It’s the end of Wylie’s 2nd grade year. I’m at his annual Individualized Educational Program meeting (IEP--a subject which deserves its own book). He has been evaluated by all of the teachers involved in his care this year and by a school psychologist. Around the table, his teacher, the principal, the speech pathologist…everyone involved on Wylie’s team were all unanimous in their view that Wylie was ready to transition to a regular classroom with resource support. (The arch angel Laurel O’Brien referenced earlier had recommended “main-streaming” Wylie for reading, science, math, and art. Even though Wylie struggled a bit, Laurel was confident that Wylie would thrive best if he were challenged. And, more important to her was the social and behavioral modeling he would be exposed to with regular kids). Heads are nodding in agreement. My chest is tightening. I take a deep breath. It seems like I should say something. The silence is deafening.
“Who would be his teacher?”
That’s all I can think of to say. I mean, I have had angels from on high teaching my son and he has done marvelously well. I realize he has been, in a sense, an able fish in a less-able pond. But, does it really have to be the case that in order for us to know how well he can swim, we’ve got to throw him to the sharks? I want to believe what this team is saying. I want to believe, in particular, the findings of the psychologist, Mr. Smith, that Wylie is a bright boy capable of much more than he has demonstrated. At the same time, I have for weeks been noticing that just when I think to myself, “Wylie is really very normal and I tend to exaggerate his eccentricities”—he proves me wrong! Do I really want to place him in an environment that will only serve to underscore his uniqueness? Where regular kids will be? Regular kids who have not been around “special” kids and may naturally think my son is…strange or a “weirdo” as he has sometimes been called?
“Mrs. Kryzmarczik. She has a very sweet class”.
I had recently heard of Mrs. Kryzmarczik from another teacher-friend of mine. For whatever reason, hearing her name again assured me this was going to be o.k. We moved him. This IEP took place in March. In between state testing, spring break, and Memorial Day, Wylie really didn’t have much of a chance to acclimate or learn. But, Joyce Kryzmarczik was warm and welcoming and the children were very sweet. She safely walked Wylie to the banks of the regular education stream. However, Wylie basically got to stick his toe in the water. He wouldn’t dive in fully until 3rd grade.
Ready, set, dive!
The water was deeper than we thought. After holding our breath for what seemed like an eternity, we came up for air and landed in Mrs. Smith’s class. Patti Smith. Yes, that would be Patti Smith married to Mr. Smith…the very same psychologist who evaluated Wylie and thought highly of his potential. It was our extreme good fortune to have Wylie placed with her for she understood him almost immediately. She was kind, intuitive, patient and committed to helping him swim with the school of fish she led. And, best of all, she appreciated Wylie’s sense of humor. With longsuffering she endured his ramblings on his current topic of interest (CTI)! Not only that, but Patti’s style of teaching embraced the whole child; what I mean by this is she believed all of the experiences of a 3rd grader could teach them something. In her view, our family vacations were just as much a part of the fabric of Wylie’s learning as her assignment. My perception of her approach to learning was that it was relaxed; this is not to imply anything sub-standard--far from it. Instead, Mrs. Smith had the rare gift of making multiplication facts, spelling, history, and writing as easy and appealing as…well, 1-2-3! In short, she was the perfect person for this part of Wylie’s adventure--the perfect swim coach. Even when the water was cold and deep and it seemed like Wylie would more likely sink than stay afloat, I trusted her completely. And, trust is so important when learning to swim, don’t you agree?