This is one of the biggest steps in preparing to go back to school. It’s something that I agonize over when it begins to consume my mind weeks before it actually happens. It’s time to meet the teacher.
Last year the bar was raised to the moon. Realistically, I know that we will never have a year like that again. It was the perfect storm for success despite the mile-high hurdle of coming off his medicine. Yoshi’s teacher was words-can’t-describe amazing; his special ed teacher has always been fantastic; their relationship was peanut butter-and-jelly; the administration was more than supportive; and his entire class went above and beyond the patience and understanding that would be expected of a group of ten-year-olds.
In other words, I know that I have to bring my expectations back down to earth or I am going to be disappointed this year. I know that. I keep reminding myself of that. At least I still have his special ed teacher. She is my savior.
Our “Meet the Teacher” looks a little different than most others. I schedule our first conference of the year before school even starts. I have to. In years past we would try to work on a plan of action for the year amid my warnings about what to expect.
The first couple of years of school, I didn’t do this. We just went to the regular open house with everyone else and I tried to give the teacher a brief “heads-up” while we were there. Yoshi is different. As his teacher, they need to be prepared for that.
I learned fairly quickly that wasn’t enough. Yoshi is very different. A brief heads-up wasn’t going to cover it. We had been through enough schooling to learn about the ways he was going to… struggle (read: disturb the rest of the class and annoy the teacher.) It’s best to prepare them.
In the beginning I didn’t know that we would be working on strategies. My intentions were pure. I just wanted to warn them. He is that kid. The one that you are going to breathe a sigh of relief when he’s absent. This is what they tried last year (read: it didn’t work, so don’t bother.)
It’s really hard not to say I told you so.
We can’t forget that Yoshi has problems that are more than skin deep. People see the autism label and stop looking. I have to tell his teachers every year about his GI issues and why the bathroom is a point of contention. He’s going to go. A lot. Sometimes for a long time. You need to let him.
Yoshi likes to lull people into a false sense of security. After our before-school-starts conference full of warnings, we have the normal end-of-the-first-quarter parent-teacher conference. His teachers usually tell me how great he is and they don’t know what I was talking about. They haven’t seen any evidence of my dire warnings. The everyday, super annoying things—of course. But the big scary things? Nope!
Until they do. Then I get the “I see what you were talking about” phone call. It’s really hard not to say I told you so.
Last year was different. Last year my dire warnings proved necessary almost immediately. His teacher handled them with aplomb. We have reason to believe that this year is going to start in much the same way.
Last year we put a system into place during the year that really seemed to work. We (his special ed teacher and I) want to keep using that system. Why break something that took us three years to fix?
This year I went into the Meet the Teacher meeting with a slightly different agenda. Yes, I needed to prepare her for Yoshi and his—shall we call them—idiosyncrasies? I didn’t feel good about the fact that her answer was suggestions on ways to “fix” them. But we’ll get back to that in a second. I needed to explain the system we use and how vital her role is in making it work. I needed to go over his emergency plan that we put in place last year, because like it or not, that is what he is going to do. I didn’t want to brainstorm strategies this year. Just use last year’s.
His special ed teacher was there to help me. She filled in the gaps where I forgot things, explained the parts that I couldn’t because I wasn’t actually at the school, and generally just backed me up.
His teacher is a lovely person. She is warm and kind. She exudes “excellent teacher” from her pores. She was very reassuring and open to our system. I have many good things to say about her.
Of course I am worried about Yoshi as school starts.
Even so, I have a few concerns. I’m trying to gauge whether these are reasonable or if I’m still expecting the moon. One of my biggest was the teacher wanting to “fix” Yoshi’s self-soothing compulsion. It’s something that he’s been doing since he was a toddler. Yes, it’s annoying. We went through years of trying to break him of it when he first started school before we realized that was never going to happen.
After some time in therapy we learned that he uses this compulsion to self-regulate. But that word compulsion. We learned that meant he could not control it. The only option to eliminate the behavior was behavior replacement therapy. Unfortunately, you can’t always choose which behavior replaces the old one. It’s a gamble. What if the new one is even more annoying?
Besides, his classmates are used to this one.
Another concern is that fifth graders switch classes a little bit. That means more than one teacher. I didn’t even meet the other teacher. I don’t think I need to elaborate on why I am nervous.
Of course I am worried about Yoshi as school starts. I am thinking about him adjusting to his new class and how that will affect him. He is always my top priority. I also worry about the teacher and the other students.
Yoshi will affect them. I’m not worried that they will hate him. (I think part of me used to, but I’ve pretty much gotten over that.) I am genuinely concerned about the added burden Yoshi presents to the class as a whole. The extra work that he will create for the teacher. Teachers today are overworked. My Yoshi is part of that.
Usually I get to tell his new teacher about my feelings on this. I didn’t this time. I wanted to spend more time with his teacher but she was busy and we kept getting interrupted. I needed to meet with his special ed teacher. (I needed to visit with his teacher from last year!)
I don’t feel good going into this year. I’m trying to remember if I ever really feel good about it. Probably not. I tend to fret like it’s my job. I’m glad that I have his special ed teacher—ecstatic is a better word, maybe. His teacher seems like a great person, and a great teacher, I’m just apprehensive about fifth grade.
I hope everyone else is happy with their teacher assignments and class placements this year. What do you do when you struggle? Yoshi’s special ed teacher recently reminded me that we always have his IEP in place to fall back on. Teachers have to accommodate according to that plan. But would I really want a teacher that I have to shove that document down her throat to get Yoshi what he needs?
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.
Please like and share this post! If you would like to get future posts delivered straight to your inbox, please subscribe here!
This is the third post in a series about returning to school.
First: The Warm-Up
Fourth: Game Day