It’s that time of year when my news feed on Facebook is flooded with back to school photos. I love seeing how everyone has grown over the last year. I enjoy seeing how each family chooses to do their back to school pics (or not to do them at all). I giggle at the outrageous outfits some of my friend’s daughters insist on wearing. I look forward to taking Owen’s pictures in the morning, walking him into the school and heading out to breakfast by myself. Welcome back.
As much fun as going back to school can be, it’s also a time of anxiety and fear for me. I worry if Owen’s new teacher will like him. So far, they always have. I wonder if they will understand that sometimes homework needs to be turned in late because Owen had therapy for 2 1/2 hours the night before and was simply too tired to do homework. What if his friends from last year aren’t nice to him this year? What if his best pals are in a different class from him?
I start out the year knowing that I’m going to have to form a relationship with a new teacher. We will be scheduling extra parent teacher conferences over the year. I’ll be emailing at least once a week to explain that homework isn’t done or to discuss concerns about math comprehension. I know at some point he’ll be sick and miss significant time in the classroom while sitting in the hospital. Maybe this will be the year that doesn’t happen. I want this new teacher on our team, I want her to like me, I hope she likes Owen. It’s so scary for me to send him off into the world and trust all the people at school to see the amazing little person that he is.
The new school year, much like the new calendar year is a chance to look back on the last year. Each year we see Owen grow and change in so many ways, school is so good for him. I love watching how he spreads his wings and becomes more independent.
So, as we embark on second grade, I want to remember some of the highlights from last year. Hopefully that will help me to keep in mind that Owen will rock this year in the same style he has in the past.
At the end of the first grading period last fall, we were surprised and thrilled to see a gold medal sticker on Owen’s report card that announced he’d made the honor roll. That means he had achieved an A or B in all his classes for the grading period. I’m not going to lie to you, I cried. I was so incredibly proud of him. Making the honor roll isn’t easy, it’s hard work. It showed me, once again, how smart Owen is. But I know that achievement was earned, not just by him, but by his teachers and his aide. Everyone worked together to help him earn this honor, adjusting for his needs and finding a way to help him learn in the ways that work for him. Over the rest year, he missed the honor roll by a few percentage points here or there in different classes but at the end of the school year he had an average in each class that earned him honor roll status for the year and he got a certificate that is proudly hanging on our fridge.
In February, Owen got the flu and ended up in the hospital. He missed over a week of school, including Valentine’s Day, which made me very sad. Then we got a packet of cards from all his friends at school. They were beautiful. Everyone knows how big Super Mario is at our house and his teacher took the time to look up characters from the games and put them up on the white board for inspiration. I was blown away by their art skills. Some of his classmates wrote messages to Owen saying they missed him or that he is their best friend. It was the sweetest thing. While I’d prefer for him to never be sick, we’ll always treasure those cards.
In the spring we had another surprise. Owen was selected as a “Character Counts Student of the Month” for April. They choose students from each grade based on “display of positive character traits, such as trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, and kindness.” * You can bet we were super proud of him. Sometimes I worry that because Owen can’t communicate as well as other kids his age that his unique traits are missed. I wonder if people can see how kind he is. Do they see how funny he is? Can they tell what an amazing little person there is inside that mind? Then he comes home with a certificate and you know that he is seen, noticed, and appreciated at his school.
Over the summer, Owen spends most of his time at day camps. He gets rather bored at home and he benefits from continuing to have a routine. One camp he attended was a week long theater camp. At the end of the week they performed on stage at our local theater. It was so cool to see Owen up on stage with a group of other theater loving kids. This wasn’t a special needs camp but they did their very best to work to include him. At one point Owen didn’t want to get off the stage between songs and one of the camp directors just went and sat down next to him, where he stayed through the whole next performance. When he was ready to rejoin the show, he did. It was awesome to see the willingness of everyone to be flexible and inclusive. At the end of the performance both leaders of the camp approached us to make certain we understand they hope to have Owen attend next year.
At another of the many camps Owen attended this summer, he was selected by his counselor as the camper to receive their group flag. The flag is presented to a camper who has proven to encourage those around them. He was thrilled to be awarded the flag and I practically had to drag him off the stage as he stood proudly holding up his flag for all to see.
We are rarely disappointed when we give people the opportunity to be inclusive and discuss with them ahead of time what that might look like. When we send Owen out into the world and hope others will see what an amazing little person he is, they do. So, with hope and a little bit of fear, Second Grade, here he comes!