Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chris is now a sophomore!

Thomas A. Edison High School
Last year at this time we were having constant conflict with our oldest son, because we decided to send him to a private high school. Throughout the summer (in fact, right up until school started) we had emotional debates, and the discussion was nearly always the same...because it's hard to get into Thomas A. Edison High School, when Chris was accepted we told him that we wanted him to give it a try. If he didn't like it, he could always go to the public high school. And to trust us...would we be paying a truckload of money if we didn't really believe it was the best thing for him? He grudgingly agreed (before starting up the argument again) and the cycle continued from spring into the fall.


With his grandparents on Grandparents Day
When school started, he pronounced it to be "okay" at first, but it didn't take long until he started feeling at home. He made friends; enjoyed playing in the band, participating in drama club, and attending Homecoming at adjacent Jesuit High School; quickly got accustomed to the small class size and community nature of the school; and gradually began to feel at home. We noticed that at the first of the year, he told people that he went to Jesuit...but soon he claimed Edison as his own.
On an excursion early in the year


This is some of what we like about Edison:
  • Small class sizes and individual attention (only 80 kids in the whole school, and most classes are 6-8)
  • Amazing faculty and staff--who really love these kids and their quirkiness!
  • Everyone knows everyone else (similar to the smallish church we attend)
  • Extremely rare behavior problems (this is a precursor to acceptance)
  • Weekly progress reports in all subjects, so we know if our student is keeping up or falling behind
  • Personal calls and e-mails from teachers on how our student is doing
  • Leadership and self-improvement opportunities for the kids
  • Unconditional acceptance (huge for any teenagers, but especially those who never felt they really fit in before)
  • No cliques
  • Fun social activities for the kids, including regular overnight excursions
  • Opportunity to participate in Jesuit activities, especially arts enrichment
  • Kids become comfortable with their learning disabilities (typically ADD or ADHD, dyslexia, Asperger's, Tourette's, etc.) and learn how to not just cope with them but use them to their advantages

Homecoming

Someone recently asked Chris how his school handled bullying, and he said "There is no bullying at my school." Imagine that. This culture and individual attention are why we are making financial sacrifices to send him to school there. I wish all teenagers had the opportunity to benefit from those things. Fortunately, Edison has a high percentage of kids who receive financial aid and a large endowment fund for kids whose families cannot afford the tuition.

Chris did really well during his first year and got all As and Bs. He did great in math in particular, the subject he has always struggled with the most. He also took art (required) and got an A--this from a kid who had delays in his fine motor skills as a small child and never considered himself much of an artist.

Some of Chris' art in the spring art show
 
Playing drums in the Jesuit band
Toward the end of school, they had an awards assembly during which every student received an award from one of their teachers. These were carefully crafted and individual to each person, praising their strengths. Chris received one from his math teacher, who called us after school started to let us know how much she enjoyed having Chris in her class (imagine!) and that she wanted to move him up to the next level.
Receiving his award (looking embarassed!)



With the cast of "Singing in the Rain"
Next year Chris plans to be on the LINK team, which welcomes new students to the school, and he will also serve on Student Council. These types of small-group leadership opportunities are another reason why we wanted to send him to Edison.

Another selfish reason Mike and I like Edison is that we get to hang out with our close friends Lynn and Jolie, who we met when our sons played t-ball together (in first grade)!


With our friends at the
 school auction this spring

At the end of the school year, returning students have to write a letter to the admissions committee, explaining why they want to return to Edison the next year. We were touched by Chris' letter, which articulated why he has come to love this school and this community. This is what he wrote:

"I am writing this letter to state my intention to return to Edison in the fall. I think that Edison has greatly increased my self-awareness of my learning disorder, and that I have a greatly expanded social life here at Edison. I think that being at Edison has also improved my academics; my Cs in math have turned into As and Bs. Every single person, myself included, brings something new to school every day, so I feel accepted by each and every one of my peers. I'm a welcoming, optimistic, accepting student, who does the best work he can, and finishes with a smile whatever the outcome.


While at Edison, I've maintained a good GPA. Once I was weaned off my seizure medication, I learned how to work without it, and I became much more active and free, allowing me to express myself and not worry. This, combined with the feel-good atmosphere of Edison, makes me feel alive and able to enjoy life to the fullest. At Edison, I've kept a much more positive attitude than before, and I have more time to balance out my homework. I also play in the Jesuit band, and I'm in the Jesuit drama program as well.


I enjoy attending school here because I feel like I've accomplished something over my LD (ADD) which is due in part to the small class sizes and individual attention I get from every teacher. I no longer have to worry about straining to hold my hand up while the teacher walks around the room. I also think Edison has helped me become a better person socially; I no longer feel like a kid who is trying to find his place in the world. I now feel accepted; every single person at Edison has a learning difference, and it makes me feel like I'm part of one big, happy family. Finally, I feel that at a bigger school like Wilson, I would've fared worse socially and academically. Edison gives me a fresh start, and it is truly an amazing school.


Thank you for your time and consideration."

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