Friday, October 12, 2007

Speaking of education...

So i just completed the first of any grapevine education i have had to this point in my life. This brings to mind the fact that i was quite happy to not be a part of the Back To School shopping crowds this year, Jarel having graduated a year ago.

Some of you already know what a struggle school was for him--he was born nearly 3 months prematurely to a cocaine addicted mom (not me--i run more to chocolate addictions.) This combination of unfortunate events caused some learning disabilities for him, and he went through all his years from kindergarten through high school in our district's Special Education program. In the beginning this meant Special Day Class, where he stayed with a group of about 10-13 other children within a year or two of his grade. He would be mainstreamed into a "regular ed" classroom for a part of the day, maybe for Physical Education and math, something like that.

By the time he was rounding the bases toward home and finally in high school, his math skills sort of stalled--his teachers made some attempts to help him, but he obviously needed more if he was to fulfill the requirements the California schools expected of him. i didn't totally understand that--they had placed him in a setting for students with learning issues, some pretty severe. And yet they expected him to compete with the mainstream students and get the scores those students needed to get their diplomas.

Here the adoptive mom (me!) got a little crazy and started writing letters to The Governator, Arnold Schwartzenegger. But she also decided to enlist a little aid--and it just so happened there was a Friendly Neighborhood SCORE! tutoring center. So this mom called and set up an appointment, and explained, "We need him to be able to graduate and get a diploma." They said, "We can make that our goal."

i have to say my boy is a sweet hearted guy, and adults tend to really like him. But these adults helped him more than just improving his math and English skills through the program they tailored to his needs, they were positive with him. The adults, the high school and college age tutors, all who worked with him, made him feel like just another student, rather than the Special Needs guy who has to be in a special class.

Being Special Ed can be tough on a kid--they're singled out, they're *Different.* It's not enough that they struggle to keep up with the requirements for their grades, but they have to run the gauntlet of Being *Different.* That's a lot to deal with, knowing they need the smaller class environment, but being pointed at, laughed at, and made fun of by the mainstream kids.

The people at SCORE! made it pleasant for him to show up, positive for him to be there. They welcomed him, treated him like a valuable person. What it did for his self-esteem was worth every bit as much as the program they made for his academic needs. Maybe more. With the help of quite a few teachers, the SCORE! tutors, us, and lots of patience and prayers, he made it out of high school with a diploma.

He still struggles--as some of you know, he has a job now. He's bussing tables at Fresh Choice. He gets a paycheck, he gets tips. We're still working on the concepts of budgeting with him, but then his dad and i are still trying to get those same concepts and we're waaaay over 19 years old. But it isn't just about the numbers alone, the grades alone, we're trying to help mold a productive and independent member of society here. And he's gonna be a good one.

*this is a sponsored post.
Math Tutors


Jen said...

I have tears in my eyes... being an educator and knowing that the system is not made to help EVERY student be successful is just sad. It is all pretty wrong, but I'm so thankful when parents are able and willing to do what is necessary for their child. I'm very happy for you all!

julia said...

It's a tough one. i don't know how the educational system could work, without tons more teachers/equipment/programs... the whole special ed thing is pretty crazy, the teachers spend so much time doing crowd and noise control it must be pretty hard to get the actual teaching done. Jarel's high school special day class teacher didn't even have any spec ed experience before he ended up in there! That just says something about the need. But i always told the teachers at the annual IEP, "i've always told God i would do anything He asked of me, but just PLEASE don't ask me to homeschool Jarel!" And i'd thank them for doing the job--it's a tough one.