Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sick days + homework=insanity

My son was home sick on tuesday with a terrible cold and a fever. He had a fit when I insisted he not go to school and now I know why he wanted to drag his sorry body out of bed and into class. All the work he would have gotten on tuesday was due today along with all the work he received on wednesday. Double work while still not feeling well.

How does this make sense?

He now faces a no-win situation: hand in what's already a day past due and earn a MAXIMUM of 50% on it, or focus on current homework, earning a 0 on the past due material.

This is 7th grade. Even in college, the standard was lose a letter grade on an assignment each day it was late. Losing half credit for one day's lateness seems rather draconian to me.

I certainly understand the need to motivate students to practice good study habits and time management techniques. But this policy penalizes a child for falling ill. My son is not lazy--he is extremely concerned about doing his work, both because he's intrinsically motivated to learn and because he wants to please his teachers. Tell me what is to be gained except increasing his anxiety level, from pushing a kid this hard?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Riding the Rails

Riding the Rails

It's your third birthday. We buy
a wooden train, a length of track,
an arched trestle. You line each car
precisely, laugh when the magnets
match engine to caboose, scream
as your clumsy hands marry
like pole to pole and the cars
spring apart. I memorize
the schedule of the Framingham line
so I can drive you to the crossing
in time for nap, the whistle of the 2:20
means an hour's peace, the lines ease
from your forehead and my jaw. I wait
as the rail's song fades, all hope
of me on that train, gone,
no ticket in my pocket.

I think I can, I think I can.

In the Rockies they chop up mile-long trains,
couple an engine every few cars, power
freight through the mountain passes.
I am the only engine here.

You wake grumbling like an old deisel.
If the signals are with me, I can make it
home before "Thomas the Tank Engine."
Mr. Conductor will take us
to the Isle of Sodor. It is lovely
there. You name all your friends, Thomas,
Edward, Toby, James. The phone rings.

Dad is on the 6:20. We race him
to the station. You slip a smiling
Thomas in my hand, your eyes and his,
cartoon round. I park the little train
on the dashboard pointing towards
tomorrow, our only destination.

Before AS entered our vocabulary, it had already entered our lives. We just didn't know it. I wrote this poem today for a challenge in a poetry workshop I participate in; I hadn't expected it to take me back to those early and confusing days pre 'aspie'. I truly felt as if I was the engine, pulling the weight of a mile long train uphill every day. I was a first time mother, dealing with toddler behavior that wasn't in any of the 'books.' My own responses and coping seemed ineffective. There were days when I sat down and watched "Thomas" with my son and cried.

Life is much different now. The rails are straight and they point us toward a horizen that is full of possibility. I no longer dread the journey.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

"Happy Star, Reign Now"

My son had a large role in his school's production of Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale." It has been a whirlwind several months for him, juggling the demands of rehearsal, memorizing his lines and blocking, dealing with mountains of homework. The performances were last week and I could not be prouder of him.

Of all the 7th and 8th graders, in the cast, my son was one of a handful who seemed to speak the language naturally, without hesitation, and with a poise usually reserved for older children.

So many on the spectrum have spoken of acting as a way of belonging and as a way of figuring out how to inhabit a role that has benefits 'off stage' as well. Certainly, I found a place of acceptance in Jr High, High School and beyond in the theatre. Even in graduate school, I gravitated to the theatre group, directing a show in my second year of PT school.

I sat in the audience thursday and friday nights and thrilled to see my son so comfortable in his own skin, and in the skin of Lord Camillo of Sicilia. The lines of iambic pentameter rolled off his tongue, the lines that he and I have been practicing in our kitchen for weeks. And at the end of the play, he shared in the high fives and back slaps the cast traded with one another.

It is a happy star that reigns over my son's life now.