Today is Aaron’s last day of Grade 5. Every school year is a bumpy year for him, and my emotional pendulum from September to June swings from feeling totally despondent to feeling incredibly grateful for Aaron’s school experience. I’m on the incredibly grateful side of the spectrum today.
Last week, we had the ‘transition to Grade 6’ meeting with his Grade 5 teachers and the administration. As is my way, I wept at that school meeting, but this time I didn’t cry out of frustration and anger. I teared up out of deep gratitude for the teachers and the Assistant Principal for the effort they poured into teaching Aaron this year.
They never gave up on him, even during his darkest days in December, when a cold snap resulted in no outdoor recess, he had to share his Educational Assistant with a new student, he had increased academic pressure and way too many Christmas concert rehearsals. These factors, along with excitement over Santa’s impending arrival, threw him totally off-balance (and was reflected in his behaviour). I knew the teachers were feeling frustrated, but after a meeting to talk proactive strategies for success, things brightened in the new year.
Are things perfect at school for Aaron? No. Most of the imperfections come from troubles in the system: large class sizes, lack of time for teachers to adapt curriculum, better education about how disability can affect learning and behaviour. Is school ever easy for Aaron? No, but he’s learning how to be a good student. Sitting in a desk and ‘behaving’ does not come naturally to him. But he will give it his best effort if he senses that he has teachers who set high expectations for him. And this year he did.
I took the time to write long letters to each of his teachers, his Educational Assistant, and his Assistant Principal this year. I believe in the Thank You Project for educational professionals too. After all, their impact on Aaron is profound – they spend six hours a day with him, ten months out of the year. I really wanted to express my gratitude to them, in a more substantial way than a ‘thank you’ and gift card.
For his Educational Assistant:
You teach him, you care for him, you give him confidence, you make him laugh, and you help him be as successful as he can in school. You always have a beautiful smile, even if I know you must have had a frustrating day – I never see it show – you have such grace in that way.
For his teachers:
I so appreciate your efforts to assess his ability, and to modify the curriculum for him – particularly in math, which has classically been a trouble spot for him. I have never seen him express his own enthusiasm for math before!
You are one of those exceptional people who see the good in others, and make people feel like they are all special. That is a very powerful gift, particularly for young students, whose sense of identity is just being formed.
Thank you Anne, Robyn, Terry, Scott and Terry for being a part of Aaron’s team. Thank you for never writing him off or giving up on him. Thank you for believing in my boy, nurturing his spirit and keeping his love of learning alive.