Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Proud public school family

Our ten year old sees a therapist named Jack who teaches her mental health survival skills. At school she has issues with anger management and depression, common in gifted kids, so we signed her up to talk it out with Jack. He's a nice guy. Katie was looking forward to seeing him today.

The phone rang and I knew it was Katie. I had called the school nurse earlier this morning and left a voicemail message telling her that Jack had called in sick and we'd have to reschedule Katie's therapy appointment for another day. I mentioned that she could tell Katie to call me if she had any questions.

As she was leaving for school this morning I told Katie that we'd pick her up at 9:30 for her appointment with Jack. At that point we didn't know he was sick and would have to cancel. At 9:55 I got the call.

"Hey, Punk. How are you?" I said.

"Sad. I wanted to see Jack," she said.

"Yeah, I figured you'd be sad. I know you were looking forward to talking to him."

"Yep."

"Yeah. People get sick. That's life. We'll reschedule with him on another day soon."

"What day?"

"I don't know yet, but we've been put on a list of people for Jack to call if someone else cancels their appointment, and then we could go see him. He's busy with a lot of clients."

"Yeah. OK," Katie said.

"So what are you doing now?" I asked. Focus on the moment.

"I'm in the nurses office."

"Are you feeling sick?"

"No, not really. But they said I could call you from the nurse's phone."

"Were you upset when you found out your appointment with Jack got cancelled?" I asked.

"Yeah. But then I got to go down to the kindergartener's room again and help them with their reading and writing!" Katie's voice went from sullen to super excited during the course of that sentence. The ultimate metaphor for the tween years.

"Oh yeah? They let you be the reading helper again today?"

"Yes! I helped these adorable kindergartners with their reading AND their writing. They are so cute, Mom!"

"I know. It feels good to help little kids, doesn't it?"

"Yep. Well, I gotta go back up to my class and do some math now. Bye. I love you."

And then she hung up.

My daughter is a fifth grader at our neighborhood public school. She's precocious and moody. She's in special ed because of her agility in "creative" and "innovative" thinking. The school district pays extra for her special services. Her father and I didn't even have to pay for textbooks this year. If we didn't have the strong support of her public school principals, nurse, social worker, innovation specialists, and teachers, my husband and I would struggle to meet her educational, emotional, and social needs.

We are a proud public school family. Please don't let our new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, destroy the foundation of our society's best institution. Public schools work when they are adequately funded and supported by the community. Well educated citizens make great neighbors. Good schools increase property values. Our kids are brilliant--each and every one of them--if only we give them the support to shine their brightest.