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First day of high school

If you ask Emily how was her first day of high school, she will answer: “Awesome!”

“Awesome” is Emily’s go to word for everything. If something is not awesome, we need to dig and ask questions. It takes something major for Emily to not have an awesome day.

If you ask me how was Emily’s first day of high school… I will tell you that Emily had an awesome day but that mine was horrible!

I sat in my car, in the parking lot a cried… I didn’t cry when she started school at 4 but yesterday I did.  For the first time, I wasn’t sure she was going to be safe and it scared me so much that I can’t find words powerful enough to make you understand!

Thank god for my friend Lorraine who told me I could come over for coffee. My coffee visit lasted something like 5 hours… We all need a Lorraine in our life’s if you don’t have one, find one!!!  As long as it’s not mine!  🙂

Why was my day horrible?

I wasn’t ready to leave Emily in a big new high school where nobody could tell me that she would be safe!

Was it so unrealistic of me to expect that the professional staff on site would be able to tell me how the day was going to go and put my mind at ease as to my child’s safety?

We had meetings with the resource staff in the spring to prepare for Emily’s transition to high school. Emily went to visit her future school on 3 or 4 occasions to help her familiarize herself with the place.

Two weeks before school started I emailed my contacts to ask what was the plan for Emily.

I didn’t get an answer.

I looked at the staff list on the school’s website, their names and emails were still there so I gave them a couple more days to get back to me.

Less than a week before school was scheduled to start, I called and learned that my main contact changed over the summer… Not ideal but I can live with that.

This is after all going to be Emily’s fifth school. We’ve done this before in 2 provinces and 4 different cities.

Entering high school can’t be that different. Can it?

I left a voicemail to this new person and emailed her my questions.  Where was Emily supposed to go and who would help her during the day?

Simple enough right?

Well, my simple questions got a really simple answer.  “We meet in resource room 130 before the bell.”

Well, I guess I should have been more specific…  That didn’t help me much but at least we had a meeting place. All that was left to do for us was to get there and find that room.

….

The overall lack of information didn’t sit well with me so I booked the day off.

On a side note, I have never taken a day off before on Emily’s first day of school.  I might have showed up to work later than usual but never missed a day.  She started school when she was 4 so this is her 12th year!!!

In order to feel better, I started to look at the school’s website daily to try and find as much information as I could about Sept.3rd.

I found the bell’s schedule and a ton of info on all kind of sport’s try-out for the week before school started.

I found a program called Ambassadors for high school students to help new international students integrate and feel part of the high school community.

Nothing for the kids with special needs.

It would have been nice for something like the Ambassadors to be in place for this population of vulnerable individuals entering the school, to help them integrate and feel like they are part of the community.

I wonder if that was ever considered.

I found the first day for 9th grade only announcements. Students have to be there before the 8;40am bell and the new international students and their parents are to meet somewhere specific.  Those parents are invited to spend the day. Good for them, I am sure it will help the transition for their kids but what about mine?

Still nothing…

I’m to drop her off in resource room 130!

Again I am wondering, why was there nothing in there to help the most vulnerable new students transition and integrate?

Regardless of my worries, yesterday arrived on time, just like Christmas will be here on December 25th!

Emily was standing tall and feeling confident thanks to 15 years of building her self-esteem.

I wasn’t confident at all but tried not to worry Emily.

We went in together, passed a mom and her son, she seemed as uncomfortable as I was.

We kept walking and found room 130… I admit we had to ask for help to find it but we managed.

Once there, it appeared that I was expected to leave my child and go.

How was I supposed to do that?

Think about this for a minute. Emily is a gorgeous 15 year old who mentally can be anywhere between 3 to 15 depending on the situation. Would you send your toddler in a high school to fend for herself when she looks like bait for anyone with bad intentions? She is not strong enough to physically defend herself should something happen. I don’t know if she would scream, fight back or try to run… Not that she runs really fast!

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Can you see my concerns?

I know, some of you think I’m over reacting.  The resource staff and educational assistant are professionals right?  Yes, they are so my expectations as a mom of a new students with special needs shouldn’t be anything new to them.

Why is it that this week, they had a special meeting for international students, a corn boil planned by the student body for tonight, a dance tomorrow, pictures day on Friday, a football game Friday nigh with pep rally but nothing to help their most vulnerable students and their parents feel confident that the day would go well?

How is that ok?

I had to ask the resource teacher how they would guarantee that Emily would safely transitions from class to class and that she would be safe and sound (and still on school ground) by 3:30pm when I was to pick her up?

Some quick arrangements were made with the educational assistants… but as far as I could see not a permanent solution.

Emily took my face between her hands, look me in the eyes and said: “mom, I am fine, you can go.  I love you” than she kissed me.  😦

That was her way of telling me to stop embarrassing her and leave!  🙂

I am so proud of her but I wasn’t ok to leave yet…

I left!

I got out, sat in my car and cried!

I cried in my car in the high school parking lot on the first day of 9th grade… not my first day, Emily’s first day!  I had never cried in a high school parking lot before!

I was frozen in my car.  At that point my plan was to stay there all day although I knew that wasn’t a good plan.

I texted my husband who was trying to sleep as he was just done work.. not my best idea!

I considered finding a place serving alcohol at 9am and just drown my worries in rum and coke

🙂

Although that could have ended-up being fun, that didn’t really work with me being available should Emily needed me…

So I texted Lorraine…

Thank god for Lorraine!  She helped me by talking about tons of things and kept giving me coffee!  I love her!

I talked to the resource teacher last night and we agreed on a plan for the first couple of weeks of school.  The call took maybe 30 minutes and I was in a better place.

30 minutes… this call should have been before her first day, not after!  What a difference that would have made!

I took Emily in this morning, we went to the resource room, than to her locker than to her homeroom.  All that with her EA of course but Emily was showing me around.  That was nice!

Than she kissed me goodbye and went in her class.

I went to work!

What would you have done yesterday?  What should I do next?

I am thinking of joining a Parents/School committee of some sort and try to get involved at this new school.

I am also thinking that there has to be a way to make first day of 9th grade easier on the parents and kids just like Emily and I.  Should I touch base with the resource teacher and discuss a potential variation of the ambassador program where parents of kids with special needs already in high school could organize something the week before first day to help new parents…

Maybe calling new parents, ask if they have questions, create a support group of some sort.  Should parents of kids with special needs be invited in on first day like the parents of the international students?

We are all busy, some parents will not come but the ones who would show-up would be glad it exist and would most likely get involved to help the following years…

After all, we, parents of kids with special needs are a community of our own!  We understand each other, we empathize but never pity each other.  I would hope that we could make this work!

I don’t want to be the nagging mom, I am not a bad mom and I have worked well with the schools in the past…. however, at this time, because something has been done the same way for years doesn’t make it right.

I will reach out to the resource teacher when we will meet to discuss Emily’s SEP.  I am sure if we work together we can figure something out and create a mechanism to help those vulnerable kids and their parents feel safe and confident that everything will go well on  day 1 and during their high school years!

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12 thoughts on “First day of high school

  1. You could’ve written this about us on the first day of middle. He wasn’t concerned at all…we were a wreck! We had a difficult time getting them to understand his, and our, needs. This is a fact I can’t fathom! It’s a school, been in place for years. There’s no way my son is the first kid with special needs to cross that threshold! We thought, “Are you kidding me? They have no clue!”. We were more worried about how other kids would treat him, not the friggin’ staff. The kids have all been great! And, after several come-to-Jesus’ with all his teachers, we finally got what we needed. This year has been fine. They knew not mess with us now. The squeaky wheel gets the grease!

      • His school understands our position at this point. It does seem that we are his only advocates. Although he was treated very well at his elementary school. He had great resource teachers and a terrific kindergarten teacher that did wonders for him, and us. The twins are in their last year there now.

  2. Pingback: Meet the teacher night | Lessons from my daughter

  3. Dear Pascale,
    You are the strongest person I know. I am in tears. My Leigh started kindergarten this week… my anxieties for her would fill a house (and kind of do..!). Emily is most definitely the luckiest girl in the world to have you as her mom. xoxoxo

    • Thank you Polly. We are all strong when we need to be although from time to time I don’t feel strong at all. In those moments, I rely on Jon and Em, I take all the hugs and kisses I can get and pull myself back-up. Kindergarten is such a big step too! I’m sure we will both be find :).

  4. Oh Pascale, my heart broke while reading this. I saw you and Emily enter the building. We have never met in person b4. I was leaving as you were arriving. I wish I would have stopped my car to say hello. I am sorry that it was such a hard transition. You are not “nagging” as you suggest. A person who complains without suggesting possible solutions is a “nagger” You have some valid points and good ideas to help remedy this transition for kids with special needs. Thank you for opening my eyes as well. I have been so sad for my own daughter and yet she had the corn boil, dance and football game…..something should be in place for all children….I will be your first volunteer.

    • I have now tried twice to reply to you but as soon as there is activity on my page, my phone goes to it and I lose everything.

      Here goes try #3

      Thank you for your kind words. I saw you too on Tuesday last week. One day, I will introduce myself.

      I am better now after almost 2 weeks.. And as it has been 2 weeks, I
      Am expecting a meeting soon to review Emily’s SEP

      I have decided to trust the new resource teacher and allow her to prove me right. I will tell her about my experiences and my ideas. Hopefully we can make next year a great experience for the ninth grader and their families.

      I will let you know if I need volunteers. 🙂

  5. Oh, I totally cried reading this and feeling your pain! I’m so very glad that Emily had an awesome day and I’m happy that you have decided on a positive course of action and look to become involved in the school in order to put new policies and procedures in place to help students in the future! Good Luck and keep us informed! 🙂

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