A Fresh Start (again)

 I’m a parent of a child who learns differently. I’m the teacher of many children who learn differently. We are champions and cheerleaders. We celebrate the successes with real joy and listen to the challenges with a heavy heart. Most of all, we are advocates. We stop at nothing to draw attention again and again to ways the school can help our unique learner succeed.

This has been known to produce battle scars.

It doesn’t matter if you start the new school year as a child, teacher or parent, going back to school shares that heady mix of hopeful and anxious most beginnings share. 

The first few weeks of school were the same for me every year. I held my breath every day after school waiting to hear if any support was in place, if any of the differentiation was happening. I would fantasise that this would be the year I didn’t have to go in and tell every teacher ‘this is how my child learns best’ - because they had read the reports, all of them. It never happened.

The author Byron Katie says that when we argue with reality, we lose – but only 100% of the time. The reality is that most teachers are not trained in teaching learners outside the norm, nor do they have the skills to decode Ed Psych reports. They have 20-30 students, performance expectations tied to salary and quite often, the best will in the world. I mean this: most teachers I know – and I know many – love learning. Teachers respect learning with all their hearts. No teacher ever wants a student to fail. Never.

I’m often asked if I became a specialist as a result of my experiences with my child. My answer is always the same: Yes – but not as you might imagine. My graduate work in language-based learning differences stems from an earlier interest in linguistics and education. My specialism, however, came from my real time observations of my daughter. I am an expert in how my daughter interacts with her learning and what does and does not work for her in the classroom. I know what the effects are of good support and no support at all – I’m the first to know.

If you are reading this, chances are you are an expert too. No one knows your child as intimately as you do, not even the Ed Psych who wrote the report everyone should absolutely read. You have the necessary ability to use simple language to explain what makes your child unique and what special accommodations will enable a level playing field. While I am sorry that you will have to do this every year, I am glad it’s you. You understand what the stakes are.