hate and internalized rage. She daily reported how much she hated school, hated the teachers, hated me and more concerning hated her life. He c grades became d's then fails. She attended summer school every year through her high school career, barely making it to the next grade every time, she started hanging out with "the wrong" crowd, breaking rules, doing drugs, sneaking out, skipping school, she got suspended three times, had a host of in school suspensions along with three trips to the school hearings board, she took my car one night, was brought home by the cops after I called them as she had left the house and I couldn't find her, she and I had to many arguments to count including one where she shoved me against the wall so hard I hit my knee and struggled to walk. She  was a legal voice (although thank the lord above she was not there when it happened) to a deadly hit and run. It was difficult times I often referred to her as Linda Blair from the exorcist, and her ring tone on my phone was the theme from the movie Friday the 13th. From the summer between 8th and 9th grade to the beginning of her senior year we lived in hell. We tried counseling, school interventions, (never once was she recommended to go to the three hour a day school), I tried punishments; taking her phone, grounding her, threats, keeping her away from certain people, then I tried with convincing her I would buy her things, take her places. I yelled she yelled louder, I would follow her out, call her constantly when she was out, be on her about her school work, we called each other names, I threatened to send her to her dad's. It was three years of HELL. I never gave up, I wanted to, all the time I wanted to, I would have gladly given her to the next wacko who wanted to take her off my hands it was so awful, but I stuck it out. She appeared to have given up on herself, and someone had to believe in her. I know it sounds strange, but things did not get better until she told me after one of our drawn out arguments that I needed to back off and let her make her own decisions and learn from her own mistakes that something changed. Maybe it was just wishful thinking, maybe it was the series of events that unfolded within her personal life I'm not sure, but once I let go, she began to take lead. I am not saying that it was easy and I am not saying that there didn't continued to be problems, but something changed. Perhaps it was me stepping out of the way, perhaps it was her new boyfriend, her positive teachers, her decision to take BOCES her Junior year, her relationship with the assistant principal and his secretary, her resource class. Maybe it was a combination of all of it, but ultimately it was her. She took back her life. Something within her took hold and she was determined. I remember sitting with the school guidance counselor discussing the prospect of her senior year. She had failed so many required classes it looked like graduation if at all would mean cutting the one class (the BOCES nursing program) and passing everything on her first try and fitting a gym class in somewhere, for her to even graduate on time with her peers. We worked every angle, cut this out, take this class. She was adamant that she would graduate on time or not at all, she was also not going to budge on the BOCES program. The only way it would work, she had to pass all of her summer school classes, had to pass all of her required senior recommended classes, and somehow fit in 1/2 year of gym. We could only put it on her to pass the classes, but finding a wavier to get through gym class was our only obstacle or cut her resource class. She refused to cut her resource class noting she would not pass her classes without it. (She knew better then the rest of us) We were fortunate that her teachers and the assistant principal had seen something in her, had not loss hope. Her year at the BOCES program had presented a glimmer of hope in a girl who had very little the year before. She was granted an independent study credit for the gym. Her requirements were to attend the YMCA three times per week and complete written assignments as presented by her gym teacher. I recall reminding her of how difficult this year would be. She would be taking a full load of senior year classes with no room to fail, taking on the demands of the nursing program, and finding time to address her gym requirements outside of the school day. She also decided that year to take on a part time job at subway. It seemed to me, that all the odds were against her. I had for the most part resolved to the fact that she would be graduating the falling spring or looking at obtaining her GED. I put it all in her hands confident that she would somehow rise to the occasion., it just all seemed impossible.  Throughout the year, there were hard times, she even got suspended one more time, and I was called by her BOCES teacher a few times regarding her attitude, she was even threated that she might not be allowed in clinical as a result. The road to her success seemed even more rocky. There were success too, she passed all of her summer requirements, and became more efficient at her clinical demands. She began to take an interest in continuing an education beyond high school and started talking about going to college. She passed her nursing test and has become a CNA, she completed her gym requirements, and obtained a 99% grade in her Government course, and yesterday among the other 600+ graduating students there she was in her blue cap and gown a part of the 2013 graduating class.
Somehow, some way...she did it. I cannot express how incredibly proud I am of her accomplishments. She is now a graduate of High School, has plans to start a college education and found herself a good job working as a nurse's aid at a local retirement home. She reports an intention of ultimately obtaining her RN and hopes to become a Mid-Wife someday. I have no doubt that she will do whatever she sets her mind to. What more can I say except that I am beaming with joy over her! I will never say never, and will always remember her determination as an inspiration. I love this little lady, I even loved her when she was Linda Blair, she was just so much harder to love.