Sometimes life is like playing on a basketball team without knowing the rules of play.
This best describes Ethan first week at a brand new school. My heart aches to think that the only community he knew, the only school he had ever attended, and his life long friends would no longer be part of his every day. Why? We felt that for many reasons we needed a different learning structure for Ethan. Did we make the right decision? After the first day of school I cried my eyes out thinking we had not done the right thing. Not for him, but for my own heart. I did not know anyone. I do not know what protocol is, so how can I begin to direct Ethan. Starting in 4th grade at a new school. A school when most kids have hung together already for four years, know the rules of play, and no thought that this new kid might not know.
So began a very challenging week for Ethan. Each day he reported his struggles. His first words in the car after his first day is "mom the teacher talks to fast, and to soft I can't understand him." Each morning I went in to speak with his teacher. Trying my best not to have my tears start to pour. There are differences so extreme from one school to the next.
At the old school, each child was taught the concepts one on one. The student then working through a book to reinforce the concepts learned. Each child sat at their own private cubby, with dividers that kept them from being distracted by other students. The new school is the teacher teaching the class as a whole. Thus for the first time, Ethan has to pay attention to what is being spoken by the teacher at all times. Otherwise he will miss something or everything. There are large tables with about six kids to a table, all within reach.
At the old school the teachers filled out homework slips, with books to be worked in and page numbers. This slip is to be signed by a parent each time there is homework. At the new school Ethan is to take note of homework written on the board each day. The teacher is not going to check if you have your homework written down, nor does he care if a parent has signed a slip. It's Ethan's job to note his homework, complete it and turn it in.
The new school and teacher have been very gracious with my phone calls, my questions, and then me having to learn what protocol is so I can work with Ethan to develop habits and routines. His teacher even took an after hour phone call for me to speak about how the textbooks read and what the expectations are.
Ethan has always been an "A" student in all his subjects. Always on the Honor Roll. He takes his lack of understanding so serious and it is clear he is very willing to push through these challenges. I appreciate this about his character to want to do well, and not just sitting and wondering what is going on. He gets that he does not get it and speaks about it. This afternoon his teacher came up to my car to check in. He is committed to walking Ethan through every single step, by checking in with Ethan, the progress of his learning from moment to moment for next week.
A child's progress is measured by turned in homework assignments, well written reports, test scores, and attention to the requirements in class each day. Very easy to do when you came from a class of only 8 students, and a one on one learning style.
Today he has a smiley face sticker on his shirt. I asked him where he got that. He said, "my teacher gave it to me for doing a good job on my math.". Math? The most complex of learning and listening in this kind of classroom room structure and Ethan did a good job? My heart melted.
Why did we move him? Like I wrote earlier there are many reasons, but one that was high on our list of reasons is the manner in which he is learning will not be consistent with the public schools. Right now we have the blessing of affording private school. His old school is very unique in it's teaching style and one I have favored with hearing children. However, as Ethan gets older he must learn now how to function in open classroom teaching. Consistent with what junior high or high school will be like,and then on into college. We felt that Ethan is smart enough, takes his learning very serious, that moving into this learning structure would be a bit of a struggle at first, but he would learn how to adapt. Adapting without a FM system. Something he has never had. Ethan learning how to be actively paying attention at all times for success in his understanding and learning.
Today is Friday and he got a smiley face sticker for doing well on his math. It's a big faith building moment for my mommy heart. It's a start in the right direction. Truth be known I desperately wanted to sit in on class time, an option that I have, and hand hold Ethan through this first week. I chose not to. I made the decision that if I am not going to be in class, and never have been in class other than parent helping, this week would not be any different. I have seen Ethan's confidence grow a little each day. Something that would have been hindered if I sat in the shadows of his teacher. He is learning what the process is for each day. What he needs to do to gain understanding. Even with my hearing children I have always said, "be the first one to ask questions when you don't know the answers or the expectations." Ethan tends to be a bit shy with new adults in his life. It won't take long for this new teacher to be inundated with many questions from this young man.
It has been a week, very challenging on my emotions, but I see God's hand over Ethan's education. Thank you Lord for a school with such wonderful, caring teachers. We will miss our other school with equally loving and caring teachers, and see now at the end of our first week, that truly this was a very good decision for Ethan's long term academic success. It is very hard with a deaf child to truly know if the decisions we make are the best. Goodness that goes for hearing children too. I stand in awe to see how God orchestrated this transition with things unseen that I now understand. There may be more days of struggle, strengthening, and Ethan working the hardest to follow than he ever has. Someday he will be sitting in a college class with 100's of students in a large auditorium, and today he is learning to listen.