Marathon runners talk about hitting the wall. This happens, usually around 18 miles, when your body wants desperately to stop the madness but you need to make it to the finish line (if it’s a race) or a couch at your house (if it’s a long training run). To get past the wall I focus on simply putting one foot in front of the other. As long as I keep moving, progress is made. This is where determination, grit, and a high pain tolerance comes in handy. Also, some well placed stubbornness.
This week I finally heard back from the principal at #3’s school. Last week handed in his assessment which clearly states he will qualify for special education and details how intense the correct interventions need to be NOW so that he doesn’t slip into failure (I would argue a deeper failure). At first I heard back nothing. So, I e-mailed the special education teacher and principal to let them know the paper work had been turned in. I asked a simple question, “Is anyone at our school trained in an Orton Gillingham method?” Again, no answer.
Finally, yesterday the principal came into #3s first grade classroom while I was there and asked me to stop into his office when I got a chance. Yeah! Progress. I really like this principal. He is responsive to parents and truly a nice guy. He has a great love of what he does and it shows. A couple minutes later I sauntered down to his office with high hopes of having a great conversation. He would share with me how quickly the school is going to move because of the thorough assessment I provided. We would end it with a smile and perhaps even a high 5. Go team!
I’m so dumb.
He started by going over the qualifications for special ed. and I realized this was not going to be the conversation I had pictured. First, there needs to be a discrepancy between achievement and ability. #3 has a huge discrepancy. He is labeled gifted by the district (and this was confirmed in his outside assessment) and is in the bottom 5% for reading achievement and phonemic awareness according to his psychological testing. Second, his level of achievement must be very low. Again, we have mastered this one…..he is below the 5% mark. Third, he has to show no progress.
And this is where we hit the wall…..according to the principal.
#3 is holding his own, to a very low degree, in the classroom (I completely disagree with this). In other words, he hasn’t failed yet according to the districts standardized testing. He is on the low side, but until his standardized tests show that he is very low and he is falling further and further behind his classmates, no assessments will be made. Its all about the number on one test in the Mondo Reading Curriculum. What I say doesn’t matter. What his classroom teacher says doesn’t matter. What an educational assessment says…that doesn’t matter either. He hasn’t failed enough.
I was stunned. Am I supposed to hope for #3 to profoundly fail so that he can receive help? Really?
Oh, but there is a solution the principal says. The classroom teacher is going to do the Sonday System (Orton-Gillingham based) with him and another child. I was speechless because how do you respond to insanity?
#3’s teacher is a master teacher. She is disciplined, incredibly hard working, doesn’t waste a single second of instructional time in the classroom, and very skilled….however, she is human. She has not been trained in how to teach children with dyslexia. She has not been trained in the Sonday System or any Orton-Gillingham method and has not been trained in how to teach children with dyslexia. So much of teaching a learning disabled child is about the pacing and the understanding of how frequent you need to go backwards and review. These children learn at a very different pace and with very different instructional methods than other children….THAT IS WHY THEY STRUGGLE IN THE CLASSROOM. A classroom teacher should not be expected to do everything twice, once for 90% of her classroom and another time for the other 10%. Sometimes this is appropriate, but this should not be the final solution.
BTW, she has about 25 kids in her classroom, many of them with their own set of special needs: behavior, social, academic, highly gifted, poverty, struggles at home, etc. She is supposed to figure out how to use an entirely different curriculum, find the time to do intense intervention (at LEAST 3 hours a week) AND teach the rest of the class all on her own? Again, she’s excellent, but not a miracle worker. This is not fair to her. This is not fair to the classroom. This is not fair to #3. So much of what happens in the classroom for reading and writing does not apply to him, but he will be forced to sit there and watch his classmates understand and catch on to what is happening why he is continually learning “this does not apply to me” because the way reading is taught in the classroom is wrong for how his brain is wired. Confusion sets in when a child is asked to do the classroom reading curriculum, guided reading and also a specialized curriculum. That is 3 different approaches to tackle something that is already incredibly difficult…..when only one will work…..the other two only create anxiety and failure.
But, no help outside of the classroom will be given because he hasn’t failed enough yet. And I have yet to get an answer to my original question, has anyone in the school been trained in how to teach children with dyslexia?
I have hit the wall….in this case it’s the wall of crazy policies and bureaucracy in the district. No help until your child is a puddle of tears on a daily basis, is so far behind his peers there is virtually no hope of getting caught up, and you and your child are both filled with hate and rage towards school. Lovely.
Time to put one foot in front of the other. Remember my form. Breath. Don’t freak out. Believe in myself.
I have trained hard for this. I’ve been down this road before. I know what needs to happen. I have a good playlist. I have friends and family along the road yelling encouragement, taking extra baggage, and handing me nourishment. I have grit, determination….and let’s not underestimate my well-placed stubbornness.
I can’t see the finish line, but I know it’s there, and I will work with everything I’ve got to get there. On the other side of the wall will be a child who believes in his academic capabilities and is given the chance to succeed.