The Unpredictability of Public Education

Years ago, this particular school year flipped our lives upside down. Frequent phone calls for assistance to come and pick up my child. It was a year of not sleeping.  Every morning I would organically wake up by 4am.  Off to the gym by 5am, for my alone time. I would walk on the treadmill and cry. That was my coping strategy. I would think about what email to send next, how to approach the next situation, what to communicate to the counsellor, what appointments to still make, who to tell what, wondering if I was missing anything, what should I be planning for? It was constant. My stomach would be on edge every day after school.  My work hours needed to change to accommodate so I could be home to deal, so I started work at 7am, my husband taking the morning shift.  I didn’t see this ever coming to an end. At the end of the school year, I left my employment. The emotional weight and constantly being “ON” at work and at home every waking moment of the day was just too heavy. Something had to give.

The year after, it was a completely different situation. The teacher was skilled.  She used universal design. My child was supported by LSS. Every strategic move she made was all absorbed. Just like that, the phone calls stopped. I started sleeping through the night. No more emotional ripples effects to deal with after school.  I guess I didn’t need to leave work after all…

When proper supports are in place, I can breathe. The grass is greener, the sun is brighter, the air is fresher. We can all just…live.  It’s glorious. I also know, that with every change in teacher and with every school year that goes by, it’s all temporary.  Hoping for those amazing teachers and support staff to be the ones to stay around your child is a daily thought. There are amazing people out there. I have jokingly even let these people know that if they ever need a kidney donation or a blood transfusion to keep my contact info. (I offered my kidney up in a Christmas card one year).  There are also people out there who work in education who…(cough)… “need support”.

Public education is unpredictable. One year your child is supported and the next year they are not. Parents at the end of every school are on the edge of their seats. Questions around what support will look like for next year are being discussed as parents find out which EA’s are moving to different schools or are being cut all together.  One year a child could have an EA with 20 years of experience with a degree, the next year with 2-weeks of a district training program, or no EA at all.  EA’s can change yearly, monthly and for some horrified parents they have had to deal with daily or weekly changes in staff. Riding the roller coaster of public education will make anyone sick.

Unpredictable education supports are stressful. It happens all over the province. It takes a huge toll on parents AND children. I wonder how many parents remove their child from public education, in search for alternatives, for their own mental health, the need to get off the roller coaster, for some level of control and predictability in their own lives. The supports for my child this year have been wonderful. Next year?? Fingers crossed!