Monday, November 2, 2009

A sad farewell to a wonderful student and his mom

On Friday, a parent approached me with a sad look. She explained that she was taking her student out of our school and transferring him to another school in the district. My heart nearly broke there on the school yard. This particular student started in my classroom in the 2006- 2007 school year, and was with me in 07-08 AND the 08-09 school year. When he started he was a shy little boy who spent his first few weeks either crying or sleeping.

His mother met me with within that first month and explained how she wanted her son to learn to read. We talked about was developmentally appropriate for his age and considered his specific disability and educational needs. She was open to what I had to say at the time and an amazing parent-teacher symbiotic relationship developed.

She was the parent who I first gave my work email address to. She was the parent who volunteered in the classroom, both during regular class days and field trips. She never missed a performance that the class was giving and often donated tissues and hand sanitizer to the classroom. Her child blossomed into a leader, and by June 2009, into an early reader as well. She worked with him at home and her efforts were evident in the classroom. When the last day of school arrived last year, tears were all around, but I assured her that her son would be fine. He had made so much progress that he was being discharged out of special education and would be placed in a regular education classroom! Hooray for an overall special education success story! One of my professors in graduate school once said of the field of special education that we should all be working to put ourselves out of business. It's an interesting idea.

I saw her a few times earlier this year and worked hard to clear up placement confusion when I learned that the child was placed in a sub-separate class AFTER BEING DISCHARGED. The child seemed incredibly somber whenever I saw him in class or in the hall. When I saw the mom last week, she explained her reasons, which included the feeling that her child was not learning anything, that the work was simply busy work and that the teacher is chronically absent. I fully support and respect her decision but it is a loss for me and for the school.

I was personally hoping to follow this student through the school to keep track of his progress. The school itself needs more parents like this outstanding woman. Parents who are willing to work with and listen to teachers, parents who are willing and ready to be involved can have such a positive impact on their child and the overall culture of the school. Unfortunately, parents like this are so few and far between in our school.

Even though I respect the parent's decision, I was filled with sadness on Friday. This is not the first time that a former student has left the building because the parents have not liked the quality of the teachers at the next grade level. It tells me that as a school we need to shape up and the administration needs to address this. I feel bad for my colleagues at the next grade level, but I can't give anything less than 100%. Unfortunately, other people can tell when people are NOT giving 100%.

I hope that my former student and his mom are happy at the new school. I hope this incident wakes up my colleagues and administrator and I hope to maintain my relationship with this wonderful family for the inspiration they provide to me and others.

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