Monday, October 25, 2010

School Struggles

I am conflicted this morning. In true procrastinator fashion, I did not open the folder Lucas brings home from school every day until yesterday, even though he was home from school on Thursday and Friday. When I opened his folder, I found a sealed envelope addressed to the Parents of Lucas Pierce-Ralph. In my few short years of involvement with the Minneapolis public school system, I have learned that this is never a good thing. I opened the envelope, read the contents, and my heart sank.

Lucas' school has started a new free tutoring program. It runs for one month from November to December, two days a week. The tutoring will be provided by teachers and educational assistants and will occur after school from 2:00pm until 5:00pm, Mondays and Wednesdays. Lucas has been invited by his teacher to participate. She feels that he needs additional help with his reading and writing. Of course, I know Lucas struggles with reading and writing, but there was something about seeing it right there in print on that disgustingly cheerful bright blue paper that made me sad.

When I was a child, I excelled at reading and writing. Reading was my escape. My solace. My constant. After my dad died and my mom would spend days and weeks and months crying herself to sleep every night, I had my books. I could escape to anywhere I wanted to go.

I also found comfort and peace in the predictability and routine of school. I loved school. No matter what was going on in my life, school was always the same. It was reliable and steadfast. I managed to get A's with minimal effort. I was the epitome of the good student. I didn't have many skills outside of the classroom setting. I sucked at sports. I was shy and didn't have the greatest social skills. But inside the classroom, I was a rock star.

Lucas does not have the same attitude toward school. He doesn't hate school, per se. But he does not relish it either. It makes me sad to see him so heartily dislike something that was so incredibly significant to me as a child. Personally, I think Lucas is brilliant. He retains information like I have never seen a child do. He can spit out scientific facts like a pro. He has an amazing vocabulary. He loves to draw. There is nothing he likes better than watching scientific documentaries....and it doesn't even matter what branch of science it involves. As a matter of fact, yesterday morning, I had moved to the couch at about 5:00am because Sophie and Nicky has essentially pushed me out of my bed. Shortly afterwards, Lucas came to the living room and found me curled up under a blanket watching Sanjay Gupta on CNN. He crawled under the blanket with me, patted my leg, and whispered, "Momma, do you want to watch a science show? Just you and me time?" So we laid curled up on the couch at 5:30 in the morning on a Sunday and watched a Nova documentary about nature's fury. Lucas was in heaven.

However, when it comes to reading and writing, Lucas truly struggles. He still doesn't hold his pencil correctly. He writes his letters backwards. When we writes a letter, he starts at the bottom rather than the top, as is the correct way to write a letter. Even when he writes a letter correctly, his formation of it is backwards and upside down...if that makes sense. He can't spell worth a crap. I am beginning to wonder if perhaps Lucas could be dyslexic. Ruanita had dyslexia as a child and still struggles. She can see words in her head, but when she tries to write them down or even pronounce them at times, the letters and sounds get jumbled and she can't get them out correctly. She mispronounces words and her spelling is not much better than Lucas'. Like Lucas, however, she is brilliant. Lucas does not have trouble saying words. As a matter of fact, he often corrects Ruanita's pronunciation...a fact that drives her absolutely insane. He does, however, struggle with reading and writing. I am not sure if dyslexia is heredity. We have his parent/teacher conference next week. I will talk to her more about this and about what we can do to help him.

In the meantime, I think we need to take advantage of the tutoring. Of course, I resisted initially, but Ruanita convinced me...yet again...what is the best thing to do for our child. Lucas needs extra help and his school is offering it. Rather than letting him fall through the cracks as Ruanita's school did decades ago, his school is offering assistance. We would be fools not to take advantage of it. Lucas, of course, does not feel the same way. As a matter of fact, when we mentioned it to him, he burst into tears and cried, "Five o'clock?!"

I guess it's going to take some time to get used to the idea of extra tutoring. For both of us.


Anonymous said...

If I may? I am a Lucas of sorts. I never liked school, and still don't. I never excelled in my classes, they were always a struggle, even those classes that I was exceptionally talented at. The interesting part of this is that I LOVE to learn. Just like Lucas I watch live on the Discover chanel and I love sciences of all types.I also excel in the arts, I work as a designer and I love it so much but even getting through classes I loved was difficult for me. I've always envied others who like school and did well there. The easiest of all my school experiences was at design school where they kind of understand that not everyone learns in the same way. I got really good grades in all my classes that were not set up in the traditional way but regular lecture/book/test classes were a struggle for me even as an adult. I don't think the school system is set up to teach all students well because not all people learn in the same way. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that Lucas is brilliant I'm sure but may benefit from a different school, one that can engage him properly and keep his interest, one that has more hands on and less book time. I know that may not be possible but it's probably what he craves in his learning experience. Sending him to get some extra help is a really great idea in the place of changing schools though. No child wants to feel like they are failing or not doing as well as other kids and a little one on one with a teacher would probably be great for him.

I hope you don't mind my lengthy and opinionated comment, your post just struck a chord with me.

PS - I eventually did well with both writing and reading. I love to write now, although, I rarely read books for pleasure - short attention span I think.

Anonymous said...

Yikes. I just reread my comment and noticed all the typos and punctuation mistakes. Ha, funny in a comment about education, no? ;)

I forgot to mention that I have a diagnosed learning disability as well, though not dyslexia. People with dyslexia have amazing talent with spacial orientation and the ability to visualize in 3 dimensions. You may have a budding architect, sculptor or industrial designer on your hands.

Ok, that's enough from me for now.

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