Next week we will welcome 95 students for their first day of the 2018-2019 school year! Our largest student body to date. 21 new families will be walking through our front doors, much like Jace did last year. Check out his journey to Park Academy in our latest blog post, written by his mom Cleta.
Still to this day I can remember the excitement… the first day of kindergarten! Oh, he was so cute in his uniform. I was so thrilled for him…and he was thrilled too! He was off to school and he was so ready to go! What a happy boy he was that day! Actually, every day before that day too. He’d always been a happy child and never without a smile…but something happened to that cheerful boy of mine. School had started and things quickly began to change.
I was hit early and I was hit hard with the reality that school was not going to be an easy place for him. He started kindergarten at a different school, full of color, but as the years went by my colorful kid seemed to turn grayer and grayer right before my eyes… it was heartbreaking! The excitement of kindergarten quickly went away for me as well. The excitement turned to constant worry as I began hearing concern after concern from his teachers about handwriting and reading and what felt like everything in between…And all those concerns? Well they just seemed to keep following us. It was our new normal… concerns…The concerns in kindergarten were followed by more concerns from his 1st grade teacher and just like a pattern, no matter what we did or tried, it was followed by more concerns from his 2nd grade teacher.
The excitement of school went away for him swiftly and now I was left with a boy no longer full of color, but full of constant excuses of why he shouldn’t or couldn’t go to school. I knew exactly how he felt each day…probably how I remember feeling at those “back to school nights” when the teachers would hang all the students work up in the hall, for all to see. I remember seeing the smiles of other parents as they looked at their child’s work, while I was left with sadness, embarrassment and worry about what I was seeing. His just didn’t look like the others… It wasn’t just the handwriting, but the spelling as well that was so dreadful even I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say. Getting a dyslexia diagnosis didn’t seem to help either….My days were still spent battling the school so my child could get the help he needed, as he spent his days with teachers that had no idea how to help him. So he continued to struggle and be that child who teachers made very obvious, that he exhausted them from all the help he needed. School was definitely not a place where we felt any sort of pleasure. Nothing excited him about school, …… and it was our ritual…every year we counted down the days till summer.
I sadly think of the day I knew I had to call Park Academy… earlier that day I was standing at the end of the hallway waiting for my child to come out of his classroom..and there he came… I barely recognized him. There he was, back pack unzipped, papers falling out everywhere and the look or absolute dread on his face. Not an ounce of happiness left in him …The look still haunts me to this day. He was broken and completely overwhelmed. Completely miserable…
I made the call to park that day and got a tour set up.
Wow! This place was amazing!
His shadow days came. I dropped him off and immediately he was met by a group of boys who whisked him away! When I returned, was when I knew Park was going to be his special place. I was waiting outside and he never came out, so I went looking for him. I found him in the art room, so totally engaged in a project, and in the room with a teacher who brought tears to my eyes! The way she spoke to him…It was so kind, so respectful and full of praise! School was over, but she not once rushed him out of her classroom, but instead encouraged him to stay as long as he needed. Finally, I got him out of Mrs. Fields room and we headed down the hall, where my son saw Mr. Lowery. Not realizing he was scheduled for 2 shadow days, he says, “Mr. Lowery, can I please come back to your school tomorrow?” The yes from Mr. Lowery literally brought a cheer accompanied by a huge smile out of him! I was in amazement! In the car, things got really strange! My boy, the boy who for the last 3 years almost never told me about school, couldn’t stop talking about his day. The next morning started like every day since kindergarten… me yelling for him to get in the car… but guess what, he was already in there today! Ready to go! He couldn’t wait to get to Park Academy!
Our first day of 3rd grade at Park Academy I will remember forever! That first day of school, I dropped him off and there wasn’t a single bit of nerves, only excitement; for he had already been to this place and he knew it was exactly where he wanted to be. Going to school at Park I saw an immediate transformation in him. He was a different child! School was exciting for him! He talked about his day, every single day and with a smile…The nightly homework battles were over! The hours of homework we used to have, were quickly replaced with family time! And when he does have homework I never have to hover like I did in the past…. because he always knows how to do it! He’s being taught the way he can learn and boy is he learning a lot! Wow, what a difference it makes, having teachers educated in what you struggle with!
Ms. Jepson and his other teachers, have been his cheerleaders all year long. How that must feel for a dyslexic child who in the past has been so misunderstood, to now have every person he comes in contact with at school (both teachers and staff) understand you… and your struggles and be able to give you what you need!
We love Park Academy…He’s now getting his needs met and so much love and encouragement too!
He’s back!!… always excited, full of color and brighter than ever!! At Park Academy, he gets to shine and feel successful each and every day. Third grade is the first year we haven’t counted down the days until summer! Because seeing all that he’s learning, enjoying and becoming is so exciting!
Park Academy, we are forever grateful to you!
Cleta, mother to Jace, grade 4