May 11, 2011

White Dog and The White Dog Army Wonderful World Wednesday
White Dog shook her head in wonder as she considered with me how it is that when things seem bleak and out of control a ray of sunshine pours in the window and shows the way. Needless to say our lives have been a bit hectic, adding to that was a great deal of stress of Michael's fate.

He missed passing the Math Competency test for HS graduation for the second year in a row by 2 points and it seemed as though he would be forced to spend another semester in classes instead of moving into the program which will help him build independent living and community integration skills. He has more than enough credits to complete this phase, and is an honor student, but it seemed that his lack of test taking confidence was his doom. This morning Steve and I met with his teaching team and Michael to map out an Individual Education Plan, we thought for another year of classes. We walked into a fantastic surprise still being cobbled together but guaranteeing Michael's passage into the new program.

Since Michael first came to live with us a year ago last February, he has attended what is considered in town to be one of the "worst" schools. We were warned to be fearful and not to expect much from the school. Of course, when we purchased our home more than a decade ago we had no children so schools were not part of our consideration. We would make it work somehow.

Our experience has been so contrary to the dire predictions that the White Dogs agree, we need to give praise and recognition to a Special Education staff and teaching team that took an angry unsettled young man with few hopes and even fewer dreams and turned him into Michael, a young man growing in confidence daily, not afraid to tackle challenges, who has found a voice and a desire to achieve. Through patience, gentle constant pressure, and an unwillingness to just let Michael "meet the minimum," these true educators helped guide Michael through his growth and adjustment.

White Dog and her siblings in particular want to recognize the efforts of three very special heroes:

Robert, who heads the Transitions community integration program, who took Michael's cause all of the way "downtown" and convinced the highest powers to waive the missing two points in exchange for practical life math tutoring when Michael joins his program. Robert, is one of those rare educators who believes what he does is all about the students. His care and commitment are reflected in the amazing success stories that come out of his Program. Michael could not be in better hands as he heads into adulthood.

Mike, Michael's Lead Teacher, can often be found at school at 6pm or on weekends as he struggles to find new and creative ways to challenge kids that have often been told "they can't hope for much" their entire lives. He gets to know each student and how to motivate him. He personally worked and pushed and butted heads with a sometimes frustrated or unwilling or angry young man (Michael) who had never had anyone say, "I don't care if it is hard, life isn't always easy. I will help but you must do it!" Mike is tough but fair and he doesn't let his SpecEd students use "Victimness" as an excuse. Michael certainly benefitted from being held accountable for the first time ever.

Finally, Rick, who started as his social worker when Michael first began school here. When he was transferred to another school he agreed to continue seeing our "work in progress" outside of school hours. Rick is the one who faced down the brunt of Michael's awakening emotions as he learned to deal with issues from his past, adjust to family life, learn tools to manage his feelings without burying them...theirs is an ongoing process.

So tonight, we celebrate the upcoming graduation, scramble to organize the details (graduation is next Wednesday), and are a little fearful about the future. White Dog, The Other White Dog, Another White Dog, Still Another White Dog, and Yet Another White Dog have given licks of congratulations and nuzzles of understanding to their human cousin who really does not like change but also has come to desire growth.

And we all utter a silent blessing to all those who reached out and gave this boy a real chance to become a man. In a time when education is slammed from all sides, we say thank dog there are still Chalkboard Heroes amongst us! It is a wonderful world.


rottrover said...

Congratulations to Michael on all his hard work and to his Army of committed educators and helpers and loving family! BRAVO!!

Kari in WeHo said...

My mother taught special education for 20 years so I know just how much dedication it takes!


Tweedles -- that's me said...

We salute Michael,, the path is rocky and not easy to walk

Teddy Bear said...

Congratulations to Michael on his upcoming Graduation. How exciting! We are so proud of him!

Teddy Bear & Sierra

Amber DaWeenie said...

Congratulations to not only Michael on his achievement, but to all of you for being the loving, caring family that you are!

Mack said...

People like Robert, Mike and Rick are truly angels! Congrats to Michael!! We are all so proud!

Mack and mom

Brian said...

My sisters and I are all so very proud of you Michael! We, like the WD Army, know you are absolutely terrific!!!

♥♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥♥ said...

Thank goodness for true believers and educators who can think outside the box. Much more valuable for Michael to move to this new program than to spend another semester for two silly points - and that comes from the mouth of our Momster, a former teacher.

Just keep reminding yourselves of how nervous you all were when Michael first came to you and how well he has done. His future will be a challenge, but we believe he can succeed. Please give him our congratulations.

Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

Rebecca said...

wow, so proud of him.
that is wonderful. im not much of a test taker either, so i totally get it.
I need name suggestions if you get a chance, Daisy Mae is getting a sister (not a human one but another standard poodle puppy)!!!

Remington said...

Congrats Michael! Way to go!

Ginger Jasper said...

Yes it still is a wonderful world and hearing things like this make the heart sing. Well done Michael and here is to the future.. Hugs GJ x

Mr. Pip said...

What an amazing journey! Congratulations to Michael and to you!

Your pal, Pip

meowmeowmans said...

AWESOME news! Congratulations to Michael and you, too.

We are so grateful for people like Robert, Mike and Rick.

Have a great weekend. We love you guys!

Sagira said...

YEAHHHH! Way to go Michael.

It is always nice to find the teachers that go above and beyond and truly enjoy being in education and helping students WANT to learn instead of forcing them to.