Define “success” for me, will you?
From the first glimmer of understanding that we were facing issues most families never have to, I have been whittling the meaning down to its bare-bones minimum. Success no longer means my perfectly behaved, beautifully dressed offspring dutifully march off to school each day, where they earn top grades in their classrooms, eagerly complete their studies and excel at athletic endeavors whilst simultaneously keeping their rooms clean and participating in dinnertime conversations about poetry and politics.
I find myself somewhat at odds these days with my son’s teacher over what it means for him to be “successful.”
Over the course of several email exchanges, a pattern emerges that I find profoundly disturbing. As I take my son’s hand and we tiptoe through this murky maze of medicines and doctors and behavioral modification, I don’t dare seek a magic bullet. I look instead for ways to improve the here and now, incrementally. Even if the day is an off day in many respects, each exchange and interaction can be measured singly and when the mark falls on the high side of the curve, I whisper hopefully to myself, “success.” I hope and pray for each success to be followed by more successes, until we begin to have patterns where more things go well than ill, more smiles appear than tears, more time is spent enjoying life and each other than is spent getting through tantrums and anxiety-related sensory outbursts.
Every moment where a question is asked and the answer is spoken sweetly and not screamed is an occasion to smile and appreciate.
Unless you happen to be the teacher of my child. Who, as requested, dutifully sends emails marking daily incidents and behaviors, grimly outlining each failure without remarking on the ways in which improvement exists. As if there is none. A narrative of a field trip, wherein his distaste for wet pumpkins was noted and his desire to go on carnival rides rather than follow the other children into the maze, his inability to sit still during activities and his crying issues home on the bus were all noted, without acknowledging that not once during this trip did my child act aggressively, that nearly every instance of reluctance and difficult behavior was able to be resolved without my child having a complete meltdown, in which NONE of these ragingly terrific successes were even mentioned. Or thought to be mentioned. And when the successes were gently pointed out by a proud mother, the response was along the line of the teacher having other children to deal with and not having the time to understand the “why’s” of my son’s behavior.
Combined with a notable instance or two of less-than-friendly demeanor toward my son and I during a morning dropoff (notably different than the friendliness expressed at the IEP team meeting, in front of the principal, counselor and school nurse), I begin to draw the conclusion that this woman is less interested in the best interests of my son and more interested in maintaining harmony in her classroom. Its not that I don’t get that, but its rather that I don’t care. My interest is in having my son be cared for in the school environment in a way that is conducive to his success as a person and as a student.
I don’t know how to navigate the chasm between what I see and what she sees. I don’t know how to make her like my son. I don’t know how to help her see the child and not the behavior. I try to express this to the counselor and to the other folks on the IEP team, but I don’t feel like I’m taken seriously.
I suppose at this juncture, I’m better off buying lottery tickets in the hopes of a private school placement when my numbers are drawn. I’m not giving up, though. Not by a long shot.