The influence of a great teacher is longlasting.
Thanks to Mrs Smith in Grade 3, who introduced us to daily journal writing, I developed an early start to expressing myself through words.
Tough but fair and kind teachers, like Mrs Ezer in high school, were whom I learned the most from.
I keep it touch with a few treasured teachers, one of whom is a friend – her son was the ring bearer at my wedding. I know she will read this. Don’t let this get to your head! 😆
I loved school and grew up with great respect for teachers. Both my parents were teachers; Ma was my school principal in the Philippines.
One of the best lessons I am learning as an adult is that learning is lifelong if you keep an open mind.
The school journey will be harder for T.
Due to FASD, an invisible disability that impacts up to 5% of people, T struggles with focusing in the classroom, needs supports to complete tasks, and making friends is harder because of challenges with regulation and impulse control.
T has recurring hard days in Grade 3 with staying focused, disruptive class clown behaviour, and getting in peers’ faces.
Some days, I want to scream, “What’s wrong with you!”
But I know the answer: it’s his disability and I need to adjust expectations and approach.
It’s easier said than done. I fall into self destruct mode more often than I’d like.
Thankfully, this year we have the continued support of his excellent CYW from last year, who helps him achieve good to great days.
This reminds me to think big picture.
His teacher is fantastic and we had a recent good in-person meeting to discuss T’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
I sense that she will push him, while also seek to understand, empathize and accommodate.
I like that she assigns homework. It is hit or miss with T. Some nights, he zips through it; some are meltdowns.
Regardless, I believe homework builds discipline and for T, it helps reinforce learning that he may have zoned out of in class.
I’m continuing to do light weekend learning with T; we read one book and practice math both days before he gets fun time, like swimming.
Advocacy and allyship are important and can be magic.
Last month, I did a deputation to our school board about increasing awareness and supports for FASD.
After I let T’s principal and CYW know about the deputation, the school did the following:
- Consulted with us to add three books to the library about FASD and related subjects – Big thanks to CanFASD and FASD United for answering my email for suggestions.
- Worked with us to arrange for a speaker from Surrey Place to speak to T’s class about FASD. His teacher is now arranging a visit from the FASD coordinator in early November.
As a parent that struggles daily with how hard this disability can be, I could not ask for more from a school – as I recognize that T is not the only child they have to support.
I sent a follow up e-mail to two school trustees who seemed receptive to our deputation to let them know what T’s school is doing – and said it is an example that more schools should follow.
Celebrate and amplify the successes
When I have a bad day with T, the ones that emotionally cripple me – and we had a recent streak of them – I remind myself T has many strengths; one of which is he’s a bright kid.
When we can get him to focus, he can pick up the concepts and get the work done.
Yes, I realize that not focusing is no small barrier.
So when he does well, we celebrate – like getting an A on his recent math test. Way to go, T!
I’m working with him on weekends on one of his Grade 3 goals: to learn the times table. He completed this table by himself over two weekends.
Earlier today, for a job well done with his weekend learning, T and I went for bubble tea after our Sunday afternoon swim.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher and I often pretend played as a teacher.
I was accepted into a teaching program for university but studied journalism instead.
Who knew all these years later, I’d become a pseudo homeschool teacher for T.
On most days, I enjoy it because the rewards of seeing T make his gains are heartfilling. On some days, I want to scream and tear my hair out, because he can be so frustrating.
So to teachers that do this every day, you have my utmost respect. And to the teachers that seek to understand, empathize, accommodate and bring out the best in T, you have my gratitude.
Photo at top: A 5-year-old during the “fun” virtual schooling pandemic days in 2020. He’s grown a lot since, in more ways than one!