Jake does not like school. He makes that very clear – over and over and over again. “Health class is stupid! I am not taking Health! Why do I have to take History? What good is that after I graduate! They can’t make me take these classes! I don’t even care if I graduate!” Being a Special Ed student is hard! While the last couple years of school had many ups and downs, it was nothing like this year.
The Special Ed teacher retired. There was no one to take her place. The school scrambled to get as many students into the General Education classes as they could – with accommodations of course. But Jake was not a good fit to go into the regular classes – even with his one-on-one aide. So he got assignments from the regular teachers, to do outside of class. But because he has trouble reading, someone else has to read the material to him, out of a textbook. And because the school was focusing so much on Jake’s getting his credits to graduate, he was not getting any reading or writing practice.
For years, I have been trying to get the schools to give him more Life Skill lessons. But their focus is credits, graduation requirements and state testing scores. What about reading? What about writing? How will Jake get a job? How will he navigate an airport? Read a menu? Get a driver’s license? Read the dosage on a bottle of cough medicine?
Jake’s attitude at school was getting bad. I mean, really bad. He would refuse to do work. He would rant and rave, swearing up a storm. He would leave classes. I got phone calls from school. He started to get write-ups and detentions. Then one day early in December, he went home for lunch – and didn’t return to school.
I kept him out of school the next day. I told him that he would not go to school. Instead, I would give him homework and he would have to get it done by the time I got home from work, or I would hold his Kindle Fire hostage until it was done. And you know what? He did the homework. He didn’t complain. He didn’t refuse. He got the work done.
Granted, I gave him only four worksheets a day to complete. But they were things he would have to read himself. There were reading comprehension pages, fill in the blank pages, writing pages based on a prompt he would have to read. He did more reading in one week, than he did at school all year.
I wanted Jake to graduate – but I also wanted him to be able to read. I researched the legal age to drop out of school in our state. Jake is 16. The legal age to drop out is 18. Until he is 18, he has to have some kind of schooling. In order to homeschool, he has to either be in an “official” homeschool program or the school superintendent has to get involved to be sure I am smart enough to teach him myself.
When I called the school after Christmas Break to get more information, I talked to the school counselor. I explained all my reasons I wanted to take Jake officially out of school – his negative attitude, the lack of a proper Special Ed program, the fact that he was not getting the basic skills he needed to succeed in life. She listened – and actually heard what I was saying. She said she would talk to some other people and get back to me.
Today, she called. They decided that they would provide a more hands-on education for Jake. They would actually teach him Life Skills. They would work in more reading and writing time. They would not use class titles, like “Health” or “History”, instead opting to offer projects he could do that related to those subjects (like cooking a healthy snack, or making a poster about the risks of tobacco use). And now they have a long-term substitute teacher for the Special Ed department who is on board with helping provide more appropriate assignments so that Jake can succeed and have a more positive school experience. AND, they want to know what Jake complains about at home, so they can adjust to better serve him.
I wanted to cry. Such a weight lifted off of me. Finally, someone actually heard what I was saying and acted on it to help my child. I don’t understand why it took so long. But, I am happy that he will be going back to a more positive environment and may actually learn what he needs to learn. And when I told Jake about it, he wasn’t upset about having to go back. I think he secretly missed certain parts of school – friends, relationships with staff, wood shop.
So Monday, he will go back to school. It’s been almost a month. I am sure he will get lots of positive attention when people see him (“Hey Dude! Where you been?”), which is a great start to getting back into the swing of things. I am sure there will still be some ups and downs, but now I am hopeful to see a lot more ups. Maybe this year will actually end up being okay after all.