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Gaining Strength

We acquire the strength we have overcome. 

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

One year ago I was spending a lot of time sitting around rubbing ice on my ankle.  I didn’t know it yet, but I had a severe stress fracture that was 3/4 of the way through my ankle bone.  I had just run the Fargo 1/2 marathon, injured, and only made matters worse with more intense pounding.

It was time to change directions.  Speed should no longer be my goal.  It was time to learn from my mistakes and not add a lot of speed and a lot of distance, at the same time, to my running.  It was time for me to finally face the facts….if I’m going to be a distance runner, I need to gain strength, I can’t rely on willpower and stubbornness alone.

This time of the school year is always difficult for me.  It is filled with lots of anxiety…for me and for the kids.  We mourn having to leave a beloved teacher and move to the next grade, we have anxiety about what next year will look like and what will be difficult as academic demands become more intense.

It has been a great year academically and socially for all 4 children.  This is not something I have been able to say…..EVER.  #1 is at a new school and is getting his confidence back.  He has friends and he feels accepted for who he is instead of ridiculed.  He knows that certain things are hard for him, but once again he is willing to try.  #2 had a full year of homeschool and confidently tells people “I’m a really good reader.”  At times his classmates are retired ladies who are fellow dog walkers in the neighborhood.  They enjoy asking him what he is currently learning at school.  #3 finished year 2 of kindergarten (first year was 1/2 day, this past year was full day) and is wishing he could make “kindergarten student” his career choice.  Kindergarten is about curiosity and wonder, something #3 thrives on.  #4 is wrapping up preschool and will head off to Pre-K next year.  I am wrapping up 7 years of driving to our beloved preschool and feeling intense sadness and loss that in a couple days I will never again have a child at Dodge Nature Preschool.

A year ago life was so different.

A year ago I was sitting in the principal’s office pounding on a table asking, “Will someone in this school ever do something to help?” For 5 years I had been sounding alarms about #1’s struggles…and for 5 years I had been told not to worry.  Finally, at the end of May during 5th grade his classroom teacher listened to him (attempt) to read out loud and they tested him on his phonics skills.  The Friday afternoon before Memorial Day Weekend I received an e-mail from the reading specialist detailing the test results.  If I would have had a child in my 1st grade classroom with these results at the end of the year I would have frantically looked for interventions to help the child….that’s how bad the situation was.  At this moment I knew I was done with the school, but I agreed to meet with them one last time.

The next week I limped into my last meeting with the principal and various teachers at the school where I was told to put #1 in intense tutoring for the summer, and find a counselor for him to see a couple times a week because they were seeing signs of anxiety.  We would meet again in the fall.  They had no plan to change their instructional methods at school.

I don’t think so.

Their unwillingness to take responsibility for the education of my children had pushed me right over the edge and I needed to be done talking to them.  Walking out of that school I knew in my heart I would never return.  It was the place where I had volunteered and formed friendships with other parents for 5 years. The school failed to educate two of my children and the administrators didn’t seem to have one bit of remorse, just a lot of excuses.  I had spent the year fighting with the principal, first about #2 and now about #1.  I am a person who does not like conflict and fights.  Conflict makes my insides churn and keeps me awake at night, and I had spent an entire school year in conflict.  I was feeling incredibly betrayed, angered and hurt.  I was broken….physically (my ankle), emotionally and mentally.

It was time to pick myself up and get strong.

I promised #1 I would find a new path for him.  We have.  I did not cancel his camps, which are also valuable experiences, to put him in tutoring.  I thought this would feel like a punishment for a very active child.  He spent the summer decompressing and doing things he enjoys and reading some easy books.  A year ago I had a 5th grader crying, “Don’t make me go to school.  I hate it there.”  Now I have a 6th grader who is sad the school year is ending because he has loved it so much.  He has worked tremendously hard this year, and reading and writing are still difficult, but he feels understood and valued.

I spent the summer doing yoga, going to physical therapy and pushing my cardio skills in a spinning class.  With very little actual running during the summer, I was able to run the marathon in October.  This winter I learned how to skate ski and pushed myself more in the yoga studio, along with running over the ice and snow.  My entire body is stronger, and because of that, so is my spirit.

Although next year may be tough, we are ready.  Our injuries have made us stronger.


2 thoughts on “Gaining Strength

  1. This made me cry. I am sorry it has been so hard! Thank goodness you are you! Without your strength, #1 and #2 would not be thriving. Hugs from me!! -Jennie

    • Thanks Jennie! You get credit too! Without you I wouldn’t have gained such a deep knowledge of teaching reading. I’m forever grateful that I team taught with you!

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