My dad still lives in the same house where I was born and raised. I attended Catoosa Public Schools for all 13 years. The one thing that I was sure of when I found out that I was pregnant with Chandler was that he would also go to Catoosa. My roots run deep within our small community. My mom retired from the school system after over 30 years of service, and my sister taught 3rd grade at JW Sam Elementary. So there was no question in my mind where Chandler would attend school.
My sister hand-picked Chandler's teachers through 3rd grade, and while we did struggle through those years, it wasn't more than what I expected it to be. My sister passed away unexpectedly in Chandler's 3rd-grade year. He happened to be in the class right across the hall from where her room was. Let me tell you. It was hell on us the rest of the year to have to walk by there. I didn't have to do it nearly as much as Chandler did, and I can't possibly try to put myself in his shoes, but I would have traded places with him if I could.
We sought out counseling. I tried to stay as engaged as I could with Chan's teachers and classes. 4th grade is a bit of a blur for me. I don't remember it being terrible, but there were so many other horrible things we were going through at the time that maybe it was awful, but all things relative, it didn't make the priority list.
For me, 5th grade was the pivot point. That was when everything started progressing in the wrong direction, and I no longer felt I had any control or ability to course correct. I started getting conflicting messages from the school and Chan's teachers. One day, they would tell me he needed to be on an IEP because his impulse control and ADHD were limiting him and would have negative consequences on him in the future without one. The next day, I would get a note that said they would like to recommend him for advanced classes. A week or two later, I would get a progress report that said he was failing a subject.
Chandler was getting in trouble more often, being sent to the office to finish his schoolwork because he was disruptive in class. I would visit the school, walk down to his classroom, and find him alone at a desk in the hallway left to fend for himself while listening to his teacher interact with the rest of the class on the other side of the closed classroom door.
I reached my breaking point around the end of Chandler's 5th-grade year, so my goal was to get through the end of the year. Just make it to the summer reevaluate, and before the start of 6th grade, have a new plan in place. At the time, I thought 6th grade was rock bottom. It turns out I was wrong. I did the unthinkable by taking Chan out of Catoosa for 7th grade and enrolled him in Epic Charter School. For him, the school year was alright. His test scores improved, he didn't hate school, and I wasn't getting phone calls every day anymore. For me, it was one of the most challenging times of life as a parent. I had to learn to be both his mom and his teacher. We survived, but just barely. I knew I couldn't do it again for a couple of reasons. First, it was negatively impacting my relationship with my son. Second, he was missing out on building relationships with classmates and other kids his age.
8th grade Chan went back to Catoosa. I had hope because my favorite teacher in high school, my mentor and friend, would be Chan's new principal. I want to clarify that Mr. Bein is nothing short of a Saint in my mind. He was the best partner, advocate, advisor, enforcer, and administrator. Chandler was not motivated to do his work and when he did it, turning it in was the struggle. 8th grade was a good year, but I wanted more for my baby. I wanted him to flourish. So Andrew (for those of you who don't know, Andrew is my husband) and I moved to Verdigris.
To be continued...