Wednesday, 14 May 2008

You'd Think by Now...

It isn't fair, it isn't right.
I've gone over and over the scenes in my head,
Lay here awake over half of the night.
No, it isn't good, and I can't let go.
Must have been someone or something I hurt
In some other life somewhere long ago.
I don't know how I started down this tailspin.
Why one more time I just did not see it coming.
And you'd think by now,
I'd have figured out the pattern.

About three weeks ago, I made reference to a devastating new development on the front lines at younger daughter's school. At the time, it was the eve of my birthday, the "eve's eve" of elder daughter's birthday, and I couldn't face trying to blog about what happened. Now, with younger daughter's birthday and Mother's Day out of the way....I still don't know if I can face it. But I feel I have to try.

In the fall-out of an upsetting so-called "Student-Led Conference", I had sent, after three days of hard thinking, what I thought was a carefully-worded email to the principal, resource teacher, SELC (special education learning centre) teacher, and the educational assistants. That was a Sunday. The email resulted in a flurry of activity, many hall conferences, and a hasty twenty-minute meeting just before school the following Friday. This had mixed results. It had been a busy week, particularly stressful on younger daughter, but she had participated in class activities with a greater intensity, and I felt understandings had opened up, particularly with younger daughter's designated Grade Five teacher. The Resident Fan Boy and I were made uneasy, however, by an air of defensiveness at the meeting. I also felt that the meeting underlined how far communications had broken down between the SELC teacher and me. This was doubly distressing because we've worked with her for nearly three years, and of all the team, she probably knows younger daughter the best.

The Resident Fan Boy's lawyerly instincts were aroused and he promptly composed a follow-up email, sending it to me for vetting. Now, here I was a bit torn. I didn't think it was a good idea to send an email so soon. Also, the RFB has sent inquiries and comments before, usually to do with elder daughter who was identified as "gifted" in Grade Three. These also were phrased in crisp, formal, legalistic language and sometimes I felt compelled to check in with the teachers to make sure they weren't intimidated. However, this was a rare initiative on his part on behalf of younger daughter, who somehow always ends up being my area. So I had misgivings, but was loathe to say so. I made some non-commital comments, then held my peace, rather hoping he'd forget by the end of the weekend.

Of course, he didn't. Hiding my reluctance, I suggested a toning-down in a couple of areas. The final draft was a bit grim, but not vindictive and certainly fair. He sent it to all four staff members who had attended the Friday meeting. There was no response. In the meantime, as had been agreed during the staff meeting, I got emails detailing the upcoming week from both the classroom teacher and the SELC teacher. I responded with my thanks and mentioned that younger daughter had been invited to a birthday party during school hours the coming Friday, but, given that she had a speech therapy appointment that same morning, I hadn't told her about it and would wait for the teachers' preference. Classroom teacher responded promptly, saying he thought that wouldn't be a problem.

The next day, after school, younger daughter's "guardian angel" asked to walk home with us, and said, as we left the school building: "I have something bad to tell you..."

Oh dear gawd. She had overheard SELC teacher and classroom teacher's team-teacher (who teaches PE and Math to the Grade Fives, and who had not attended the meeting, so had not received the Resident Fan Boy's email) speaking in furious undertones during the afternoon math class. "They said she was doing as well as other Special Need students," said guardian angel. "They sounded really angry and Mr. (team-teacher) said that if they're not happy, they can go to another school. Then I heard Mr. (team-teacher) say it was just another excuse to get out of school. Then they lowered their voices...."

I felt as if I'd been punched in the stomach. Part of it was bewilderment and despair that we had been so misunderstood, and the worst of it was the thought of two supposedly responsible adults griping like two indignant adolescents within hearing of ten-and-eleven-year-olds. Who else beside "guardian angel" had listened in? I wanted to believe that she had misheard, but the comments tallied with the weekend's emails and the events of the previous week which the little girl would not have known about. Oh, excrement, excrement, excrement...

I shook my fist; I've leapt too soon.
The soft wounded animal inside of me
Stood up on its hind legs and howled at the moon,
Anger rises in a violent storm,
And when I am wisest I lie down beside it
And hum in its ear until it gets quiet
I don't know how I started down this tailspin.
Why one more time I just did not see it coming.
And you'd think by now,
I'd have figured out the pattern.

So this latest development pretty much ruined my birthday the next day. I vented a bit at younger daughter's music therapist, but was deciding that some kind of overture had to be made to the SELC teacher in the hopes of salvaging something of what had seemed to be a partnership. I was also coming to the conclusion that team-teacher (who will continue to teach younger daughter with the other classroom teacher next year --- groooooan) is....oh dear....a jackass... I mean, "go to another school"? What planet is he living on? Does he think I actually have options? And "another excuse to get out school?" Speech therapy and music therapy? Guardian angel reports that he speaks to younger daughter as if she's really really slow, and I haven't been impressed with his tone with her even when I'm present. Presumably, he'd prefer a classroom full of attractive, athletic, typically-developing students that will flatter his image as a teacher. I'm leaving him to heaven.

Another conference with the speech therapist that Friday as I plucked up the courage to write a letter to the SELC teacher. By the Sunday, I was rough-drafting it: . . . Over the past two weeks, I’ve been awakening in a flop-sweat, beset by the gremlins of two o’clock in the morning.
I feel I’ve failed (younger daughter) this year and I have a horrible feeling (if I’m any judge of body language) that I’ve failed you and alienated you.
Sometimes I wake up thinking, “She thinks I’m ungrateful and blissfully unaware of all that has been done for (younger daughter).” Sometimes it’s “She thinks I’m judgmental and critical, that nothing she does will be enough.” (Both not true, by the way --- I swear!)
I worry that you think I have no conception of how difficult and stressful your job is. I really worry that you think I want to interfere with what happens in the classroom. (Both really not true --- believe me!)
Most of all, I wake up terrified that, by failing to speak up earlier, I have ruined our cooperative relationship beyond repair. Or by saying anything at all. Geez . . . .
It seems to me that in my panic, bewilderment and plain clumsiness that I have broken protocol and made you feel that I am an adversary. This is the last thing you need at the best of times . . . and if there is anything I can say or do to repair the damage, please let me know. . . .

And I stuck it in a card and delivered it to the office mid-week. (Having checked my horoscope first. I clearly need all the help I can get.)

No it isn't fair, it isn't right,
I've wished on a million or billion bright stars,
Prayed like the devil with all of my might.
And somebody said, "What's really true.
Yeah all of this stuff is different I know.
But what is in common has always been you."
I'm starting to see and the heavens are starry.
And if I'm not too proud I’ll learn to say I'm sorry.
You'd think by now I'd have figured out the pattern.

How sorry am I really? The emails have gotten results; I feel better informed and I really think Grade Five teacher is reaching out. But these are people under stress, and they can't criticize me to my face. I cringe thinking what's been said in the staff room, but am livid about what was said in the classroom. However, as painful as it's been, younger daughter has been making steady progress; I simply can't afford to get in a shooting war.

Nothing was said about my note, but I physically felt the tension ease the next time we passed in the hall, and the smile seemed genuine. (I'm not so sure about the principal, but maybe he's just preoccupied.) Last week, I watched the team-teacher glad-handing and schmoozing his way around parent/teacher functions. He's probably aiming to be a principal himself. At least that might get him out of the classroom....

(The quoted song lyrics are from "You'd Think by Now" from Carrie Newcomer's latest album. The link is in the first verse, and at the website you can listen to this ballad which has been haunting my thoughts for the past three weeks.)

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

Hello Persephone,

I feel your pain. You've the best intentions at heart, really, and that is plain to see. If I may share my 0.02's worth: it might be something in the medium, as formal letters, though necessary, might not adequately convey the understanding and the willingness to work together and the genuine appreciation of their sender. I bet your heartfelt note went the distance. (I hesitate to say too much as I'm no expert in dealing with teachers, but I've had my share of being grossly misunderstood in the past.) I think it's really BIG of you to reach out even after hearing something hurtful. And, now that you've covered all bases, I suppose it's alright to say, indeed, leave it all to heaven. :-)