Meetings and Dreams

I made it. The last parent-teacher conference. Friday. After having a night of a dozen for my students. Then Tornado E’s. Then Tornado A’s. Finally Friday Tornado S’s.

And I had a plan.

Like the other two, I rushed out of school and drove as fast as I legally could to get to the boys’ school. I would make it with mere minutes to spare, meeting my mom and Tornado S. Tornado S and I would have our meeting. My parents would drop off the other two boys on their way to the football game. The boys and I would have delicious BBQ before going back to the school for the Book Fair/Dance/Chili Cook Off. Then books, soda, friends.

Brilliant!

Except Tornado S and I waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.

I texted my mom to let her know the issue.

30 minutes later. The parent-teacher conference before us ended. Awesome. And I asked the secretary if Tornado E and Tornado A could wait in the lobby if they were dropped off before we were done.

And it goes like I expected. Tornado S is a sweet kid. He’s bright and oh-so-smart. She tells me how she can see it in his face when he’s following her, when he’s thinking, when comprehension dawns on him. We discuss his testing results. She already has plans for him.

Me: Has he told you what he wants to do when he grows up? The science stuff?

The Teacher (The official science teacher of 5th grade): Why! No! Tornado S, what do you want to do when you grow up?

Tornado S: I want to study Tesla’s work. I think I can finish his work and make electricity from his (looks at me for the word but I just smile) things. I’m going to make electricity out of the air and give it away. Like Tesla.

The Teacher looked at me, surprised. I smiled and shrugged.

The Teacher: You’ll have to tell me when you do that.

Me: Are you kidding? The world will know.

Tornado S beamed.

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Accommodations and Tornado S

Yesterday I met with the neuro-psychologist about Tornado S’s evaluation. Three years of fighting, finally, I had results. Drum-roll. Please.

Tornado S has a reading disability. We sat there for three heartbeats.

What? But he reads find. I mean, ok. He could do better. But his comprehension. Sure, he skips words. But. What?

So apparently, Tornado S is crazy bright and has been fooling everyone all these years on how well he reads.

Well, ok, then.

But he needs more testing. By a neurologist. Something is up with his fine motor skills.

Let the battle for referrals begin.

Tornado S has a crossword puzzle to do that corresponded to the map of the United States. He had to correctly spell the state name in tiny squares of a crossword puzzle. Too tiny for Tornado S to write legibly. I stared at it. I pondered it. I studied it.

My Mom: Fae! Are you going to help your son or not?

Me: (still looking at the crossword puzzle and then the map) Yeah. I just need to figure out how to accommodate Tornado S. (pause) (pause) I got it. I need a map. Or a book with the states’ names.

I got out an atlas and got Tornado S to the table. I opened the atlas to the United States. I gave him the worksheet of a map of the United States with numbers labeling the states.

Me: Here’s what we’re going to do. You’re going to find the state we need to write on the crossword puzzle, and then you’re going to spell at me while I write it.

Tornado S: Why can’t you just write it?

Me: Because you’re suppose to be writing it. You’re suppose to be practicing writing the states’ names. Since you’re not writing them, you’re spelling them out loud. Go.

Tornado S: Mama, what is “accommodate?”

Me: It’s. It’s. It’s accommodations…?

Tornado S stared at me. I looked around the room. Then I jumped off my chair and grabbed his hand, pulling him into the kitchen. I grabbed the bag of chips off the fridge.

Me: See how easy that was for me? (I put the bag of chips on the top of the fridge) Now you get it.

He tried and failed. And then jumped and grunted, acting like a cartoon.

Me: So accommodations is giving you a tool to do the work I can. If I handed you the bag, that is not an accommodation. I did the work for you. But if I (I ran into the other room and grabbed the stool. I opened it up in front of him) give you a tool to help you do the work, then I’m giving you an accommodation. Now get the bag.

He scampered up the stool and grabbed the bag. He gave me a big smile and held his arms out for victory.

Me: So an accommodation is helping you do the work you should do.

Tornado S: YEA!

Me: Let’s go get that homework done.

On the Front Porch

There’s nothing funny about this story. There’s no joke, no punchline, no laughter. There’s nothing horrible or sad. It’s just a moment I want to capture forever, preserve in amber, crystallize in time.

I had asked the ex to have Tornado S bring his homework to karate, so that I could check it. Luckily he did, and I did. I found a few mistakes.

So a little after karate, a little after his bedtime, we sat, Tornado S and I, on the steps in front of his dad’s house, using the light of the porch to correct math problems. The night was warm just like any September night in Tucson. Because we were far from the city lights, I could point out a dozen or so constellations. But instead, I pointed out how Tornado S should have multiply instead of divide. I showed him short cuts and asked him to write his best as I held the clipboard steady as he wrote the answer. Instead of fighting or whining or arguing, Tornado S said, “Yes, Mama” and then corrected the problems.

That moment of sitting next to my 10 year old Tornado S is what I wish to keep forever.

Dress Up Time

It was Spirit Week at school this week. They do them after 3 day weekends or breaks to entice kids back to school. Right. If you want teenagers in school, bring food. Any ways, one day was Battle of the Ages. They expected us to dress Greek, Roman, or Spartan. Uh… Um….. I …. Nevermind.

Now personally, I thought it was a misfire. Not everyone can dress like a Greek or Roman or have the confidence to. I would’ve, but I was a nerd. And at least, it was better than Gender Swap Day. I cringe just writing it.

So the day came. I took a sheet and folded it into peplos. (Told you I was a nerd. I do nothing in halves, so when I was in middle school, enamored by Greek myths, I learned to dress as the ancient Greeks.) I pinned it with help from my mother and cinched it with a tie.

Because some of the adults who watched my nerdy-ancient-loving teenage phase encouraged me, I have quite a lot of jewelry inspired by ancient designs. I put on earrings, rings, and a necklace.

I braided my hair in a few braids. I put on a few silver headbands. I twisted and knotted my hair before shoving in a dozen or more bobby pins.

Off I went in sandals, instead of my usual combat boots or mary janes.

And the kids loved it.

“Miss, are you a goddess?”

“Miss, you look beautiful!”

“Wow, miss, you’ve got school spirit!”

“Miss, how did you do that?”

“Miss, you’re so cool.”

“Miss, your hair looks amazing.”

As I teach freshmen, I didn’t expect a lot of participation for Spirit Week. They’re too worried that they will look uncool. For fewer participated in Battle of the Ages, only one. None of the student council or cheerleaders.

When I arrived home, I had forgotten that the boys hadn’t seen me yet.

They ran to greet me when they heard the door open. They stopped in their tracks.

Tornado S: Mama! What are you wearing?!

Tornado A: You look pretty, Mama!

Tornado S: You look beautiful, Mama!

Tornado E: You look like a goddess, Mama. Did your students think you were a goddess?

Me: One asked if I was Zeus. I said I didn’t have the beard for it, but he said I would look cool with a thunderbolt.

Tornado E: Pssht. You should have said you were Athena. That’s who you look like.

Me: Thank you, my boys.

I kissed them all.

 

Silly Rules for Spelling Sentences

At their school, the second graders have to put their 20 spelling words in sentences, due at the end of the week. Tornado E and Tornado S’s teachers did not care how many spelling words were jammed into a sentence. Tornado S could get up to five words. It was impressive. Tornado A has no such luck. He can only put up to two spelling words in a sentence.

So he did.

He got full credit for his ten sentences and a little note from the teacher. “Don’t start with I so often, please.” All but one or two sentences started with I.

Part of me thinks this is a stupid rule. He’s in second grade. But I realize this will make him a better writer.

Tornado A has acquiesced to the demand. But since my genes naturally run deep, he has started all his sentences this week, so far, with “We.” If he does this for every sentence, I’m going to give the kid five bucks.

So It Begins…. Again

It’s been a hectic two weeks. And I know it’s just the start.

First, school is in full swing. I’ve been to four open houses. One for each boy and my own.

At my own, I repeated myself five times with the same speech, same jokes with the same silence. I really need a sound machine with the sound of chirping crickets. I talk about the course, my expectations, my joy of teaching their kids. I assure every parent that yes, your kid is doing fine. (Really, it was this last week that they were given the ball to drop; sometime this weekend I’ll learn how many decided to turn in their first homework assignment.)

The first open house was Tornado A’s where I learned he’s so bright and sweet, so smart, so with it. I’d wish you luck, but you already have him. Good luck, any ways. You’re going to need it. Behind that sweet smile lies the mind of a mad genius.  I also was stopped by several teachers to ask how my year was going, to exchange notes and ideas, to whisper good luck and congratulations. You have no idea how much high school freshmen are like elementary kids.

Then it was Tornado S’s open house. Usually we discuss his many weird, complex issues. But my parents have already talked to the teachers, and two out of three teachers had already had Tornado E. So I introduce myself. And Tornado S is so sweet and kind, so brilliant; we just need to help him get it out, and by the way, how’s the school year? I exchange notes and ideas with the other teachers, explaining the math common core for a few families while the math teacher talked with another family about homework. You have no idea how much high school freshman are like 5th graders.

Finally Tornado E’s open house arrived. I carpooled with a friend, and I was spoiling for some answers because Tornado E had been bumped to the regular math class because of a pre-assessment. Then he was getting a solid C in his new math class after I had lobbied for a retest or re placement. But since my boy is becoming more cautious in new situations, I don’t start out with, “Hi. I’m Tornado E’s mom; I’m so sorry.” I introduce myself, and immediately I get, “Ah, yes, Tornado E. Smart kid. Really smart. Just quiet.” Yeah, give him time. Then it was time to talk to the math teacher about her methods, expectations, her weighting practices. After all that in front of the parents, I talked to her privately about Tornado E, who is impressing her greatly, who she thinks is capable of algebra with a little help, who she hopes isn’t discouraged. Well, he is. He loves math, and he’s proud of his math scores. Oh, but he took a test the day after he got into my class and got a C without instruction; that was impressive. That C has him off computer and video games. Oh, well, then. We hammered out a plan.

And this is just the beginning. Cub Scouts goes into full swing next week. So does religious classes. Tornado S wants to join Kung Fu with his brothers. Tornado A would like to add a third martial art. Uh, no.

And I should have 140 essays to grade this weekend.

Signs. Signs. Everywhere Signs.

We have come into some wood. Random pieces cut in random ways. Over the summer, Tornado A made a sign for the big family room. “Don’t come in” was written on one side. “Come in if you want” was written on the other side. He is meticulous in using it on the door.

Sunday he decided to make a sign for me. One side. “Saye out.” For when I need people to stay out of my room.

Thank you, baby.

Then he made one for his bedroom.

How cute.

Then one for the bathroom.

Thank you, sweetheart.

One for the office.

Papi will love that one.

One for my parents’ room.

Nana: Thank you.

One for the main hallway.

Um, ok. Awesome.

One for the dining room.

This one is great, but, baby….

One for the living room.

One small sign doesn’t really work for a room without a – no, it’s cute.

And then we had to stop him. Sweetly. Kindly. We asked him to hold off on signs for a little while. How many could he want to make? We love them, but we’re tripping over them.

Then he wailed and wailed and wailed.

I promised he can make more next weekend.