Jake is in his third week of Kindergarten and as I wrote a few posts ago, there were many days, weeks and months that I didn’t think we were going to make it this far. I thought that we might have to do everything from hold him back a year, homeschool him (I totally believe in homeschooling, but it would not have been the right option for us), or pay a truckload of money every month to have him in a private special needs school.
Three and a half years of intense work and therapy later and Jake is well on his way to completing his first month of “Kindergarten School”.
Jake adores school. He worships his teacher. He is pretty sure that his best friend could part the Red Sea. He is so proud of the fact that he is in “big boy school”.
Jake is also having a really hard time.
His teacher has the card system of behavior. Green is good, yellow means that you have had many warnings, red means a timeout. In twelve days of school, Jake has had five green days, four yellow days, and three red days. After volunteering for the day in his class, I realized that the only reason he has had so many green days is because his teacher has the patience of a saint.
My time slot to volunteer is for an hour on Monday. I decided to stay for the forty-five minutes prior to my time slot, since there was no point in going back home for twenty minutes. I was working on a file for the teacher when I heard that all too familiar little trying to break the sound barrier. I ran outside and he was in line screeching and wind-milling his arms because someone had bumped into him. I realized I needed to stick close to him and help him get through the all-school morning assembly. He needed every ounce of attention I had to get him through the assembly and back to his classroom. I did manage to get some actual work done for the teacher, but a lot of my time was spent sitting with Jake reminding him to sit still, stop rolling on the carpet, and doing his deep pressure massage when he really was having a hard time focusing. I was really amazed at how much extra help he needed.
During recess time, his teacher and I had a heart to heart. Jake has been having a very hard time and his behavior while I was in class was not unusual. We talked through some things that I had seen Jake do during classtime that was causing some extra tension. He really likes a little boy that has zero patience for Jake and is not very kind to him. Jake frequently cuts in line to stand next to him, which upsets everyone else. Jake and I talked about needing to be at the back of the line and he responded with, “Oh! Okay, Mama!” and happily ran to the back. I asked if Jake and the other little guy could be kept apart as much as possible and that Jake responded well to being asked to keep lots of space between himself and the other kids. I also saw this his chair was half on the carpet, half on the linoleum and with a very simple switch, that unbalance could be done away with. She was very happy to make the switches and was glad to hear that there might be some easy solutions. I also told her that, if she and the other special needs teacher thing it would be beneficial, I am willing to stay with Jake for the first two hours of class every day so that she can actually teach the rest of the class instead of focusing so much time on Jake.
Observing the rest of the class, I came away with a few revelations. The first was that Jake is not the only kid who is having a hard time. There are a LOT of kids who are having trouble sitting still. For some reason, knowing that he wasn’t the only one having trouble made me feel a little less terrible. The second revelation is that his teacher is a freaking genius. She has an amazing gift at figuring out what children belong together. There are two boys that constantly want to touch other children. Instead of keeping them separated, she put them together so that they are all over each other and not bothering anyone else. She has found the little bossy mama of the classroom and put her with another little girl who seems lost a lot of the time. She has Jake with a kid who thinks it is funny to be crashed into and loves him anyway. She has all the mean little boys at a table together so that they are mean to each other and aren’t hurting anyone else.
I truly am in awe of her and her ability to perceive the needs of each child and to respond with grace, kindness, and gentleness. The woman never, not even once, raised her voice. Not even when the kid with extreme separation anxiety screamed for an hour straight. I prayed every day over the summer that Jake would be given the right teacher and God chose to pull that perfect teacher from another school and give her perfect room for Jake. I’m so thankful that things have worked out the way they have!
Every day at pick up, I hold my breath and hope for a smiling face and a green hand stamp, which indicates that Jake has had a Green Day! I am working through my own disappointment and heartache when he has a Yellow Day, or even worse, when I don’t see him in line at all. Then, I know he has done something really bad, usually pushing, kicking, or hitting, and he is waiting inside for me to come talk to the teacher and find out what happened.
The thing that helps the emotional rollercoaster at the end of each day is that his teacher is so kind and reassuring to both Jake and I that everything is going to be okay and that we will continue to get him the help he needs.
We’ll see what that helps looks like. I might need to be in class with him every day for a while. We might need to have another IEP meeting and get him a more permanent aide. He might calm down and settle into the routine of school.
Whatever happens, I know that I have such a great teacher on my side, rooting for Jake and helping us figure out how to make the rollercoaster we have been on for the last three and a half years become less scary and more gentle.