Today ended fourth grade for Trevor, and one of the more tumultuous academic years for all of us. Grades one through three had been at our local neighborhood school, and due to increasing class sizes, bullying, and curriculum issues, we moved him to what we thought would be a much better experience. The new school was private, small, and in the process of expanding through eighth grade. Trevor was part of a new three-four blended class that was supposed to have around 16 kids. But on day one, only ten were enrolled, and three of them were from his previous school.
While I fully believe the staff and teachers were well meaning, they failed to fully appreciate the challenges inherent in teaching a very heterogeneous group of kids coming from two very different cultures. Although they did their best to retool their approach as the year unfolded, for Trevor it went from bad to worse. On Valentines Day of all days, we pulled him from the school with no other plan than to take a break from school and reassess our next move.
As the weeks passed it was clear having Trevor at home was not helping matters. He spent much time alone, depressed, and feeling something must be wrong with him since he had now left two schools in a year’s time. We felt sad, helpless, and unsure exactly what to do. To make matters worse, our house was up for sale and we constantly had to leave at inopportune times for showings. Life was a stressful mess.
When spring break rolled around we headed north to Canada for a much needed vacation. Only a couple hours out of town, we realized we had forgotten our passports. Frustrated beyond words, we thought about returning home, but decided to spend a few days in the Olympic Rainforest before calling it quits. On the day we were to return home, we received a call that Trevor’s number on a waiting list for a charter school had come up.
The school was barely on our radar and never once had we ever even visited the place. The next day, back home, we all toured the school. It was urban, alternative, funky, and yet perfect in many ways. Trevor liked what he saw. And while ambivalent about returning to school, probably knew it was a far better option than sulking around with mom and dad at home.
So to bring this long and arduous story to a close, Trevor jumped in headfirst and ended the year on one of the highest notes in his brief academic history. Much credit goes to his Saint of a teacher, who’s calm, focused, and empathetic style, helped Trevor realize his own self-worth. In just a few short weeks, he made friends – real friends – that made him feel normal again. He also saw more clearly the shortcomings of his previous schools, reducing shame that he was to blame for the past problems.
While no school is perfect, and Trevor continues to have his issues, today we all enjoyed the year-end field day and look forward to fifth grade. Here are few shots, including one with his teacher.
Parent Teacher Tug-of-War – once the kids went on the teachers side it was over!