Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Putting the 'Pal' in Principal

Okay, bad pun but the sentiment is there.

I had a meeting with the principal of Olivia’s school today. Her teacher was supposed to be there too but had a last minute appointment and couldn’t make it.

I feel like we got so lucky when we moved to this school district. This principal has been at our school for about three years. She’s on the young side (probably early forties) for a principal and she’s just so lovely.

She cares about the kids and seems to have taken a personal interest in Olivia and her education.

The first thing she said to me when I arrived was, “I want to make sure Olivia gets the most normal education possible. That’s why it’s so important to me that she remain in the typical classroom. I want to pave the way for her to keep learning as much as possible. She’s going to be surrounded by typical people her entire life, this is the time when we can teach her how to deal with those people to the best of her ability.”

This meeting was mostly to talk about state-administered reading fluency tests that are coming up later this month. Olivia will be taking this test but if she doesn’t pass (she doesn’t test well even though she reads VERY well) she will not be held back from moving on to the fourth grade next year.

Mrs. M went on to tell me how well she feels O is doing this year. She said she tries to spend about fifteen minutes a day with Olivia and her goal is to have Olivia speak an entire sentence to her before she leaves the elementary side of this school in sixth grade.

“Olivia is such a mystery,” Mrs. M said. “Her syndrome is so rare that I will probably never get to meet another person with it.”

I nodded and said that most doctors will go their entire careers without having a patient with 5p- syndrome. I told her how lucky I feel that we have the medical providers we do have and how much I appreciate all that her doctors and her teachers/therapists/Mrs. M do for Olivia.

“She’s so sweet,” Mrs. M said. “But she can also be so stubborn. I’ve never met anyone quite like Olivia.”

I appreciate an educator who admits that sometimes she doesn’t really know how to help my child but who isn’t giving up on doing just that. She said that sometimes Olivia defies the assistance put in place to help her. Sometimes, the very thing that is supposed to make school easier for her makes her dig in and refuse to even try.

I agreed and said that all we can do is keep looking for ways to help Olivia help herself.

“Her biggest fear,” I told Mrs. M, “is being viewed as different. She KNOWS she’s different but she doesn’t want it pointed out or made any more obvious than it already is.”

I mentioned how awesome Mrs. H is at helping Olivia not feel singled out.

Mrs. M gave me some ideas to work on at home to help Olivia develop her already really good reading habits. We’re going to institute a reading journal, in which I will encourage Olivia to write about the characters we’re reading that day. I can ask her questions and ask her to write the answers.

Reading isn’t a problem for Olivia but writing…well, that’s more challenging. Thankfully the test she’ll have to take will be done at the computer not written out by hand but there is still the struggle O has with attention. She’ll have an aide by her side to keep her on track and keep her from erasing all her hard work the first time she gets distracted or bored.

As always, we are so lucky to be where we are, working with this team to help Olivia be the very best she can be. We’re on track for an excellent year and with all the help in place and Olivia doing her very best, well, we’re all looking forward to third grade being the best one yet for our little mystery.

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