Appreciating school personnel

Another school year come and gone. This time, Dylan has been promoted from middle school and will be entering high school in the fall! We hear so many horror stories about middle school, and Dylan’s experience certainly wasn’t perfect. He struggled, and there were times when I wished for an environment with smaller class sizes.

Some things, though, went right, and having a supportive principal and teachers was so important. Here is a letter I wrote to his principal (edited to remove names), who is retiring after a long career.

Dear Mrs. X,

You have been so supportive of Dylan over the past three years, and I’m glad you waited to retire until after he finished eighth grade.

During my children’s elementary school years, we saw four principals, some better than others. After I first talked to you about Dylan, in spring of his fifth-grade year, I hoped that you would remain principal though my boys’ years in middle school. I was worried about how Dylan would cope with middle school, and you listened to my concerns and gave me responses that gave me hope. I had the sense that you understood 10-to-14-year-olds.

Your speech to the eighth-graders and parents at the promotion ceremony was right on target. Dylan might have only heard “chocolate” (the principal alluded to Forrest Gump), but I heard the whole message. You are so right that strong-willed, needy kids challenge us, but if we approach them in the right way they can help us learn and grow as parents and teachers.

I appreciate that you see the good in kids while still holding them accountable for inappropriate behavior. I thank you for creating an environment of respect and tolerance, in which even the late bloomers and kids who don’t quite fit in can make it though and feel safe. When I was in junior high, the student body president wouldn’t even want to be seen with a kid like Dylan, let alone walk home with him. I don’t know if Dylan appreciates the kindness of his classmates, teachers and principal, but I do.

Dylan is going to high school, ready or not, and I hope our local public school ends up being a good place for him. It’s not like we had a choice, though. All the private high schools who cater to kids who learn differently or have social challenges rejected Dylan on the spot for being too immature, too loud or not right for their school. The public schools have a legal obligation to admit him. But your school went beyond accepting Dylan because you had to, to embracing him and wanting him to succeed.

You have done well. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement.


  1. and trust me when I tell you that I have had to push hard at times but my son has resource help under special education and it has helped tremendously! My son is entering HS as a freshman this year and would be stressed out if he did not have the support system in place under special education. You need to insist on an IEP and have him under “other health impaired”. If you send me an email stating your struggles and contact info. I will have some TSA experts help you by forwarding what you share and what you need.

    • Shannon: Christina has good advice about an IEP – it is legally enforceable in ways that a 504 is not. And you can have an advocate work with you to get the school’s attention. I know parents who have done that in order to get their children the help they need, and it has made a difference. One mom I know even has a lawyer on call, but that’s not usually necessary.

      At Dylan’s latest triennial IEP meeting we switched his primary diagnosis to OHI (other health impaired) because it was the TS and ADHD causing the most difficulties, not the speech issues that got him into the system as a preschooler (we added OHI as secondary diagnosis in 3rd grade). We will see how much the IEP helps going into high school, which starts in just over a week. Yikes!

  2. what do u do when the school refuess to help u? ive been going thru a struggle with them for 3 yrs now, my son has been bullied on video,the principal has told me that my sons verbals r not acceptable, ive had the nurse tell my son he doesnt have migraine and doesnt know what they r and sent him back to class…. when ive brought them documents from the nero and have spoken w them they tell me sorry to hear about ‘have a great day! then when i finally stand up to them they kick me out of the school…after forcing them for a 504 w/ no plan…my son has suffered so badly…i need help and support…

    • Wow Shannon, Where do you live? I am in Northern, CA and can tell you that I have not had anyone tell me a school refused considering legal ramifications.. Send me an email if that is an option on here?? I had to battle with schools and had to push through resistence, but that type of treatment is unacceptable! I have a Mom who has a 15 yr. old in HS and she would love to help you out with audible tics and be a support as well. Are you in contact with a TSA support group in your area? I run a small one here in the Sacramento, CA area. If you call TSA and ask for the education specialist, they will help you a lot, too! I have never been kicked out for getting the resources my son needs. You are not alone and I am here for ya! :)

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