Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More Than I Could Ask for, Less Than I'd Hoped

It's Awards Day at West Ridge Middle.  West Ridge is the second highest performing middle school in the state of Louisiana.  It's a tough school.  Unfortunately, I'm not there.  It's the first such event I've missed, but major work fires have me here at the office.

Nathan just received his "President's Award" Certificate for GPA 3.3 - 3.5.   Needless to say, I'm proud.  The principal and assistant principal expressed their pride in him to me a few days ago.  When he was diagnosed, we scarcely hoped for a successful, mainstreamed student.  We got an honor student who is loved by his teachers, administrators, and his peers.  Well, maybe not all of them.

Nathan qualified academically and behaviorally for the honors trip to New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.  He received his place on the waiting list and moved closer and closer to getting a slot on the trip.  When he made it to #3 in line, a guaranteed slot, his grades changed in one class.   Suddenly, Nathan began receiving zeros on his daily work.  His grade fell, and he slipped below the GPA criteria for the trip.  His opportunity was gone.  To add insult to injury, it made the difference between a certificate and a trophy for his grades.  Nathan LOVES trophies.

Before I go further, let me state the following.  My beloved wife is a teacher.  We LOVE our teachers.  We admire them and shower them in what gifts our limited resources afford us.   That being said.  Every barrel has a rotten apple or two.

We learned when Connor, our oldest, went on the trip that the teacher who sponsors the trip likes to "sculpt" the list and hand pick those who get to go.  We witnessed her talk parents out of sending their kids.  She tried to brow beat us into pulling Connor.  It didn't work.  Connor went, had an amazing time, and was among the best behaved of the group.  She'll never admit it, but she was dead wrong about him.

Nathan's Social Studies teacher is one of her "chosen" who makes the trip every year.  Neither of them like special kids.  Mr. Social Studies has been quoted as saying that he doesn't believe in mainstreaming and that "they should all be institutionalized". Can I prove any of this?  No.  We watched it play out, but have nothing "actionable".  Rather than seeing Nathan for who he really is, two narrow-minded people declared him unacceptable and excluded him.  I'll give them this.  They're good at what they do. 

Some will surely be wondering why we didn't fight.  It's simple.  We won't send him across the country with someone who doesn't want him.  He's a sensitive and very perceptive young man.  There's no up side to doing that to him.  The opportunity wasn't worth the risk.

Again, life for my family has been quite a polar experience.  We are blessed beyond measure and grateful for it.  On the contrary, I'm watching scenes from my own childhood being played out in my children's lives yet again.  It's infuriating and heart rending.  Much has changed in the last 30 years.  Obviously, much has not as well.

No salary or gratitude will ever adequately compensate those who have believed in and contributed to our children.

There's a special corner of Hell reserved for those who cheat and abuse "special folk".

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