"Mom," N called this morning from the bottom of the stairs, where our dining table is, up to my room, where I was getting dressed, "why is it that I'm getting so much better grades in middle school than I was in NameofElementarySchool?"
"Well," I said, wanting to address important questions in the moment, and yet reallyREALLY not wanting to have an 'important' conversation screaming from room to room, "I think it's because your teachers this year are so much better at teaching YOU, instead of just being good at teaching everyone."
He started to harrumph a little, because he loved several of his teachers from grade school, and rightfully doesn't like to hear anything that sounds negative about them. But it's hard to explain yourself while trying to put on a bra, so I mostly stumbled/screamed (to be heard)/muttered (so as not to be heard too well since what I was saying made no sense) through a vague explanation of how there are fewer kids in his class now, and the teachers are really great at teaching, and and and…
"But I was in RSP in NameofElementarySchool," he countered.
"Yes, but…" I really could not imagine how I was going to talk to him about the difference between the one-on-one remediation he was getting before, and how we thought that was the best thing for him, but now we're seeing that being taught at grade level, as part of a class, with his accommodations addressed right alongside the teaching rather than during a second pull-out session, really works better for him.
Luckily, he'd moved on.
"Will I be in special ed in eighth grade, too?"
Scrrrreeeeeeeeeeech. I came to a dead stop. But not for the reasons you may be thinking. Not because I think special ed is a bad thing, or that I want him out. Oh, no. To the contrary.
"I think so, kiddo," I said. "Right now, that's what Mr. T and the rest of your teachers think will work best for you. But if you don't agree, I'd love to hear about it."
No response. He took his plate to the sink and began talking to Baroy about somethingorother about golf or computers or Idon'tknowwhat.
But I stood there, despite running perpetually behind in the mornings, for at least 30 seconds, brow furrowed, wondering.
Because, you see, he'd said "special ed."
He's never said "special ed."
He used to get pulled out for RSP, and it was called that, so he knows that name, but he just thought of it as a place he went to get away from the chaos of the gen ed classroom. Where the ladies who fawned over him were. Where the kids who didn't bully him hung out. He always saw it as a good thing, but not…as special ed. So I don't know where that came from. Possibly, likely, from overhearing me talk with Baroy. Or maybe in school, hearing teachers talk to one another. Or maybe from one of his classmates. Or maybe from some kids in the non-sped classes, though deargodIhopenot.
He didn't say anything pejorative. It was just…not a word, and not a concept, that I'd ever thought he'd internalized. More to the point, he's been actively resistant to any conversation that suggests he's "special." So to hear this…to realize he DOES know what kind of program he's in…is interesting to me. More interesting would be to know what he THINKS about that.
And so when we got into the car to head over to the school (a two-minute drive from our house, mind you…three with local traffic), I tried to ask him a little more about it. And he looked out the window and changed the subject to Back to School night tonight, and how his friend C from Religious School, who's in sixth grade, might come, and could he show her his classrooms, and next year when we see them on the first day of school could we all walk around together? And...
Ah, there you go. Back to being N. Who is, really and truly, doing so much better this year than any before, in so many ways. Special ed for the win.