Summer Sucks

Summer sucks my energy away. The heat, humidity, and glaring sun don’t agree with me. Southern summer thunderstorms are fabulous but I have to bear with the other things to enjoy them. Opposition in all things.

To combat summer blues we gear up homeschool in July. My previous post highlighted our literary tree. Here’s what it looks like as of last week.

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Besides fighting the heat, I’ve been battling words. I passed fifty one thousand on my current WIP (work in progress), FORTITUDE. It’s now officially my biggest project ever just based on word count—not to mention the years of research. As soon as I finish this draft, I’ll be looking back over CORRODED. It will have been a year since I worked on it, so I’ll have fresh eyes and an editor’s brain to aid in my decision making on where to take Mary and Ben.

Hope summer is kind to you and yours.

Middle School Blues

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Middle School Blues

The years I spent in middle school were terrific and terrible. I was trying to find my style and express myself—the slightly pudgy, tall geek posing as a rebel. (Yes, it carried over into high school, too. And adulthood, minus the rebel part.) And no, I didn’t fool my friends or family.
I took gifted/advanced classes in a four-track-year-round school in a culturally diverse neighborhood in Southern San Diego County. I was the tallest girl in the school and blonde amid a sea of dark hair. (Translation: You could spot me across the campus with ease.) I went to all periods with the same group of people for two years. The exception was the elective classes—those in band went to the band room and the others (me included) cycled between art, cooking, computers, health, drafting, and wood shop each quarter. It was a solid, well-rounded experience.
My group was the popular clique amid the nerds and all the cultures at the school were represented. Only the truly weird kids were the odd ones out. The other three tracks in the school—one would be on break for a few weeks at any given time—had separate lunch schedules and we didn’t mix socially. Thus, I was in the privileged top of the (geek) social class.
Switching middle schools in my final month of eighth grade did a number on my self-esteem. That last month of school (actually moving on my fourteenth birthday) my family moved to a predominantly white/upper-class area in North County San Diego and it shook my sense of self-worth to the core. Less than a thirty minute commute, but it was a radical culture shock.
I had to ride the bus, which I hadn’t done since elementary school, and the trips were worse than the actual school day. (I tend to think this is when my fear of crowds kicked in.) It was packed full of jeering kids who made fun of those of us who got on/off the bus in my neighborhood—it was one of the older, original parts in the suburb. Most of the other kids on the bus route lived in new tract housing with a minimum of three car garages, five bedrooms and 3.5 baths. People would actually try to trip me when I walked down the aisle and projectiles were thrown in my direction.
The school days were disastrous. Wood shop, which I loved at my old school, was torture. Even the teacher looked at me funny and said “it’s not like it was in your old school” when I walked in the first day. He offered to let me change my schedule to drop the course, but I naively stuck it out. There were only two other girls and they were in there because it was “where the boys are.” I was branded a hoe for taking shop class because in that school it was for guys and skanks.
I’ve blocked from my memory which class it was that I had notes stuck on my back taunting “wide load” and such on several occasions. It was always from the under-sized boys who must have been intimidated to have a girl sitting in front of them that could physically beat them up—as if I’d ever. One student did defend me, but the damage was done.
In another class, I was trapped on the back row between the 90210 looking kids. They’d discuss their parties and drinking/drugs from the weekend before, where the next one would be held because so-and-so’s parents were on a cruise, who spent the morning puking in the bathroom, who was in rehab, or who might be getting an abortion.
There I was, on the “better side” of San Diego, and I was being exposed to bullying for the first time. Plus the exploits of the privileged class piled around me—those outwardly perfect kids spiraling down the dark hole of addiction before reaching high school. It was frightening and sad, even then. I didn’t envy them. They made me sick just listening to the stories they joked about. (I think that’s where my distrust for seemingly perfect people stems from. Even in books, I never trust the pretty boys. No Team Edward here.)
Then, there’s the fact that on the first day I dressed out for P.E. I was picked last when choosing baseball teams. (The first, but not the final, time I was left for a coach to assign me to a team.) I busted myself to prove I wasn’t all that bad. I barely made it to first base and later sprained my ankle running home. I had to hobble around for a couple weeks on crutches.
I sat the whole boring 8th grade graduation (the only time I walked for a grad ceremony) surrounded by strangers. The next day, I attended my old school’s graduation and watched my close friends get their diplomas as a bystander, sitting with their parents and siblings rather than with them on the stand.
It sucked to be me.
Over the summer, and then when high school began, I did settle into a small friendship circle of other outsiders and new comers. I was no longer bullied—but mostly ignored, which was fine by me.
Three months into my freshman year—just six months after the last move—I was once again relocated. This time the destination was eight hours north, to a strange place near Santa Cruz.
But that’s another story.

Special Education Hoops

Monday afternoon I received a phone call from the principal at “A’s” school. It’s been a year and a half since the principal called- and that phone call was in regards to extreme behavior. Dr. Principal (yes, she has her doctorate) tells me right away that I’m on speaker phone and A’s teacher is also in the room. Double whammy.
The principal tells me about the standardized testing they are doing this week and that the children in A’s fourth grade class take their tests in the morning and he does his in the afternoon, in a separate room. (This set-up is part of his I.E.P. to allow him the best environment for testing, which usually translates to less distractions and more time.) She also says that the aide that usually works with him is assigned to a different child this week. THEN she tells me A will be sent to a “holding room” during the mornings and asks if I would be willing to just keep him home during the mornings and only send him in the afternoons this week.
I say “I suppose I could arrange to bring him later. Before lunchtime or after?”
She seems to be stumbling around her words, hearing the uncertainty in my voice, because she then tells me the room is a first grade classroom with a competent teacher… and two adults will be in the room with him. “How do you think he’d do?” in the other classroom she wants to know. I said if he was allowed to do activities he enjoys he should be fine. And then she remembers that he rides the bus and me having to bring him to school might be a hardship.
I have the idea and agree to keep him home in the mornings IF he becomes a distraction to the first grade classroom.
I sent him to school Tuesday morning with a new box of crayons and notebook, knowing he can happily draw for hours to keep himself occupied. There was no phone call or note so I assume he did fine. So, I sent another new notebook with him today.
But the longer I think about it, the term “holding room” conjures images of animals locked away. As if my child is livestock to be moved around when convenient, or inconvenient as it may turn out to be. That A’s structure/routine is not important to them since they are willing to toss him into an unfamiliar room, with no adults (or children for that matter) who understand his quirks.
Hear mommy growl under her passive facade.
It appears he won’t be getting any schooling this week, just babysitting and standardized testing. Maybe I should just keep him home and do workbooks with him here.