Can I tell you a little about my son, Ryan? We’re about six weeks into the new school year and he is thriving academically.
Last year he carried straight-As, made the honor roll, made the principal’s list, and initially appeared not to care much about either. As the year went on, he grew more interested in his academic standing, something we were thrilled to see.
This year, we weren’t sure what to expect. Not only is he in a new school, not only is the curriculum more advanced, but he is no longer in any resource classes. He’s in general ed (in inclusion settings) and even taking honors algebra. We huddled with the child-study team last spring and felt confident it was the proper placement for him. Still, we braced for the impact of the increased workload.
Well here we are in late October, and not only has Ryan adapted, he has embraced the challenge. He is carrying As and Bs. He may not be thrilled by the added time spent on homework and studying, but his desire to earn good marks outweighs his annoyance about lost free time, and so he does the work and puts in the study time.
When shown is most recent progress report, he was upset. Apparently, having a straight-A average was more important to him than we realized, because seeing he had B+ marks in some classes, he resolved to do something about it.
He made plans to stay after school to get extra help in the subjects where he has a grade less than an A. Veronica relayed the story to me of her conversation with him about it, and we both remarked how proud we were. This is the same child that would not consider joining a club or activity last year because to do so would cut into his after-school free time.
I wanted to hear this for myself. When Ryan told me of his plans, I had my chance.
“Why are you staying after school,” I asked?
“Duh,” he answered (I guess it was supposed to be obvious). “There are some things I don’t fully understand, so I’m going to get extra help.”
“That’s wonderful,” I said. “Mom told me that you’re determined to get your grades back to all As and I am so proud of you.”
Even if he didn’t react, I needed him to hear it. It’s not that I’m obsessed with the grades he earns in middle school — far from it. We knew academics were going to be tougher this year. We hoped he could keep up. Making the honor roll didn’t enter into our thoughts.
No, I’m proud of him because he cares. He has set a goal for himself and is taking the steps necessary to pursue it. Sure, I worry about pressure he may be putting on himself. That’s why I wanted him to know I was proud of him for trying.
There are many things that are still not easy for Ryan. He can memorize information enough to do well on tests in certain subjects, but we worry about how much of the information is actually sinking in. He has acquaintances, but no true friends. His OCD worries about hockey stats sometimes prevent him from fully enjoying his favorite sport.
But if I think back to that IEP meeting last spring where we discussed his academic placement, I’m pretty sure Veronica and I would be jumping up and down and high-fiving if you told us where he would be six weeks into the school year.
It’s proof that with the right support network in place and a true commitment to special education, remarkable things can be achieved — none more than making my son invested enough in his academic success to take the extra steps necessary to achieve it.