Emily goes to High School

Monday, June 06, 2011

I haven't talked a great deal about one of the all encompassing topics in our house during the past school year.

High School.

As Emily is graduating from 6th grade in June, she will be transitioning to high school. There isn't really a middle school option here in Quebec, as High school ends at 11th grade, and the CEGEP system begins prior to University.

High Schools in Montreal can be highly competitive. Even the public schools require entrance exams, and the Private system tends to be even more fraught with competition and academic achievement outcomes. Once we made our decision to opt Emily out of any testing, the choices left open were that of the mediocre public high schools that accept everyone....and one other.  A Private/Public collaboration that specialized in kids with specific learning issues.

The school had been mentioned to me two years earlier by a principal I knew from the Learning with Laptops research project. I had been talking about my fear of having Em be lost in a sea of Teens in high schools with hundreds and hundreds of kids.  We knew that when she is socially anxious that her learning gets pushed aside, and it is easy to make her socially anxious. When she gets anxious, she is prone to tears. Which makes her more socially anxious and feeling outside of the peer group.

Furthermore, when she is anxious all of the tools she has been taught about how to manage herself and/or get her learning needs met in a classroom disappear. I also know that she is very sensitive to the remarks of her peers, and could become (even) more reluctant to seek the assistance she needs for fear of drawing unwanted attention to herself.  While she has managed those remarks ( like why do you get to use a calculator?!?) to date, I know that High school is a very different Beast.

All of this made me panic stricken and worried.  Because worrying about hormones, body changes and eating nutritiously aren't enough in my maelstrom of parenting torment I had to add in More worry about social interactions of the teen age girl AND learning environment. Not to mention my own anxiety about my PhD. It is a small wonder I am able to sleep at night.

Once we toured the High School, we felt more confident. These folks Know their learning issues.  The class sizes are no more than 15 kids with 2 teachers. They have learning specialists (speech/language pathologists, occupational therapists) on staff, as well as the teachers who are all specialists.  Emily liked the classrooms. She liked the way they looked and sounded. She really liked the beautiful new art studio and the brand new science lab. Cripes even Terrance was pleased when he heard their nearly 100% graduation rate and their 80% rate of students going on to university - taking the exact same entrance exams as their peers in other high schools.

We breathed a sigh of relief...and began her application process.

Since this school sits in a very sweet spot of public and private collaboration, it does not charge parents tuition. However, the parameters for attending are very narrow ( ie no behavioral issues - only learning) and there are usually only a few open spots per year. For the WHOLE of Montreal.

If there is one thing I know how to do, it is organize paperwork. If you are the parent of a child with any kind of learning or physical difference you learn from the get go to be highly organized.  If you aren't, then your kid is not going to get the services they may need. Deadlines, multiple copies, reports sent from doctors and other specialists within certain time frames all must be coordinated in an effort that could put many government agencies to shame. Seriously, you want organizations like FEMA to be more efficient? Put a Parent who has successfully navigated special education in charge. Shit will get DONE.

After that, Just waiting. Waiting while her other friends get acceptance letters to Private and Public Schools.
Waiting and More Waiting. We occasionally call to check up on the process and are told to keep waiting.

Until two weeks ago, when the call came that Yes, Emily had been accepted in the school.

As a family, we exhaled.

4 Baleful Regards:

Mary_Flashlight said...

I agree regarding FEMA. The rest of our life can be in absolute chaos (and if you saw our house you would believe it), but by god those special ed forms are in 3-ring binders, organized by year.

Hurray for the right school!

Dawn said...

Seriously Mary. If any politician actually had to navigate the Special education program they would see the value of dispatching the organizational skillz of the parents.

We could be a fearsome force of getting the right things in the right peoples hands on schedule.

Jaelithe said...

Awesome. That school sounds great. I hope it's just as great as it sounds.

I agree with you totally re: parents of kids with special needs developing superior paperwork organization skills. My work desk might be a mess of papers and sticky notes, but my son's educational and medical records? Papers in protective plastic sheaths, color coded files and binders, most essential records copied in triplicate, etc., etc. Cheapskate health insurance companies and bumbling public education officials fear my name.

Never That Easy said...

Awesome, I'm so glad she got into the right school. And I agree with you on the FEMA thing a parent who's used to dealing with the special education system would excel at that.

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