Sunday, December 13, 2009

plundering buckets

Of course, there's a story - but most of it is in the letter I carefully didn't write, so I think you're probably up to speed. Fill in my face, trying for calm, reminding myself that if I listen, he will talk, and if I shriek, he'll stop.

(Listen, woman, listen. Oh. And try not to laugh out loud, 'k? Because damn, when my kid decides to get himself tossed out of class, he does some very fine work.)

So, I listened. And I asked him about the teacher's response, looking to see if she gave him warnings (she did), used teamwork to help him change course (yep), and how quickly her head started revolving on her shoulders (inexplicably: didn't). Oh, and how much of each happened before the kid ended up a. in a quiet corner before being b. tossed out and c. talking to the head of the lower school.

Who, to her credit, responded by beginning a revamp of the class that the kid despises. Which I find kind of staggering, and more evidence that the kid is luckier than he knows: I was all in favor of a revamp of the kid. Possibly involving a welder, definitely with some wicked wrench work. Because here's the thing: insofar as I can see, every kid has a quota of Crap You Can Pull, which is dipped out of their Effort You Can Require of the School bucket. And I'm worried about his.

This isn't a question of being a class PIA, it's a question of needs. And this isn't just a question of going to a private (read: teeny religious) school rather than a public one, it's a practical matter. If you have a kid in your class who needs, needs, needs and then some, at some point when you look at that kid, you are going to feel pre-steamrollered. Teachers can give, and the good ones give a hell of a lot. But kids need to give back, too, refilling the bucket - or things can get strained. And strained means that there's less resources left, should you need more, simply because you are dealing with human beings. A long list of needs means that there's less left for that individual to give, because again, you are dealing with human beings.

As I might possibly have cause to know, human beings get tired. Possibly, if you are a mama, that's when you hear that vicious little snap! and begin roaring with all the love that you can muster in the midst of end-of-ropeness. There's a reason why the Short Bus parents talk so much about being tired. But I think about managing 24 kids, their needs and habits and personalities....and shudder. Because to each of their parents, every one of the 24 isn't kid, but rather Kid. And we expect the teachers to think so, too. At the Eldest's little school, we are certain that the teacher must think so. Thus: tired.

We've worked hard to expand the Eldest's EYCRS limits, mostly by being nice people and the best teammates we know how. And we try to refill that bucket by telling his teachers how much we appreciate them, and yes, I'll admit it, by making our by-now famous cookies. (At the Big Meeting before school started, the head of the lower school asked me for the recipe...having been given a tin of these the previous winter. Who knew?) I communicate whatever I can, as best I can, and do a careful if slightly desperate dance between working on the Eldest's interests and maintaining relationships. I actually like the people I'm working with, but it adds an odd flavor to really need them to like me back. In a public school, maybe I could afford to be more of a bitch, or maybe to do less baking. Have fewer meetings.

Maybe not. Because at the end of the day, there's still that bucket, limited in size by the humans toting it around.

So, here's the deal: the Eldest uses EYCRS resources by needing a little extra watchfulness, for his hemophilia. He uses a lot more for his food allergies, which slide themselves into class trips, the Head of the School's beloved squash project, Thanksgiving celebrations, and oh, just about anything Israeli/Jewish and involving food. (Ah, tahini. We meet again.) And he requires more because he tends to feel awkward in social settings, and his response to this is clowning around. Which is lovely in a classroom, dontcha think?

(more on the social thing in another post, but the short version is, unexpectedly: shy)

And oh yes, he uses more EYCRS because he's smart. Not the next Einstein, no, but can do sixth grade math smart (if I explain - okay, look up online - words like "mass," and "factors" to him). It sucks right now that the math problems that he's getting are chock-full of vocabulary that he doesn't understand, or skills that he doesn't have - like drawing a family tree - and so he gets stumped. And frustrated, knowing that part of the problem is something he could do, if he could only reach it. Does his brain fire like that in other areas? I'm not sure. But the kid drew Moh's scale of hardness for me the other day, explained it, and I thought that was pretty flaming awesome.

But hey, I'm his mom.

He's got buds in this wierd, fiery learning thing - a classroom of them, all delighted to learn and alarmingly good at it, in their various ways - and they egg each other on. The school, we're told, is both stunned and tickled. And they're throwing resources at the kids, but still, there am I, asking them to adjust to my kid's quirky levels (because there's never just one level for a kid, they vary by subject, y'know? untidy, that), and drawing on the EYCRS. Because heaven help us all if he gets bored. Trust me on this one.

So when it comes down to it, kiddo me love, you've got too much going on to be pulling more out of the bucket. It's unfair, but that's just how it goes. Can you talk to us, work with us rather than getting wired up and achieving new heights of grinning, PIA kid-ness? We-ell, maybe. The Eldest is blessed with two teachers of an admirable degree of probity and sense of humor, one of whom is openly fond of him. And who tossed him out into the hall. I asked him, she said on Friday, if he could work with me, so that he could make a good choice. I explained that he was not making good choices, she said, and sighed. I dropped my head into my hands. Not again.

I know the answer to the teacher's question: I'm sorry, the Eldest told me recently, but I really just can't. I looked at his earnest face, had seen his efforts to work with me on a calming technique, and I knew he was telling the truth. And it hurt to watch him run out into the hall, jumping and twisting so that his body bounced off the wall, mid-air, land and run on.

He can't help it. We've done testing (more on that later, too), and we know that sometimes, he really can't. Still, the kiddo wants to please the adults, he wants to do right, but it feels good to be ramped up, he told me. And he can't - yet - ramp down without my help, and he certainly doesn't understand why he has to. And I know absolutely and with a fierce pleasure, that the bucket doesn't mean crap-all to him.

And honestly, it shouldn't.

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