Dear First Grade Teacher,
While most kids were worried about which friends would be in their classes, Levi's only question after I read him your letter was, "Mom, will she know how to teach me?" As I carefully picked up my heart off the floor I simply responded, "I hope so, baby." See Levi didn't walk out of kindergarten with the usual skill set. He wasnt all giddy with excitement the first weeks of school. Instead, he was a mess. He went in crying and came out yelling. We somehow had become the worst parents in the world for forcing him to go. It was rough and horrible and it definitely wasn't the kindergarten experience that I had. It wasn't anyone's fault. He felt inadequate and no one saw it coming. Kindergarten isn't the same kindergarten anymore and it is equally as stressful for the teachers as it is for the kids. But at the end of the year he came out knowing possibly the most important thing he will ever learn about himself...that he is special. His brain is so strong that he actually has extra cells. The extras give him extraordinary strengths... He excels in mathematics, he is extremely creative and can remember a memory like he is staring at its photograph. He sees shapes in 3D and is an incredible problem solver. But unfortunately words and letters are not his bag. They are in fact his kryptonite. He once told me that the words on the page laugh at him and call him stupid.
Levi is dyslexic.
It hurts me to say this but before we had Levi privately tested I was starting to feel like he was just a jerk. In my head, I even thought that he might be lazy and just wasn't trying hard enough. I was secretly resentful that he wouldn't sit and read with me. He would never learn the Abcs or even twinkle twinkle all the while his best friend was singing the national anthem. It annoyed me...I had carried those feelings around since he was 3 and now the stress was at its peak.
When the diagnosis came I felt guilty. How did I not know sooner? But all in all it gave me a mission. I set up meetings and public school testing... I wrote emails and letters and became an advocate. It has been a struggle and it is far from over. I am unwavering though. At the end of the year, I sat at a table surrounded by educators and diagnosticians that had come together to build a plan for Levi and I read this letter to them...
"Before we get started I just wanted to take a minute to tell you all that I'm sorry if throughout this process I have come across as overbearing or rude or even crazy.
I know that you are all working within limits that you did not create and I truly want to believe that you have my kids best interest at heart.
I also know that my kid is one of many, but he is my one.
I am entrusting him to you. He is not only learning reading, writing, and arithmetic here. He is also learning how to communicate with authority and with his peers. Most importantly, he is watching you to see how you communicate with him and the children around him. And he is at times basing his worth on that.
He is sensitive and kind...and scared that he is not performing the way he thinks he should be.
I am not only his mom, I am his biggest cheerleader and his best advocate. So please continue to forgive me when I am overbearing or crazy or when I ask the same question 5 times... And please remember at the end of the day that he is my one."
I can only describe the moment as feeling like the words were coming out of the depths of my soul. Advocating for yourself is one thing but doing it for your child comes from the rawest of places.
So as we are about to embark on a new school year... I am beyond anxious. I spoke with some good friends after meet the teacher tonight some of which have entering kindergarteners and I silently nodded through their worries of if their child is prepared enough all the way to what if their child is not challenged enough and a calm came over me as I realized I only have one agenda this year... I want my child to love school... I desperately want him to want to be there. Please make 1st grade his kindergarten. Please help me teach him to use his learning differences to his advantage. I want to hear him tell his amazing stories even if he can't get the words on to the pages. I want to see him draw the images that fill his wonderful brain. I want you to allow him to tell you about plate tectonics and the earth's core. I want to see him using those extra brain cells. There is still time to change his perception of what school is and to reassure him that different doesn't mean stupid. There is only so much I can do for him the rest will happen in your walls.
A mom who is counting on you!