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A New School, A New Start for Mr14

by Twitchy on February 4, 2014

This year, after years on the waiting list, my boy has started at his new school. A small, independent school that will better teach him in the way he needs to learn, in a safe and supportive environment. I’m so happy for him (and us) I’m still pinching myself our day has arrived!

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Unthinkable not long ago, my boy catches the train now. SO proud. So long apron strings!

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At the end of Grade Six, we were deeply upset to leave. My boy didn’t feel ready for Secondary School- and he wasn’t. We’d already learnt that funding he’d had for primary school would be over forever. Despite requiring much learning support, he’d no longer be eligible for educational funding once he left. Talk about insult to injury, thank you very much.

Having just turned twelve, his social and maturity levels were closer to that of a ten year old. What parent wants to send a ten year old to Secondary School? My boy was too naïve and unprepared for such change. Too many students/ teachers/ classrooms/ subjects. Too many scary things and no one who knew him or his needs.

Who knew we’d feel this way seven years after he started school at age five? Here in Victoria repeating the 6th grade is no longer really an option. As we waited for our place at the Independent School, we had little choice but to find the best local high school we could in the meantime.

Shopping around we saw great disparities in attitude towards additional needs students. With the aid of our Grade Six teacher we found a school more welcoming than others and with a Welfare Officer who was wonderful and reassuring. Accommodations would be made, an Individual Learning Program implemented and let’s just keep positive, right?

Despite the hard work and best intentions by the Wellbeing department and only a couple of Mr14’s teachers over two years, the reality was harsh. Communications were too difficult for some time until emailing teachers became more reliable. Student Support Group meetings I believed were mandatory proved too difficult to bring about more than once every year and usually too late.

My boy hid in the sick bay for hours a week and office staff knew him very well. His pleas to call me received compliance but varying degrees of acceptance. Lunchtimes were always spent in the library for safety reasons. The bullying, though treated very seriously by the school, seemed relentless. For every kid who got suspended or even expelled, in a school that size there was always another idiot waiting to step up.

Overall it would seem my boy took it better than I did, bless him- but my nerves were shot. I was sending my kid to school every day, not knowing if he was really learning anything or if he’d be targeted. It wasn’t all bad, but it was simply nowhere near good enough.

We didn’t open his reports right away. What is the point of having an Individual Learning Program but still being constantly assessed as well behind your cohort’s state average? Why bother? Square pegs and round holes yet again. Too many kids like these fall through the cracks. What made my blood boil? Teachers’ comments ‘he‘d do better if he would focus or pay attention’. If they’d cared, or read his fucking file they’d have seen he tries, despite having ADHD as well as being on the Spectrum.

All that is behind us now. We’re back with one main class teacher again. Imagine a world where a child is taught, graded and celebrated as an individual with strengths. Where independence and life skills are strongly reinforced and advancements are praised on their merits. Where staff know all students by name and a bright future is the aim. The way it SHOULD be.  I’ve heard many encouraging things about the Catholic system but that is not an option for us. The current mainstream state model places too many promising kids outside the box and leaves them (and their anxious families) floundering there. It’s unacceptable.

Today, my son caught the train to school for the first time without one of his parents in tow. I received a text message at 8.20: “I made it.” Yes he did and yes he will. We are exhausted but thrilled- this is only the beginning. I only wish there was room for all.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Seana - Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel February 10, 2014 at 9:13 am

So glad to hear this! I saw a tweet or facebook when you wrote the post and made a mental note to read when all was clearer, last house guest of summer left this morning and my laptop will be getting a workout today! How great for you and your lad – what a relief.

Here we’ve kind of done the office, moved out of the wee private school to the local state school for Year 11 and 12; the private school just got too academic for my Teen16. Seems all good so far, and for the first time ever he can walk to school. Still hovering!!

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Lara @ This Charming Mum February 5, 2014 at 2:30 pm

The parents I know of kids with all kinds of learning challenges seem to get so exhausted by ‘the system’. Always an uphill fight to defend, research, question, double check, get funding, stay positive, etc. It must be a wonderful feeling to see all of your hard work paying off.

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Twitchy February 5, 2014 at 11:14 pm

It’s all too true. Exhausting and deflating. Energy that could be better spent enjoying life!

Aroha @ Colours of Sunset February 5, 2014 at 9:07 am

Fantastic news Twitchy! So happy for your boy, and for you, I can hear the sense of relief in your post! x Aroha

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Alicia February 4, 2014 at 11:07 pm

So fantastic to read that he has found a place in a school that he will be happier at as well as you. It makes the world of difference. xx

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helen February 4, 2014 at 11:05 pm

My love to you and your special boy. I know him well. He is a most loving, caring and gentle boy who abhors violence and is very forgiving. He attracts insecure, malicious bullies because he is an easy target. I love him.

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Twitchy February 5, 2014 at 11:14 pm

Noisy, stubborn and messy to live with, but loving, with heart of gold xx

Martine@themodernparent February 4, 2014 at 10:51 pm

Wishing you both a great year and so pleased for you. x

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Twitchy February 5, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Thank you Martine. All looking better already x

Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me February 4, 2014 at 10:08 pm

That must just be the BEST feeling ever, I’m so very happy for you. I can’t imagine having to face what you did every day, worried about how he was going, who was picking on him. Great news xx

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Robyn de Beer February 4, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Reading this has made me want to creep into my kids rooms and give them an extra cuddle. Just the mere thought of any of my babies being bullied makes me feel terrified! I totally agree that children who need extra help should get it. Not everyone is mainstream but everyone deserves a chance to succeed. I am thrilled for your boy – exciting times ahead for you all xxx

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E. February 4, 2014 at 9:00 pm

How wonderful. Glad there has been a great start to this school year. I hope that the new school is even better than you have described.

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Suanna February 4, 2014 at 8:55 pm

Yay. I am so inspired ( finally figured out how to write on your blog :-)) That’s so good to hear. I didn’t realise the treatment your lovely boy was getting had become so mean. Thank goodness you & he now have a bright light ahead. love you xxS

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Josefa @always Josefa February 4, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Twitchy this sounds so positively exciting! So happy for you and your family. Honestly, sometimes more fall through the cracks that many of us realise. I hope this year is amazing for you guys xx

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EssentiallyJess February 4, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Oh Twitchy, I am just so happy for you all! It must be such a relief for you knowing that this is going to be a much better fit for him. Good days are ahead. xxxx

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Twitchy February 4, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Thank you Jess, for many reasons this will be our family’s best year yet xx

traceyb65 February 4, 2014 at 3:16 pm

sounds amazing, so happy there has been such a good result for you. and this: “I was sending my kid to school every day, not knowing if he was really learning anything or if he’d be targeted” is my world … apparently no ADHD, no ASD, no Dx apart from fine motor skills weaknesses, but a kid “outside the box” and a ready-made victim. and like you, as fast as the school disciplines one (and they have been good), another idiot steps up.

an old friend asked whether i would recommend the school as her daughter was struggling where she was. my Mr14 jumped up and said No way … and it broke me heart. xt

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Twitchy February 4, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Oh Tracey. So sorry to hear this. It’s so important to have self-esteem. I hope he builds it in other ways for now xx

Kylie Purtell, A Study in Contradictions February 4, 2014 at 3:03 pm

The public school system let my brother and my sister down in a big, big way. I can’t tell you the amount of times Mum would end up in tears of frustration because nothing would be done like they said it would. Unfortunately there was no other alternatives in our area and they struggled through as best they could. Finally now, at almost 22, he’s started a panel beating apprenticeship with an employer who is understanding and caring, who wants to see him do well, and tafe teachers who are prepared to help him along the way.

I am so glad you’ve found a school that will support and encourage your boy. It’s the very least he deserves and I’m sure he’ll go from strength to strength.

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Twitchy February 4, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Thank you Kylie. I’m so sorry to hear about your brother and sister. And your poor Mum! The parents are the ones who wear most of the stress, worrying about and constantly fighting for their children’s welfare. I hate to think about the cost to families, financial and health-wise, and the compromised quality of life or even employment options, for those who are struggling most without support. Glad to hear things sound promising for your brother now :)

Becc February 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm

How wonderful!
I cannot imagine what you guys went through in the past. You are right, it is just not good enough.
So happy that that is behind you now and the future looks bright. Well done and I do hope he enjoys it.

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Twitchy February 4, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Thank you! Every child deserves a safe and suitable educational environment that does not penalise them for being different. Parents also have too much to shoulder in just assuring the basics for their kids.

Dorothy February 4, 2014 at 11:09 am

So glad you were able to find and get into a school that can provide him with what he needs. So sad that this is not possible at every single school, as it should be. Our education system is failing those in greatest need.

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Twitchy February 4, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Thank you Dorothy. It’s all too dependent on the attitudes and ‘care factor’ of individuals within each school and can change every few years. If the culture is inclusive from the top, it trickles down, but doesn’t happen enough in resource-strapped secondary schools dealing with such large numbers.

Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit February 4, 2014 at 9:32 am

Wow. That is such an emotional post. I cried with relief, belief and pride at the end … And I don’t even know you guys! Best wishes that his strengths continue to be recognised and celebrated and that he can confidently say everyday “i made it”.
Hugs.
Leanne@ Deep Fried Fruit

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Twitchy February 4, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Thank you Leanne. I’m only realising now that a resolution is now in our grasp, how much I’ve really been carrying and weighed down by. I hope to be more myself again as life feels more and more within my control :)

Michelle February 4, 2014 at 8:23 am

Very well said twitchy. We have seen small changes throughout the public education system but there is a long way too go, hopefully one day society can embrace those that are different as they are the ones that helps us all grow. Wishing you the best on your new adventure 14 yo :)

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Twitchy February 4, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Hear hear! The ones who are changing the world today were often the “odd ones” at school- imagine if they’d given up. I’d like ALL kids to feel safe and welcome at school.

Rachelle Walker February 4, 2014 at 8:00 am

can I ask the name of the fabulous secondary school? similar predicament :(

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Twitchy February 4, 2014 at 8:20 am

Rachelle, are you in Melbourne? Please email me. (Regretfully I will not publish the school’s name on this post due to a number of responsibilities.)

Kelsey van Haaster February 4, 2014 at 7:15 am

This is our story too, except without the happy ending. Still struggling now at 18 and trying to work out what to do now. Best wishes to you.

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Twitchy February 4, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Kelsey I’m really sorry to hear this. I always hope that by sharing our struggles we are spreading more understanding, unfortunately with many teens it can be very hard. Have you got anyone who can help you with career or further education advice?

Lydia C. Lee February 4, 2014 at 7:03 am

Why can’t you repeat year 6 if you need to? That seems weird. What is going on with our education system??
Glad you have found the right place for him. School is not for everyone, but you want them to get through those 6 years being relatively happy…

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Twitchy February 4, 2014 at 8:24 am

We were told it is no longer done due mainly to ‘negative social impact’, (‘goodbye funding and here’s the door’… thanks for your support state education). I considered mounting a challenge based on the exact same reason regarding starting secondary school too soon.

Marita February 4, 2014 at 7:00 am

Oh my friend, I am so so happy for you both.

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