Transition

Can you believe the school year is over? On one hand, it feels as though the extended March break + the unexpected Covid19 break were both just announced, but on the other hand, it feels as though we’ve been attempting to help our kids learn from home for a year.

The school year ending brings with it a lot of emotions. Some relief at knowing the “summer break” is here, some apprehension as to what the next school year will look like, some pride at how far Robert has come this year, and some sadness because we are saying goodbye to an incredible education team.

Fini le jardin!

Next year we won’t be teamed up with the same people at his school, and with COVID restrictions we have no way to truly say goodbye to the current educational team.

Last Monday I drove to the school to pick up Robert’s belongings. The school set up the end of year belongings pick-up in such a way that prevented very much interaction between parents and staff. While I saw the school principal, I wasn’t really able to express my gratitude for the hard work that Robert’s educational team demonstrated throughout the school year. It was so anti-climatic after such a profoundly impactful two years with his maternelle/jardin teacher and ECE.

While we weren’t able to adequately express our gratitude in person, we did have one last exchange with his educational team via a video call.

Each year, we have a meeting with our educational team at the end of the school year. It’s purpose is to review how Robert has done over the past school year, and to plan for his transition into the next school year. Typically, the meetings are done in person in a small office/conference room at the school. Naturally, with the current restrictions in place, this year’s meeting was held virtually.

I wasn’t sure how this meeting was going to play out. What kind of comments and feedback would they be able to provide due to the learning from home over the past few months?

On the video call we had the current school educational team, his OT, and his grade 1 teacher for next year. We discussed where Robert was in terms of the SK curriculum and also how his IEP goals were being met. The teacher, ECE and EA all took turns sharing information about Robert’s successes and where he had to work a bit harder to demonstrate his full understanding of the subject matter.

After we ended this call, and the video was turned off, I cried.

I couldn’t help it. My eyes just slowly overflowed. I turned to Robert’s grandmaman, who was sitting with me for the call, and she was also wiping away tears.

We were both so happy, and so proud.

Robert has met the expectations for le jardin (senior kindergarten). Not only has he met them, but he will enter grade 1 without a modified learning plan. The grade 1 teacher will eventually have to sit down with us to create an academic IEP for Robert as she sees where he might be struggling with concepts. BUT, he is entering grade 1 at the same level as his peers.

WHAT!?

This is huge!! I think back to when we were given the news that it was suspected that our newborn had Down Syndrome. How the genetic specialist (or whatever her official title was) tasked to break the news to us announced the suspected anomaly to us with such sadness in her voice… as though the birth of our son wasn’t something to celebrate.

I think back to when my grade 10 science teacher told me that having a child with Down Syndrome would be one of the worst things that could happen. This comment was in response to the paper I wrote about Down Syndrome for our chromosome unit in class.

I think back to those moments and silently cheer. My boy is proving them so wrong. He is showing the world what we know to be true: he is a joy, he is unstoppable and he WILL succeed. This achievement is just one of many, and I couldn’t be more proud of him!

And while I’d love to take all the credit for his smarts, I can’t. It would not have been possible for Robert to be where he is now without a great team working with him and us. His teacher for maternelle/jardin is the kind of teacher who adapts her teaching to the classroom, who uses music (which Robert responds to really well) as a teaching tool, who is clearly so passionate about her job and cares so much for all of her students. His ECE provides such great support to the classroom. She is encouraging and caring. More importantly, she doesn’t let our little guy pull any fast ones (which is especially important when there is a supply teacher in the classroom). And as far as his EA goes, I can’t even begin to find words to describe her and the impact she has had in Robert’s learning.

Sometimes we struggle with how Robert is treated by adults around him. Expectations for him can border on being unrealistic, and sometimes adults forget that he is just a kid. Yes, we want him to achieve milestones in learning and socialization. Yes, this means we, as parents, have high expectations of him. We also know that it’s important to let him be a kid and let him push and discover his own boundaries. So if most kids will only sit still on the carpet at story time for an average of 2 minutes, don’t make him sit still for the entire 10 minutes. Let him get up and wander the way his peers might, and redirect him as needed.

Robert’s EA excelled at this. She truly knew when to give him freedom to be a child, and how to set clear boundaries to best allow him to learn. She understood how to praise him so that he wouldn’t shut down if he felt like something was too difficult, she knew when to give him extra time to accomplish a task, and when to push him to keep going even when he wasn’t sure of his own abilities. I don’t know what her educational background is, but she had such incredible teaching strategies. I would have loved to have been able to hug her, to truly thank her for all she provided to Robert and to our family over the course of the year. I would have loved to have found a more suitable way to express our gratitude than what COVID restrictions allow.

I can’t forget 2 of the most important people in Robert’s educational journey this year: my parents. Over the course of the school closure, they were Robert’s primary educators for at home learning. They worked tirelessly to give him a strong foundation going into the summer break, and it’s thanks to them that Robert has flourished during this trying time.

As we transition into the uncertainty of the next year, I know Robert will be OK. We may have to continue to do virtual learning in the fall, but with his stellar educational team (including his grandparents) and his own determination, I know he will continue to excel.

I’m one proud mama!

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