The work is done. Today (6-1) is the celebration of all my daughter and her fellow graduates have accomplished. Recently she posted this on her FB page. As I watched it I could not control the tears understanding that I, a person with fairly strong (unless you compare me to my family of origin) verbal linguistic skills, did not honestly understand how difficult her journey through the public school system was. But, she made it. She never gave up.
My daughter was not defeated in spite of not because the system. She has survived a system that pretended to care about educating all its students, a system that littered our community with signs claiming that graduation matters, a system that gave its administrator a 13 percent raise (following a 10 percent raise the year before) but only reluctantly settled on a 3 percent raise for teachers after freezing them out two years ago and offering a .5 percent raise the year before, a system whose “study skills” teachers (you know the ones who are supposed to help those students having difficulty “keeping up” in the regular classrooms) never even had to take a class in which they might learn about Dyslexia, the Multiple Intelligences, or managing non-developmental disabilities learning related problems, a system geared almost completely to teaching to a standardized test, a test that does not measure what students actually know how to utilize or apply but rather tests what they are able to memorize and retain in the short term.
When one of her older brothers left public school to be home schooled his senior year I wrote his world history teachers (from the year before) to explain what an opportunity he had missed by refusing to see my son’s abilities, talents, and unique perspective since they didn’t fall in line with his measure of intelligence. I defended my son against a system he rejected. My son’s writing ability, as a beginning senior in high school, were poor at best. In part this deficit was due to a lack of feedback from his language arts teachers and little to no skills based teaching. In part it was due to my son’s slower learning pace (when taught with traditional methods). But mostly, it was due to a system that over burdens teachers with the sheer numbers of students they are responsible to teach and that refuses to recognize the different learning styles/needs of those students. Within a year my son’s writing had surpassed his grade level standards and today he maintains a blog with a twice weekly posting average (and a readership much higher than my own).
Sadly, until I saw my daughter’s post I didn’t realize her struggle as a Dyslexic student had been equally frustrating as her brothers. I suppose the reality is I didn’t want to realize. During the first part of her high school experience I had home schooled her next older brother and during her last couple years I had started back to school myself. I didn’t want to admit that my daughter was swimming up stream and at times was navigating some class four rapids. I hated feeling helpless to help her as I had felt when I confronted teachers who had ridiculed her by ripping up papers she’d spend hours on because they didn’t have her name at the top or by making fun of her in front of her entire class when she forgot to have me sign something. And besides, if we home school her in high school she wouldn’t have band or softball or…So she navigated the secondary system on her own with a little encouragement from the sidelines and a couple sessions of proofreading papers.
I cried with her and I listened to her and this year–her senior year–I watched as she gave me a lesson in stepping outside your comfort zone with grace and purpose and determination. And she shined!
On the way to dropping my daughter off to the early line-up she informed me that she had qualified (AKA her GPA was high enough) to receive an honors cord but it cost money and she opted out. I was sorry I hadn’t known in time to order her cord myself. Yet as she explained in the car–she knew and now I knew and that was enough. I argued with her at the time that she deserved to have her efforts recognize because as a Dyslexic in a verbally linguistic school system merely reading all the things she had to read took her twice as long as most of her classmates. But I understand what she was saying as well. She never learned things just for the test–she couldn’t. Her brain doesn’t work that way very well. So, getting recognized for testing well enough to earn a high enough GPA wasn’t the point and she didn’t need to act as though it was by wearing a cord around her neck.
My daughter, and many others like her including her three brothers, never quit. Today we get to celebrate a milestone and I couldn’t be more proud! Congratulations lovely, Hannah Boelman.