As my hand gently moved to lay across his arm, he knew there was going to be trouble...
Last night we had teacher conferences at school for all 3 boys and it went very well for the most part. We heard wonderful comments about each of the boys and were quite happy with their progress. Then came the "moment", and Momma Bear came out with a vengeance.
Kenny has a team of teachers working with him, including special ed, speech, ESL and his regular teacher. We only met with the special ed teacher in addition to his regular classroom teacher last night. The conversation was moving along just fine as we reviewed Kenny's test scores, discussed classrooom behavior, etc. Then we mentioned that we are still considering holding him back to repeat 3rd grade and would make a firm decision on that at the end of the year.
That's when I was suddenly subjected to being talked to like an uneducated idiot who couldn't POSSIBLY know what was right for my child. The special ed teacher IS a well educated, articulate woman who knows her stuff. She also has no understanding of post-institutionalization whatsoever and has not once ever taught a child with Kenny's background. Yet she knows what is right for him, in her opinion, and didn't hesitate to provide me with the benefit of her expertise and superior education.
And at that moment I laid my hand on Dominick's arm, years of marriage and non-verbal communication paid off and with no need for words he subtly leaned back in his chair so I could then give this special ed teacher the benefit of MY experience and education...
"Research shows that holding a child back is NEVER the best option." and then she leaned across the table with an acusatory tone and said "So you are saying you want to make your child feel punished?". Then as I tried to express what we were thinking about Kenny's progress this teacher then threw out a threat, and with a haughty tone said "Well, before we do that we will have to involve the Principal and School Psycologist."
Don't EVER lean in at me with an unfounded accustion or threats, or I'll lean on you. Hard.
And I did.
Whew, was I hot!! I asked her if she had taught any children with Kenny's background, if she understood that for every three months insitutionalized a child was delayed 1 month...and Kenny had lived in that environment for 8 1/2 years. I also informed her in no uncertain terms that she could feel absolutely free to bring anyone into the dialogue, but in the long run if we wanted Kenny held back, he would be held back. Period. Or we would reomve him from school altogether and teach him at home as I am not at all averse to doing that and know that at least at this stage in his education I could manage that quite nicely. I explained that she was looking at test scores, which by the way were unsatisfactory in my mind for progression to the next grade, but we were looking at the whole child and would ALWAYS be able to see that whole child better than ANY teacher who worked with him an hour every day in a group setting. I explained to her quite clearly that Kenny was emotionally and developmentally in many ways a 6 year old...that away from school he played almost exclusively best with Josh and his friends despite the fact that Matthew was 8 months younger and far closer in age. I informed her that she may have forgotten but I currently have a son in 4th grade and am in the classroom often so I know exactly what faces Kenny next year should he move up, and not only do I recognize that he is unable to handle work at that level, but so does Kenny. I also informed her we had already discussed this possibility with Kenny long ago, and that despite what she thought he was not considering it a punishment should it have to happen.
Then I was finished, and she quickly left the room. Thankfully, his classroom teacher understands our perspective and doesn't think we are foolish to be considering this possibility. We will revisit the issue at the end of the school year when we will ultimately make the decision, and they can bring in the King of England if they want to but that still won't scare me off. I also know we DO have the support of the Principal and Psychologist, should we need it, and that is nice to know.
Why, oh why, do people who have never even spent 10 minutes with kids like ours from these backgrounds suddenly think they are experts in educating or parenting them? "Studies show...", "research shows"...that does NOT apply to my child unless that study was based upon post-institutionalized children from the former Soviet republics. You want studies? I'll give you studies that are applicable, and I intend on doing that very thing this week. But why do teachers and others not recognize that they show their OWN ignorance when they are so busy trying to reveal mine??
I am NOT an expert in special education. I AM the best expert they will find on Kenny LaJoy. I have a very intelligent son whose reading skills place him at the level of the end of first grade, and she thinks it is inappropriate to even consider holding him back from entering 4th grade?? You tell me whose thinking is inappropriate. He is also not yet working at 3rd grade level in math, which if he were might give me reason to pause. I have a 10 year old whose playmates are 6 year olds, so the maturity factor isn't a concern.
Why can't any well educated person recognize that a bright kid who has had only a year and a half of a new language, a new family, a new culture, and a new life might just need one thing to help him...more time. Kenny is ONLY "special needs" due to a lack of time here to learn. He has no learning disability that has been identified, he has a good brain which is making more and more connections all the time. He has support at home, he is surrounded by caring adults and siblings. What he needs is time to catch up, and he will. If he has it, I have no doubt that he will be performing at an A-B level, but if we don't give him that time his frustration will grow as he is certainly smart enough to see that he ought to be getting good grades and doing well, if only for not missing out on his early years of school.
As we left the building, steam still spewing from my ears, Dominick started laughing and said "I knew once that hand was on my arm that I needed to just sit back and let you go...I'll bet she never expected that!".
Yea, well, I never expected to be treated like someone with an IQ of 50 and as if I didn't know my own son. I never expected to be accused of wanting to punish him merely because I want to see him succeed and am responsible for providing him with all the tools he needs to do just that, even if one of those tools is Time.
Mama Bear is on the loose, don't let her come to YOUR school!