Jacob will soon be starting 10th grade at Culver High School, and he's not really concerned or excited about it. In fact, he doesn't seem to act like he cares much at all. He's typically pretty low in regards to his own internal motivation or enjoyment levels and anything outside of U Tube, the internet, movies, South Park, Family Guy, Steven Colbert and hanging out with his pets is something he considers to be a chore and not something that could be a potential source of fun. He's already made up his mind that High School is going to be boring. He's not happy about the 8AM start time and the homework that he'll have to complete each night. He has two buddies from his previous school that he regularly telephones and has over for sleepovers at our house, so new friends don't interest him. He thinks girls are ok, but he doesn't care about a girlfriend. So Jacob is totally at ease with the prospect of starting a new school.
Me, on the otherhand, not so much. Jacob's last couple of schools have been small. There were about 300 students at the non-public school that he attended for 6 years and only 10 (yes, that's right, I said ten!) at the private school that he attended last year and where I'm employed. All the kids at my school were younger and/or more impacted than Jacob, so he never developed any friendships. On the good side, I was actually able to see him the entire day, and it really helped strenghten our our relationship. I don't know how we could have done this without me being the school Principal and him being a student.
Over the summer, Jacob attended the High School special ed summer school, a modified version of the regular year: there were only 400 students on the entire campus, he was with only 10 other special-ed students, and they stayed in the same room for the entire day which ran 5 hours long. This went fine with no problems, but Jacob made no attempt to interact with any of his classmates. He told me he found the entire experience "a waste of time" as he likes to label anything that falls outside the scope of his limited range of interests.
So this, by stark constrast, is going to be a whole other world. Culver High's student body numbers over 2,100, and when I think about Jacob entering a campus so large, my head begins to spin. As we know, teenagers can be wonderful and interesting creatures, however rare those moments may be. But many times, high school social environments are confusing and complex scenes in which to navigate even for the most typical of teens. These issues can be magnified tenfold for a child with any type of disability. If he doesn't fit in, Jacob might be ostrisized, bullied, victimized, or worse. We've all heard stories of teens who've killed themselves due to unbearable mistreatment by their peers. Will Jacob avoid punishment for being different? I have no idea, but what I do know is he'll either succeed or he won't. If he fails, we'll go back to the school district to ask for alternative enrollment options. I only hope that if we have to make this decision, it will be due to nothing severe having taken place.
So, I drop him off at 8:00am in just two weeks from this Monday. Half of me is terrified, while the other half is curious and optimistic. Let's hope that some day very soon the last two emotions miraculously morph into a relaxed state of being.