Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Most Thankless Job

Sick Eyes
Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
Well, it's been a couple of weeks since I last posted. Blame it on the job. The workload has been pretty heavy lately. Not sure which job I'm referring to? It's the big one, the most important and most thankless of all jobs- parenting. Notice, I didn't say mothering? That was no accident, as it would have implied that there was also someone doing the fathering part. But the fathers have opted out. Well, I will give Willie credit for pitching in a little here and there, but I mean a little. And Mother's Day has come and gone with not even a thank you from these men for doing my job and theirs. (Well, Willie gets credit for at least calling and saying "Happy Mother's Day," as he does every year, whereas it's been years since Rachel's dad made any kind of acknowledement of the fact that I am over here raising one of his children. A simple little acknowledgement and a thank you would mean a lot to me. Hah. Maybe I'll get a Father's Day card.)

So, I celebrated Mother's Day by watching Rachel turn into a human inferno with a sore throat. I took her to the pediatrician the next day where she presented with a fever of 104.7°F (40.3°C) and a positive test for Type B Influenza. (Thankfully, the B doesn't stand for bird and I got a flu shot this year.) For the next four days, her fever never dipped below 102°F and the tribulations of getting her to swallow a spoonful of nasty-tasting Tamiflu suspension was enough to make me run and lock myself in the bathroom in the hopes that my mother would deal with it, lest I pull out what's left of my hair. (And many times, Mom did indeed save the day.) On the positive side, I did enjoy spending many hours with Rachel curled up in my lap while I rocked her and stroked her head. And now she's all well and her drama teacher won't have to recruit a last minute understudy to take over her part as Rapunzel in the big production this weekend.

And then there's Alex who, true to his end-of-the-school-year tradition, is teetering on the brink of the "retention" abyss at his school. If you don't make a 2.0 average or better (and they don't count the extra point credits that he earns in his giften classes when calculating retention average), you will not be retained as a student at Benjamin Franklin High School. Yes, we go through this every year, but it's never been this bad. And never has a school year been this different.

First of all, they will not count his grades from Monticello High as part of his retention average. Second, the school's solution to the disruption caused by The Storm was to cram the entire school year into the four month period between January 17th and May 26th. (And we didn't arrive back in New Orleans until January 20th, so he got a late start.) Here's how it worked. Because of a state standardized test they's have to take, the school required juniors to take the "full year" of Chemsitry and American History at Franklin. So, they completely disregarded Alex's efforts (and grades) at Monticello for these two classes. For all the other classes, he'd receive one half credit, but they would not count the grades he earned toward retention average/ He'd have to make up the other half-credit in one of the two semesters (each approx. 8 weeks long) of the mini "school year." Students would take 5 classes each "semester" (yeilding the equivalent of 10 classes for the mini "school year rather than the usual 7 for a regular shcool year) and the school day would be extended by about an hour. Complicated? You bet.

Now, lets add a little more madness to the situation. In our old life, our house was two blocks from where Alex would catch the bus to school at around 7:20 AM. Now school starts earlier and ends later and I have to drive him to the bus, which means he has to get up by about 6:15AM to catch the bus just after 7:00 AM (usually by the skin of our teeth, but he won't -or can't get up any earlier.) He gets off the bus just after 5:00PM and walks to our house, where I'm working on things after having picked Rachel up from her school. We get back to my Mom's at around 6:00PM +/-. So, his days are LONG. He's hungry and exhausted. After he eats, he has homework to do, usually enough to keep him up until somewhere between midnight and 1:00AM. So, he's getting about 5-6 hours sleep every night, max. He's been sick with some kind of respiratory ailment that produces intermitent sinus congestion and an almost constant cough, plus a persistant flair-up of his GERD (G.I.reflux) since we've been back. Now, let's add the death-blow to this equation. He's been depressed. I mean depressed. Profoundly so, at times. To the point that he just shuts down. Have you ever felt this way? I have. You just cannot find whatever it is that you need from inside to pull yourself up to do what you need to do. It's just not there and you can't seem to summon it, no matter how important the task is, and no matter how dire the consequences. I've really been working with him on getting through this and he seems to be making some strides, but we're really late in the game for it. And it's finals week and he's been studying, but who knows whether or not it will be enough.

So, now it seems that, with only one year left to go, he may not be able to finish at Franklin, which is recognized as the best high school in the state and one of the best in the country. I've spoken to the counselor and she didn't offer much help or encouragement. And it just doesn't seem fair to me. Kids who elected to stay in schools outside New Orleans for the whole year have their "displaced" grades count toward retention, even of those schools set academic standards far below those of Franklin. I know of one kid who is attending a school that he described as a "joke" compared to Franklin. But his shining and easily-earned grades will count toward retention whereas Alex's will not. It seems that if they can make this kind of concession, they should be able to just throw out the whole retention thing this year. It certainly would be justified. I can't imagine how depressed this child will be if he can't finish there, nor have any clue where I can send him to finish. Maybe he should just get a GED and move on. At this point, I'm willing to consider that option just to be relieved of the stress that this has wrought on us all. (I'm sure with the education he's gotten at Franklin, he could pass the GED test.) Whatever the outcome, it will be over at the end of the week when school's out for both kids. I think we'll all be ready for a break, just in time for the beginning of this year's hurricane season.

(Picture Caption: Alex takes out his frustrations in the form of angry abstract art on a t-shirt.)


Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Ah, the world of unwavering RULES. It has been an extraordinary year for you all and that he is getting anywhere academically under such circumstances should be applauded.

I hearby award Alex the "light at the end of the tunnel" award for persisting through adversity, with special commendation for keeping his cool around the mentally deranged, racist woman who took you guys in after the storm.

Rachel gets a medal (made by Tiffany's) for breaking her fever and returning to the land of the living.

And you, Lisa, well the prize I'd like to conjour for you is your house back to normal and a healthy bank account. In the meantime, it's an amulet, house shaped and enchanted.

Hang in there :)

PS: glad you liked my new walls

6:44 PM  
Blogger Rivercrow said...

We're sending positive energy and good vibes your way. Hope this helps. Bright blessings on you (the remarkably tough Mommy and the tired, frustrated artist, too) and your gorgeous, brave kids!

1:48 AM  
Blogger alai said...

I hope that he did well! Every since Ms Christenson (sp?) took hold of Franklin (though even when she was merely a vice-principal during my four years there), crap such as this has been an issue. All I hear from current Franklinites and Franklin parents is of her dictatoresque approach to running the school, which makes me ill and afraid for the school's future.

11:03 PM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

Well, I'm happy to say that he passed. Sigh! This has been a horribly difficult year for him and we're all glad it's over. Everything you heard about the dictator appears (from my perspective) to be true. There are so many things that I think the school could do better, but there's a brick wall in the way and I don't have the energy to cull together the forces to have a go at knocking it down. And if we've made it this far, we can grit our teeth through one more year.

12:00 AM  

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