We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance. ~Harrison Ford
Last week I attended Open House at my younger son’s school; my son did not want to attend as he had a project to finish and was studying for a Language Arts test scheduled the next morning.
I used to love attending Open House when my kids were in elementary school: their classrooms would be decorated with artwork, essays, and dioramas the students had completed over the course of the year. It was a time to talk to the teacher, connect with other parents, and take in all the energy of their classroom. The kids would pose with their teacher so I could take a picture, forever capturing that moment of joy of a successful school year.
Last year in sixth grade, my younger son had a difficult time managing multiple classes as he struggled with brain fog and untreated Lyme symptoms. He wasn’t fully engaged in school and had counted down the days until the end of the school year. At last year’s Open House, his teachers raised their eyebrows about his performance and lack of attention in class. Middle school Open House was a disappointment for all of us.
At the start of 7th grade, my son and I didn’t want a repeat of last year so we came up with a system that would help him stay focused, on track and would reward him for his work and efforts. The system worked well the first few months of school and then we agreed to remove the reward component in November mainly because it was hard to track and because he had started neurotherapy. By December, we had had several more meetings with his teachers regarding his assignments and class participation as he continued to work to get his assignments in on time. There were emails from the teacher on his “great” days as well as emails with “concerns”.
Between January and March, my son continued neurotherapy sessions and his attitude about school improved. There continued to be sporadic meetings with teachers regarding his behavior in class and while assignments were not always turned in on time, he and I came up with a method of communication (The Advocate, April 11, 2019, by Karen Lynch) that empowered and helped him develop confidence. When May rolled around, his complaints about school diminished considerably and he would come home from school, share little about his day and sit down to start his homework.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I drove to Open House last week and the fact, he didn’t want to go surprised me.
As I visited each of his classrooms, I viewed his work that was displayed on the walls and desks. Nothing extravagant or over the top, he had merely completed each assignment.
As I viewed his classwork his Humanities teacher said to me: “I’ve seen a huge improvement in his attitude; he’s a different student.”
When I entered his Science class, his teacher told me “Writing isn’t his ‘thing’, but presenting is – he’s a diplomat and a great presenter.”
The Math teacher smiled when I came into the classroom. “C has had a great year and has been actively participating in class.”
Each of his teachers made it a point to tell me how much my son had improved and how much he had grown. They recognized his improvements and commended me on the effectiveness of the teamwork and effort we had made to ensure this year would be a successful one for him. It was gratifying to hear this.
When I got home, my son was finishing his project; he had a slight curve of a smile, the tips of his ears pink, saying “I know, Mom” as I shared each comment made by his teachers.
I had been so deep in the trenches, developing strategies and tools he could use to be successful, that I could not see the forest for the trees. I had assumed he didn’t want to go to Open House because there had been so many meetings, emails, and discussions about his schoolwork, that it may have been a repeat performance of last year, but I was wrong. He didn’t want to go because he didn’t want positive attention or accolades.
He had had a chance to turn things around this school year, and he did. I can’t wait to see what 8th grade brings.