My son, Tom, has always been a bit of a handful. Never one to follow the crowd, he ploughs his own very muddy and individual furrow. But especially, when it comes to school, he has been a complete pain in the arse. It started at the age of four years old when he screamed the place down when I left him at a lovely Montessori nursery school. The kind teacher told me when I picked him up that he stopped crying immediately after I drove away, but that didn’t help my guilt-wracked morning. When he started kindergarten, the teacher was forever taking me to one side with the dreaded words, “Could we have a quick word about your son, please?” And I would be told, in no uncertain terms that it was really not acceptable to throw things around the room and disrupt the class.
This continued into primary school when I needed to ‘train’ each new teacher about Tom’s specific learning difficulties and odd behavior. We would eventually develop a great relationship, and they grew to love Tom. And he too would really started to enjoy the class. But then a new school year would arrive and we would have to start the process all over again with the next teacher. It was exhausting.But if I thought the UK schools were tough, nothing prepared me for moving to America and having to deal with a completely different education system, which included two to three hours of homework a night (in the UK homework was not given every day), grading of each individual piece of homework (in the UK it was rarely marked), and tardies for being 30 seconds late to class. In the UK, where they don’t have tardies, Tom had always been at least 5 minutes late to class as he refused to wear his school uniform, refused to leave the house and refused to get out of the car.Tom quickly became a straight ‘F’ student until his amazing 6th grade teacher recommended he be given an IEP (Individualized Education Program). His IEP teacher recommended MSA (Marin School of the Arts) and suddenly everything changed. Tom is an extremely creative and right-brained boy, and the thought of attending a school where he got to have two periods of artistic activities every day was all that was needed to motivate him to work hard enough to raise his grades.He loved MSA and his grades reflected that – he made the Principal’s honors list three times during his four years there.He graduated last week and was bestowed with so many awards, such as Best Director, Best Cinematographer and Best Editor, that it was almost embarrassing.
The graduation ceremony, on the other hand, was nearly a complete disaster due to a slight ‘misunderstanding’ (read: attitude problem) he nearly missed collecting his diploma.
He has been accepted to San Francisco State University, majoring in Film, and will be the first of all our five children to attend a four year college, providing they overlook the D+ he got in French! I cannot be prouder of him, but I am also just the tiniest bit relieved that my responsibility as a parent to educate my child is, surely, almost done. Now it is entirely up to him to complete the next stage of his education. We will just be paying for it, no doubt in more ways than one!
Claire Hennessy moved to California in 2008 to marry her childhood sweetheart after a 30 year separation and is now writing a humourous memoir about how they reunited. She is a founding member of Write on Mamas and blogs at Crazy California Claire.