Lofty ideas printed on paper only become reality in the act of doing. It’s people that put action to great ideas and that’s when magic can happen, lives can be changed and possibilities become endless. This is true for any organization, and especially so for schools who help form a child’s view of the world and of themselves.
Nor’s Story: The right school has to have the right people. At preschool, we had the right school and the right people all the way up until Kindergarten. I should have known when we were at orientation and my son was crawling under the desk pretending to be a dog (a common coping strategy of his during the early years) that it was time to bolt. But there were so many lessons I was still learning as his parent. It looked good, we had been happy there for ages three and four, I had waited in line at 5am for one of the few spots available. Kindergarten was clearly wrong from before day one once we were with the teacher, but I didn’t listen to myself and I didn’t listen to him. The book is right–everything I need to know, I learned in that kindergarten. Or, in my case, I should have learned it in kindergarten.
I listened to the teacher when she called to tell me that he was drawing on his shirt and that that was unacceptable. When he got home, there was no marker on his shirt. It was blood from his eczema. It was blood. I was furious but I still didn’t trust myself to do what I should have done. We did stop sending him a lot after that and he sat out the entire fourth quarter. Of kindergarten. My son was terrified to attend kindergarten. Heart broken for the first time. Every time I drive by there, I remember so much love and belongingness up until that year and I wish it could have been the right place for one more year.
Next we went to our neighborhood public school which I didn’t think was the right place but the right people were there and they made it work. There was a magical Assistant Principal and a magical Special Education teacher. Those were three glorious years. And then, changes. The writing on the wall was clear; the magic was being transferred. I did listen to myself that time. I pulled the kids. Heart broken again. We still live eight houses away from that school and my memories of our time there are full of light and joy.
Next we tried a private school which definitely had the right philosophy and had the right people the first year. The progress, the delight, the relationships all made me giddy and carefree. Was THIS where he would finally belong? He thrived. I thrived. I walked around on cloud nine, possibly for the first time since giving birth to him. As a family, we felt like we belonged.
Turned out this was another time when I should have listened to the small, still voice inside me. Because as unbelievably good as the first year was, that’s how unimaginably terrifying and abusive the next year was. Right school, WRONG PEOPLE. I can’t think of another time I have used the word “evil” to describe human beings. Heart shattered into millions of tiny pieces that still stab me from the inside, making me bleed and weep.
We are on school number four. It’s a good school, one of the very best for so many children. But for me, the magic of school is gone. We get up and put on our uniforms. We smile and take treats for the teacher, because we love her. But our hearts will never experience that innocent love for school ever again.
Ali’s story: It was after several really tough years that we decided to join a specialized school community for ADHDers in a neighboring city. Every facet of the school’s offerings took learning differences into account. They anticipated the struggles. Understood the challenges. Knew what ADHD looked like behaviorally and how to handle it. More than anything, each and every staff member put their mission in motion by VALUING their students.
It was very emotional for me to finally be around parents and teachers that understood because it illuminated just how alone we’d been. I was immensely grateful for this chance to exhale. It was life-giving in many ways and I learned so much. It was a great relief for my ADHDer also. While he was self-conscious about being at a specialized school, I could tell that he was also exhaling and his confidence was strengthening.
Pie in the sky mission statements are meaningless unless there are dedicated people doing the work behind the words. We’ve found that without the right people a great mission is just hollow promises. It’s the WHO behind the promises that will tell you everything.