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.