Friday, October 22, 2010

"Joy" Has Come Home Again

It's been awhile since joy has visited my household. For the past few years, we have it very hard while living in Florida. Of course, we DID have the bright idea of moving just before the economy crashed much to my protests. Did I listen to that little voice inside of me saying "Don't freaking move an inch!"? Oh heck no! I listened to a houseful of people screaming "Let's move to the beach!", instead.

Boy did THAT land us in hot water!

Not only did we go through our savings trying to maintain heads above water there, we put our kids in schools that we found out later, they were completely miserable in. I knew my nine year old was having some major issues, but I didn't realize the twins were too until after we moved here.

This did not make for a happy family.

My nine year old went through her entire third grade with a teacher who wouldn't support her because she "diagnosed" my daughter as having ADHD and wasn't going to "help" her until I had her medicated. She singled my child out, which in turn, the other students took the teachers cue and did the same. By the end of the school year, she had no one to play with at recess but herself. I cannot tell how my heart broke for her.

She takes speech therapy, and according to her therapist here, she is way behind what she should be at this time. I don't know WHAT they were doing down in Gulf Breeze Elementary, but in the past few months of school here, she has improved more than in the two years of "therapy" she had in the elementary school there.

She is no longer ridiculed in her class here, and her teacher sees NO signs of ADHD whatsoever in my child. Plus, all the skills in math and language that were lagging in Gulf Breeze, are suddenly escalating here.

She is no longer defiant, angry, and sullen as she once was before we came here. She laughs, plays with her friends, and is the Toni I remember giving birth to. She is now a member of the Chess Club in her school. I wonder what her third grade teacher back in Gulf Breeze would think of that?

Her joy has come back.

The twins are another issue. Everyday after school in Florida these two broke out into fights. Not just typical squabbles (I actually forgot how to spell that word, lol), but serious screaming matches. Their grades were on a constant roller coaster, and at one point, Nadia's grades in fifth grade were spiraling out of control in a downward spin. She wasn't handing in her work, and when the teachers asked her about it, her reply was "I don't care - just give me a zero."

My stomach hit the floor that day when I received the email about it from her teacher. THIS was NOT my Nadia!

After a conference and a LOT of daily support, her grades finally inched back up. I got her involved in volleyball that summer and that seemed to bring her out of the funk she had gotten herself into. She "maintained" through sixth grade, but that nagging feeling that something wasn't right would never leave my gut.

Julian had a GREAT teacher in fifth grade. He was the only teacher who managed to finally get my son back on track in math and study habits. Even when he was out of school for nearly three months with mono, Julian kept up and ended on the A/B honor roll by the end of the year. I cannot tell you how proud I was of him.

When he hit the sixth grade in Gulf Breeze, suddenly his attitude was like "whatever". His grades fluctuated a bit, but he was pretty steady in his progress - even in the advance classes he had manage to land himself in. In fact, it was only those advance classes I ever heard about. His enthusiasm for learning though had all but disappeared.

Turn to current events:

In all that time in Florida, I never once heard my kids say how much they loved their school. In fact, I always heard (but wasn't listening), how much they hated school. Today, I hear how much they love it every... single... day! The stress around our home life is lifting as things are looking much better financially here than they did in Gulf Breeze. That helps a lot, but the fact that my kids constantly tell me how much they love their schools and what they are doing in it makes a HUGE difference in all of our lives.

Nadia's biggest thorn has been math - in Drake Middle School here... she loves her math class; it's one of her favorites! It took me a few days to get over that one. The twins love their science class and are constantly talking about all the stuff they've learned in Dr. Jones class because he excites their imaginations in a way I've never seen.

Their joy has come back.

There are no clicks in this middle school, there aren't even "advance" classes for certain students. In this middle school, they don't aim to make everyone "even", they strive to bring ALL the students up to their highest potential. In other words, all the students study advance classes instead of having everyone on the same plateau with only a "few" enjoying the benefits of advance classes. Those students who are lagging, get individual, one-on-one assistance to bring them UP.

Every nine weeks a party is held in the school for all the students as a whole (6th and 7th graders). We're not talking about a few moms bringing in cupcakes and kool-aid (yuck! Do people really still drink that stuff?). I'm talking turning the cafeteria into a dance hall with karaoke and fog machines, some serious cake walks, games indoors and out, as many parent/teacher chaperones as the eye can see, and a BUNCH of very enthusiastic and happy students. The entire school is turned into a party!

In Florida, the middle school cut out all the parties except for an end-of-the-year party. It made me think the other day "Were the twins were in some sort of school prison there?", LOL!

We were recently told by an individual who works for the Department of Education, that the schools in Auburn were considered college prep schools because of their approach to teaching. These are not private schools I'm talking about, but pubic institutions that take getting these kids into college very seriously. Where most schools systems are running a deficit, Auburn city schools have a surplus. There is a reason that new student registration has taken a serious jump here recently.

Today I feel so immensely blessed by the constant sounds of laughter and joy in my house that I thought were long gone. To hear my oldest daughter in constant states of belly-laughing is priceless.

I feel fortunate enough to live in a community that really cares about ALL the kids here - young and old - and where racial lines are practically a blur by the way those kids interact with one another. Where Auburn University supports these kids, and we in turn support it.

I feel blessed that we live in a community that understands and embraces a healthy lifestyle and promotes it through community stores and through the churches as well. It's not looked at as "New Age", or "A thing that those people do." Where acupuncture is NOT an eleven-letter bad word.

Even though five of us in this family have been dealing with an ear infection for a month, that just doesn't want to go away; for once in a long time, life for all of us is working out just fine. We've actually been communicating and acting like a normal family; something that I thought was permanently lost. I didn't realize just how much my kids had been hurting until we got here.

Even though our lines of communication have usually been very open in the past, in Gulf Breeze, I think some things were too big for any of us to talk about. Now they are not; now they're a memory we now reflect and try to learn from.

We're blessed and I'm thankful to God for it, for without him through all of this, we would never be where we are at this moment.

It is so good around here that I completely forgot about taking my Lexapro one day.

That was 2 months ago.


Tara R. said...

I am so glad to hear your peeps are doing well at their new schools. It must be something about Florida schools. My son was miserable too. I finally withdrew him and he's attending Tech School and is SOOoooo much happier.

I hope school and life keeps getting better for them and you!

Miss you...


See Tara, you see it, you get it. If it is so noticeably, then why isn't anything done about it? It can't be about money because Auburn doesn't get near the amount that Santa Rosa or Okaloosa Counties get. I think one of the saving graces we have here is that so many of the Universities professors are also either teachers in the pubic schools or are on the School Board itself.

Miss you too Tara!

Gondooo said...

I am so pleased everything is turning up roses for all of you! Heck, after reading this, I'm ready to move there myself! I cannot begin to tell you how disappointing the schools are in this country. My son was actually labelled 'slow' in maths and from about year two he has been put in the 'slow' group. For the last year and a half I've been paying for a private tutor and he is actually teaching him stuff above what they are teaching him in his first year in highschool! He said that boy isn't slow in any way whatsoever! This tutor is also a foreigner from Nigeria and he is brilliant. He knows exactly what I mean about the school system here. I really worried about him going into his first year at highschool, about being teased cuz he's a 'big boy' but instead I have discovered he is well spoken, independent and very confident young man! Due thanks to his tutor and the hubs, both are brilliant teachers! Calum is still determined to study what he chose way back in second grade and even spent last year studying the different colleges and uni's and has already made a selection with a few to back up. When he finishes highschool in three yrs time he will stay on another two yrs for his highers before going to uni. So proud of him! So happy for you and yours Carolyn...happy days!