Big Loud Hope

My memories of the public school system are…not so great. One thing that comes to mind is my battle with my junior high school principal about the clothes I insisted on wearing, which were generally dyed, bleached, cut up, sewn back together, deconstructed and reconstructed. The principal kept sending me home for being “distracting to the other students.” In response to which, I distributed pamphlets (that I wrote) about freedom of expression. My sweet but NOT rebellious mother nearly died of embarrassment. She cut my clothes to pieces with a scissor one night.

So it comes as no surprise that I approached my dealings with L.A. Unified School District with trepidation. I dreaded the paperwork, the headache, the bureaucracy. I dread “the man.”

But my back was against the wall. T had been kicked out of three private preschools within two days of starting them. Over the past couple of years, it’s become clear to us that T has special needs socially and emotionally. The private preschool programs that are equipped to address his needs are at best an hour drive from here. So, I bit the bullet, made the phone calls, filled out the paperwork and got him assessed by the school district.

Last week, Scott and I went into a meeting with the director of services, a psychologist, a special ed teacher and an occupational therapist. We walked out of the meeting with an IEP – an Individualized Education Program. Tariku is set to start public preschool next week. In our corner we’ll have a behavioral support team, an occupational therapist and a teacher who is familiar with and prepared to address his needs.

The education professionals we’ve encountered throughout this process have far exceeded my hopes. I believe they really care what happens to T. We sat in that meeting with them for nearly two hours and I felt heard and validated. I cried when I thanked them all at the end.

On this parenting journey I get to learn again and again that my assumptions are so often wrong. Half the time, I’m making decisions based on fears that have their origins in my own childhood. That childhood is long gone. While I believe that its wounds deserve to be acknowledged, I don’t want to live from a place of hurt. I want to live from a place of hope.

Tariku starts preschool again next week. I’m going to go ahead and be hopeful about it.

12 thoughts on “Big Loud Hope

  1. I disliked every day of school from Preschool to the last moments in a classroom to get my degree from an Ivy League college. I never felt that the people there were doing anything more than getting in my way.

    My two boys have none of my issues with school. I try to remind myself of this every time I sit down to talk about school with them. They love their school. They did great at their K-5 public school and they are both thriving in their private school now.

    Tariku is going to rock it. He will quickly start to figure out that this is a bunch of fantastic playmates worth his attention and it will all be one big positive feedback loop. You’ll see.

  2. For what it’s worth, if you do ever have trouble getting what you and T need in your pubic school don’t be afraid to keep talking to people. And by that I mean, not just the principal, but keep going up all the way to the top if you need to. Just do it. You should get results then.

    I graduated last year from a good public school but still, for various reasons felt (and still do feel) that it failed me. My mom and I recently realized/learned that if we (or she, really) would have kept talking to people and going up the chain of commands maybe we could have gotten results. I won’t say that we totally would have…but maybe and maybe not. Just thought I’d share my two cents.

  3. Have you read The Out of Sync Child or Raising a Sensory Smart Child? Look into sensory processing disorders, if you haven’t already.

    • Yes, I have them. I’m always sadly delinquent with my reading, but I’ve skimmed them and have been meaning to give them a deeper read!

  4. I worked as a preschool paraprofessional in a public school. I worked with the kids that needed some more individual attention while the main teacher kept the class rolling along. I loved being able to work with the kids one on one. I got to cuddle and have great conversations (and got hit a few times). The kids that needed a little more love through the day are the ones I remember most fondly. Believe me when I say that there are some really dedicated people in the public schools who truly do care about the children they are entrusted with. I hope T has a great time!

  5. I was a Pre-K Special Ed. teacher for LAUSD. Let me know if you ever need any advice. There are some great services available, but sometimes you have to fight for them. Behavioral support plans can work wonders. 1:1 assistants can be very helpful too. Good luck to you and Tariku! I’m sure he’ll do great!

  6. You always seem to be able to view things from such a positive yet realistic place. Tariku won’t go far wrong with you behind him. My own little man (my crazy diamond)has aspergers and has frequent meltdowns so I’m homeschooling him for the moment. Never thought I’d be here but I wouldn’t change much. Thats the magic I guess!

  7. Have you seen this?

    Amazing movement? group? foundation? I’m not really sure what to call them. Anyway, childhood trauma causes issues later in life, and the best way to deal with the kids who are struggling is with compassion and love. Who knew, right!?

    I hope all is going well, and T knows how loved & important he is to his teachers!

  8. All I can say – as a teacher (on the other side of the country, I’m in Northern VA) – FIGHT FOR T! There is no one on the planet who knows him better than you & Scott. If you don’t like what they have to say, tell them. If you don’t agree with something they want to do, don’t let them. As a teacher all I can hope from in parents in my class is that they voice their concerns and ask questions. We don’t always know what parents are aware of, what they’re familiar with & MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, “typical behavior at home.” If you can walk into a situation & know that the people around the table with you are with you in wanting the best for T, you’ve got a great team to work together with. What a lucky little guy to have you two!

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