The beginning of Alex’s school journey was.. bumpy.
The transition from structureless, easy, fun days, to being told what to do constantly, forced to sit quietly and still for extended periods and attempt things far outside of his comfort zone, didn’t come naturally to my little free spirit.
It had been about 6 months when I got a call from his school – they wanted to meet. Again.
My stomach dropped. What had happened today?
Alex had tummy issues, which meant that poos happened even when he didn’t realise they were happening. It made him self conscious and he knew he was different. Self conscious led to behaviour issues and behaviour issues led to an inability to focus or find the confidence to give anything new a go.
In the meeting that day, we were told that Alex was falling further and further behind, that they couldn’t wait for him any longer.
I didn’t know what the next step was, and I went home and cried. Alex was drowning and they were ready to give up on him. My heart was broken.
I had tried everything I could think of – even quit my full time job in order to take him out of before and after school care in an attempt to shorten his days to see if that helped him settle.
It did not, and I was out of new ideas.
That next morning, I stopped in to see the principal of the little ‘country’ school down the road from our house. Brent’s older two had been there, and he wondered if their approach to learning might be better suited to Alex’s needs.
I sat in the office and I tearfully told this principal about my son. The one with the tummy issues, the behaviour issues, the one that was so far behind, we didn’t know what else to do for him.
I waited for her to tell me their school was full. I waited for her to tell me that she couldn’t take this on at this stage in the year. I waited for her to tell me that there was nothing she could do for us.
Except she didn’t.
She handed me her box of tissues, and she said “Bring him to me. We don’t just want him. We need him. He will start next week.”
Moving schools meant turning everything upside down. Amending care arrangements with his father, understanding that I was at least a 45 minute drive away from him if I was called to collect him in the middle of the day while working and for him, it meant starting again.
I knew where he was wasn’t right and something had to give. My gut feeling was to try, and I decided to trust it.
We made the shift, and he started the next week.
We put him back in the new entrants class to give him a chance to settle in. A chance to start again, to rebuild some confidence.
The rest of the year wasn’t easy, but slowly, I could see his spark returning. My kind, generous, compassionate, fun loving little boy was back.
I still went into each meeting with the teacher filled with dread but I came out of every meeting with hope.
They didn’t focus on what Alex couldn’t do, they focussed on what he could do. They didn’t focus on how far behind everyone else he was, they focussed on how far he had come since the beginning. They didn’t see a disruptive, troublemaker. They saw a little boy that needed support and love and that is exactly what they gave him.
I was anxious when the beginning of this year rolled around. A new year meant a new teacher.
If there was ever an angel on earth, this woman is it.
Our first meeting, she sat down with us, and said “let’s get him reading.”
And she did.
She took him out of the reading recovery program he was in, because she realised that his learning style meant that he wasn’t coping as well as was expected. She committed herself to teaching the way he would respond best.
Alex is now not only confidently reading, he is doing so at a level just above his age groups standard.
Next she said, “lets get him writing.”
And she did.
Alex now participates in handwriting, along with the rest of the class. He has a long way to go, but he has come so far from the beginning when just picking up the pencil would send him spiralling.
She figured out how much Alex needed routine. She amended the way her classroom functions so that on days when Alex is struggling, he can rely on the familiar and feel safe in knowing what is coming next. Because of this, he has grown the ability to be more flexible when changes do come along.
Alex started the year struggling to bond with other kids. He now has 3 ‘best friends’, 2 ‘really good, but not best’ friends and a classroom full of ‘other’ friends. While we walk home, every child of every age group knows Alex by name and cheerfully says goodbye to him.
This teacher has taken the hesitant, anxious, quick to give up little boy that walked into her classroom at the beginning of the year, and taught him to deal with his frustrations with words. To find the confidence in himself to take risks when it comes to trying new things. To understand that practice makes perfect and that mistakes help us learn. She has taught him to bet on himself the way the rest of us do. He does, and it shows.
Oh we still have bad days – (my wonderful child is full of character, which is Mum for ‘a stubborn, head strong, emotional, sassy little punk, who will one day, be able to run the world but right now, at 7, drives us all to the very edge of sanity regularly’) but his bad days are regular kid bad days because he’s tired, or hungry, or distracted by the sunny day outside.
This teacher, this whole school, has gone above and beyond anything I could have ever expected.
He is confident in himself again, his good days far outweigh the bad – he feels accepted, supported and he bounces off to school every morning with an excited smile for the day to come.
Last week, he came home with a trophy for responsibility and I cried again. Different tears this time.
What a journey.
This little school in the middle of our little suburb way outside of the city, has changed our lives. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to find the words to express just how grateful I am for their encouragement and guidance at Alex’s every step.
For the faith they had in my little guy, that they transformed into faith in himself.
For the time that they have taken to get to know him, and grown to love him.
For their contribution to the incredible boy I am lucky enough to call mine.
For that morning that I sat in the office of this little country school, and they took a chance on my little boy.