Around twelve years ago, a teacher walked into the band hall and to my office, asking if I could sit in on an ARD meeting. Sure. No problem. Who's the kid?
I couldn't pick the kid out of a lineup. They just needed his or her music teacher's body.
The kid was in the fifth grade music class I'd just received in my next nine-week rotation. There were upwards of 25 of them at a time, and I simply hadn't had them long enough to know who they were.
Once in the room, they filled me in a bit, just enough that I wouldn't look stupid. I don't remember anything about the specifics of the IEP. I just remember the frightened look on the mother's face.
I remember trying to smile, to make her feel better.
I remember what in the world she was so worried about. What she was so scared of.
I remember walking out of the room when it was over, thinking that maybe what I'd just done wasn't the way it should be, but hey... I'm just doing my job.
Fast forward to yesterday. After I scanned the elementary parking lot, I began to text Eric. I didn't want to go by myself. Maybe it's all about being a team. Maybe I'm just a chicken. But I wanted him with me.
This was not our first ARD. If I really wanted to, I could do the math and tell you about how many we've attended. And it just doesn't get easier.
And now I am all too familiar with the fear.
It is far too flippant to say there's nothing to worry about. This is my child's every day. This is what he does, this is his education. More than that, this is his quality of life. For someone who isn't a fan of confrontation (to say the least) these things are like pulling teeth.
We had to wait in the office for a minute. Out came the assistant principal, and off we went together. Eric is good at making conversation as we go, and the best I can do is to keep my breakfast in place and plaster a smile.
We sit at the big table, meet the new diagnostician, say hello to those around the table. Any other time I could talk my head off to these very people, but for some reason it's painfully awkward. I don't know why this surprises me. We're all waiting for the same ride to start.
Speech goes first. They tell us what they're working on, we make sure she's aware of our concerns and goals for him. OT wasn't available. We go over and around, allowing time for each to report on Ryan's progress in her area.
Then comes the hard part.
Ryan is not thriving in the classroom. It's overwhelming. He shuts down. I stumble over words, trying desperately to pour our heart on the table for Ryan. Coherent sentences elude me. Staring at the table, fumbling with my pen, I finally manage to get a wheel turning. Then another joins. And another.
We each bring a part. No part is less important than another. Everyone knows something that someone else didn't know.
We learn that Ryan loves to run. Unlike his parents, who both writhed at the bottom of that blasted rope while the other kids shimmied straight up and rang the bell, PE is actually a great time for him.
We all smile and giggle a bit about his love for the microwave, and the fearless way he attempts to pronounce and spell words. And let's not forget the way he writes in digital letters and draws microwaves and himself serving from them.
It gradually boils down to how best to educate Ryan next year.
In this game of educational Jenga, each player must confidently pull from the stack, but as kindly as possible. A time or two the tower shakes a bit, but with a clarification it steadies again.
I slowly realize that all these people really care what happens to our precious Ryan. There were no less than ten of us.
It's decided that Ryan will be with the Life Skills teacher in the intermediate school. Never mind that he's supposed to go to second grade. Every hour of his day is perfectly chosen and built to suit him. The paperwork will be done to fit Ryan, not Ryan's life to fit the paperwork.
We all agree. He needs to be pushed to socialize, he needs to be pushed academically, but maybe not at the same time. But both have to happen.
Eric and I thank and thank and thank these ladies for their love for our Ryan. We're honest with them. This frightens the dog out of us both. But every time we're met with people who truly care about our little guy, and by the time we leave, we're reassured that our concerns are heeded and our son is precious to them, too.
And our ARD meeting ends, again, in tears and hugs all around.
We'll have bumps in the road. Things will happen that not everyone is happy with. But on the whole, yet again, He who promised us is faithful.
Thanks be to God not only for his providence, but for the faculty and staff of Groesbeck ISD. We may be out in the middle of nowhere, but our son is cared for in ways that we couldn't buy.
And thanks definitely be to God for our little superman.