There little Gracie sat, with a huge smile on her face waving wildly at Catelyn as she entered her new classroom on back to school night.
“Hi, Gracie….” Catelyn said with little emotion. Catelyn added a half-hearted wave.
“Let’s go sit with Gracie, Cate” I offered to Catelyn and started to walk towards Gracie and her family.
“No,” Catelyn returned with a scowl on her face and started to walk towards and empty table.
What is going on? I personally love Gracie. She is one of Catelyn’s friends, right? She came to her birthday party, they were on teams together – what?
“Oh,” I thought. “It’s not Megan.”
Megan, Catelyn’s favorite person she had connected with last year. Catelyn found Megan on the way into the school and had learned 5 minutes ago that Megan had a different teacher. Catelyn hadn’t bounced back from this disappointment.
“Hopefully, Rose is in my class,” Catelyn muttered.
“C’mon, Rose. C’mon, Rose.” I silently cheered.
In walks Rose.
“HI ROSE!” Catelyn shouts!
“YES!” I internally roar.
“Oh…..Hi Catelyn.” Rose answers and walks to Gracie’s table to go sit and chat.
“Hi Gracie!” Rose is heard to say as Catelyn turns in her chair to sink and sulk.
This is not good.
A few minutes later the kids are all called to go to the multipurpose room to get orientated for a new school year. Catelyn walks to Rose and Gracie, but they are deep in conversation and do not see Cate. Cate’s smile falls and she looks to me as if to say,
“See. No one likes me.”
“It is all good,” I say out loud, “Go have fun.”
Catelyn visibly sinks and walks out of the room with the other kids.
I sit in the room with her new teacher to learn about her new year ahead.
The teacher talks about his history, his experience, himself. He leads into the school year ahead. He eventually points to the wall to his left, with the rules of the classroom and as I read, I already get stuck.
The teacher continues to talk about academics and I am not even listening. I’m still reading the list of rules and thinking of Cate.
The rules are so basic.
But some do not come easily to Cate.
I sit and silently wish for Cate to be respectful this year. I try to figure out new ways to get her to say please and thank you. I doubt they will get her to try anything new, but maybe.
I wondered as I sat there if Cate’s reputation as a difficult student has preceded her. Watching her struggle socially. Knowing that she will battle not only learning, but will have difficulty with the most basic of rules. And will spend a lot of time over reacting in the classroom, being rude to the teacher and in tears, as she has in all previous years.
With Catelyn’s permission, I sent an email to her teacher and briefly described Catelyn, her diagnosis, her struggles and her strengths. I offered some history and some useful coping skills. And was so happy to receive the following reply:
“Thank you very much for your email. I am glad you shared this important information with me about Catelyn. I think I will now have a better understanding on how to handle things and work with Catelyn to make sure she has a wonderful experience learning this year. Could you please let me know if there is anything else that I can do here at school to ensure her needs are being met? Please tell Catelyn that I am pretty excited about being her teacher this year and will be focusing on having a lot of fun while learning.”
When I told Cate what the teacher said, the frown about school finally turned – and a small smile appeared. She was finally ready!
Today, the kids go back to school. Bobby and Catelyn are gone and in just a couple of hours Declan will be on his way to afternoon Kindergarten. After receiving the reply from Catelyn’s teacher, I am happy to say all the kids are smiling about school and ready for the year ahead!