Yesterday was progress report day for middle school. Rachel walked through the cross walk with a friend on each side and they were all three laughing and smiling. She smiled even bigger when she saw me waiting in the van. Before the door was fully open she exclaimed, “Mommy guess what? All A’s on my report card!” Then she informed me that we should do something to celebrate. I recommended going out for pizza after cheerleading Friday night. She agreed to that plan.
In the course of my few months of blogging, I’ve shared some of the joys and frustrations of school, IEP’s and Down syndrome. I promised to keep you in the loop on the Middle School Experience. I know I am always anticipating the next phase of the journey and looking for input on how to navigate with positive outcomes. Whether it is a story about labor and delivery or customer service, it seems many of us take pleasure in telling our negative stories. Sometimes that’s okay because we learn from those. For years I’ve heard about how difficult middle school is for all students. I have a master’s degree in adolescent development and spent years working with families and teenagers in paid and volunteer positions, so I am not naive to this. And I know as the parent of a child with an intellectual disability, there are some additional cones to navigate. And I know as the mother of a daughter, there are some additional cones to navigate. If I were giving a progress report for our first month of middle school I would give it an A. It would be an A+ but for a few minor communication issues. Apparently some of the little communication issues are standard, but for me, a person who is highly organized by nature, it is those little things that cause me to become frustrated. Please underline that I am not saying things are perfect. However, life isn’t perfect. People aren’t perfect. Sometimes people do the best they can, and as a good friend of mine says, “We have to figure out how to play together in the sandbox!” That is true for school as well.
I think there are some reasons why we are off to such a positive start. One is the school district does a good job. Overall, they are impressive in their willingness to work with us and adjust. Second, is the school leadership at our middle school. They have been easy to work with, approachable and seem genuinely thrilled for Rachel to be there. The principal runs a “tight ship” as I say and I think that makes for a good school usually. Then, there are the teachers. Rachel has never had a bad teacher. Her crop of teachers this year has been awesome. They have been willing to work on modifications, invite our suggestions and they seem genuinely happy to have Rachel in their classes. Now, another reason for success was the preparation. We all worked together to make sure we covered almost everything we could think of so Rachel would have a good transition. She has at least one friend from elementary in every class. This is good for everyone – Rachel, her peers, and the teachers.
Finally, I would say that Rachel is a central reason for success. She has matured. She wants to be treated like a big girl. She works hard. She has been so full of joy this school year. Every morning, she gets up to her alarm clock (30 minutes earlier than elementary) and goes through her morning routine with almost no prompts. She leaves with a smile and comes home with a smile. She does her work without complaining, and with a little help has been diligent in her time management. Now, I am not naive. I know there will be some bumps and maybe even a valley or two this year. I’ll share those too because just as I learn from others, I hope someone is learning from us.
For this day though, this high-maintenance mom (as I am labeled by some) says A’s for everyone and maybe you can celebrate with a slice of pizza, too!
I am glad to have you before us to pave the way. You are fabulous!