Photo by onthedot creations
Why did I pick a starfish picture? Read This.
The gym was dark; a bit too dark for pictures. Parents had filled available seats early, everyone jostling for a good shot of their 12 year old sitting at the front in their finery. Boys shuffled in with shirts and ties, girls in flip flops and cute summer dresses, with their hair curled and shiny lip gloss. They looked all the world like the kids that I work with at the high school; and they are so ready to go.
It was grade seven graduation. Speeches were made, thank-yous said, awards given. There was much talk about the future and how bright it is for all of them, how they are moving on to bigger and better things in high school.
Jake hadn't told me much about what was supposed to happen that day. For a kid who talks as much as he does, when it comes to the deep, dark, personal feelings he's always been quiet. He has learned to weather much ignorance and criticism about his learning disabilities, and would never mention to anyone, especially his peers, about his less then stellar subject areas. They would never understand. Unfortunately, kids often assume that if you can't do things like everyone else, you must be mentally handicapped. Jake used to come home in tears because kids would call him a "retard" when he couldn't remember math facts, or had to use a calculator for things they found easy.
At one point in the ceremony, the kids were to give a staff member who had made an impact on their life a rose, and say why.
Jake stood proudly in front of the entire school with his crisp white shirt and tie that he picked out, and called up Ms. L, the paraprofessional that had worked with him all year. She hadn't known until minutes before that she was to receive his rose.
"I want to thank Ms. L. She helped me get from a grade three level in math to grade seven, all in this year."
He proudly handed her the rose, and a collective gasp came from the grade seven parents seated near me, and Jake's peers. Four grade levels in one year? Is that possible? I'm told that the school staff, in all the time they've been teaching, have never seen a jump that big. All that hard work had even earned him the academic award he'd sought after the last two years; most improved student.
All those people in the gym didn't see what I saw.
I saw the little boy that I had to coax out of the car to enter the school building; the one that used to wake up screaming from nightmares about school; the one that was frustrated because kids just didn't understand him; and who wouldn't even touch a pencil, much less do math. I saw the self conscious little person who would never had admitted out loud, even to me, that he was working on grade three math.
That same boy was now standing in front of everyone, confident and proud. Older. Like he'd weathered a great storm, and had not just made it through, but conquered it. He'd slain the dragon.
My heart just about burst with joy.