Back to School & Such Tragedies, Life & Love & Lessons Learned

My 4th Grade Project.

School started today. And homework began for the parents. As I read the instructions from my girlie’s 4th grade teacher, I smiled. Yes, this particular homework was welcomed. This homework was “In a Million Words or Less” tell me about your child. This teacher is a very smart woman. She wanted a chance to get to know our kids outside of the classroom. Because you know what? Kids are so much more than their grades. I appreciated that this teacher recognized that before school even began.

So often we use grades as a basis for intelligence. MCAS, SAT scores…entrance exams and all things “please fill in the circle completely with a #2 pencil.”

As a solid B+/A- student throughout my K-12 and college career, I never minded, for lack of a better word, being judged, based on my grades. My grades were great! I was always a bit of an overachiever anyway.

So when my 1st born wasn’t hitting milestones, wasn’t achieving certain tasks, I was concerned. By the time he turned 2 years old, I knew something was off. He wasn’t speaking, walking or interacting as the other kids were. After being placed in speech, physical and occupational therapy, he began to thrive. He grew stronger. His fine motor skills improved. He became quite able.

Now, at 14 years old, he works – and I mean works – for every grade he receives. It takes him longer to read a book, as his processing delay is still an issue. He often needs direction. But he is a hard worker. He’s turned Fs to Cs, and Ds to Bs…and I couldn’t be more proud of his accomplishments. He’s quiet. He’s shy. He doesn’t often raise his hand in class, but don’t mistake that for uninterested. He sometimes slurs his speech, because we didn’t know until he was 6 years old, that he had complete hearing loss in his left year – but please, don’t mistake his slurring of words for laziness. He has a hard time writing and his words end up looking like chicken scratch, but don’t mistake that for lack of trying. He’s working hard – every day.

My middle, I swear, came out of the womb knowing multiplication, division, and all things science. He’s a genius. He can pick up a guitar and learn a song, after simply watching a video once on YouTube.  He’s friendly, passionate about action figures, legos and Minecraft. He’s super interested in how things are made, why things are, and I think he may be smarter right now, than I’ll ever be.

Things come easy to him. While my oldest has to read, study, practice and re-read, my middle glances at the study material and it’s committed to memory.

He’s the protector. He’s the friend to all. He’s the thoughtful gift to a girl in school, being bullied. He’s the text to remind me that I’m doing a great job, when I feel like I’m overwhelmed.

But these are things a teacher wouldn’t know, because you can’t get that from a test score. You can’t see that in a vocab test.

So yes, this homework assignment was welcomed.

And I wrote the following:

“At first glance, you will notice her smile. It’s infectious. It’s the kind of smile that makes you want to smile just as well. Accompanied by her smile, is usually her loud laugh. She’s got the kind of laugh that takes you off guard, because for a little thing, it’s a big laugh.

After spending a few minutes with her, you’ll see that the girl is crazy funny. She’s always telling a joke or doing something silly to get you to laugh. She loves to entertain. She loves to sing. To dance. She’s in constant movement.

She was dubbed, “the queen of happiness” by her 1st grade class because of her sheer enthusiasm for all things.

She can be somewhat talkative, and by that I mean…she never stops talking. We’re working on that. She can be loud, to which we respond, “indoor voice” – another work in progress.

She’s kind, yet fierce. She’s gentle, yet strong.

She is all that is good. She is smart, sassy and brave.

She is Lila Catherine, and I’m proud to call her mine.”


Thank you, Mrs. DiTolla for this homework assignment; for recognizing that students aren’t just a sum of their in-class accomplishments.  They are, first and foremost, our children. Thank you for giving us a chance to share our love of them with you, and thank you for taking such great care of our children this new school year.


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