A parent recently asked me that question.
It is no secret that I am involved in the work that I do, and have a passion for helping children because my own two sons grew up in a time when we failed to understand so many things about struggling kids. And in many ways, they are still paying the price of that in their adulthood.
When the parent asked me, “what is the one thing you would have made sure to have done differently?” I didn’t have to search long and hard for the answer, it was just there.
I would have turned over every possible stone to find an educational setting that was built for their success, and focused on their strengths. They needed room and space to move, learn by doing, high-interest subjects, and teachers who propped them up instead of tearing them down.
Before I am accused of teacher-bashing (I know that there are many wonderful educators out there), many years ago, I was sitting at a team meeting for my younger son who was in 7th grade. He also attended that meeting and we had an advocate present for him. His science teacher looked at my son and told him he was simply just being lazy and needed to put his pencil on the paper and do the work. Through a later neuropsychological evaluation, he was found to have a visual-motor learning disability, making putting a pencil on paper an excruciating experience.
That was the last day my son was willing to attend school, and chose a path through adolescence I would never want to see another child feel they need to take, and I will go to bat for these kids day after day.
Was my son a challenging student? Absolutely. Severe ADHD is no small thing to live with or to have in a classroom as a teacher. Was there a perfect-fit place for him to learn back 30 years ago? I don’t know. I don’t think so. But I would have, and should have, fought harder to find one for him. I hear about kids attending private schools in a working farm setting, and as I look at those websites, I wish I could turn back time and do it right.
If you are currently in this position of trying to figure out the one thing that you can do differently, there is still time.