Thursday, January 29, 2009

somebody up there was looking out for us

As I dropped Mr. Literal off at school this morning, and waved to the morning-duty teachers on my way out of the parking lot, I remembered to say a quick prayer of thanks (approximately the millionth such prayer) for the fact that my children can attend this school. I remembered, with a shiver, the night of the magnet-school lottery back in 2006, and I'm firmly convinced---without a doubt---that someone was looking out for us, making it possible for my kids to be in this fabulous school. I can't even bear the thought of how things would be different if we weren't.

It's an arts-infused magnet school, and the selection process is done via a lottery system. What this means is that parents from all over the county send in applications, and those kids are each assigned a code number. The code numbers are written onto slips of paper which are put into jars--one jar for each of the 5 sections of the county from which students can come.

On the lottery night, it's as pure a selection process as can possibly be......first, a drawing to determine the order in which the jars are placed on the table, and then they begin pulling code numbers out of the jars. Jar 1, jar 2, jar 3, jar 4, jar 5, jar 1 again, etc until the spots are filled. The school's principal runs the meeting, and she started out by saying "most of you here tonight are going to go home sad, because the fact is that we do not have enough space to accommodate every child who has applied."

We actually applied as an "OOD" family....out of district. K teaches in that county, but we don't live there. His teacher position allowed us to put Mr. Literal's name in to the jar, but did not provide any special consideration, etc. His code number was put into the jar for the part of the county where K works, which is labeled GC.

We got there early that night (I HATE being late for things) and actually got a seat, unlike many families who had to stand in the back, etc. "Our" code number was OOD17, so we listened intently to the number that was called every time she got to the GC jar.

H 36

MC 50

C 2

etc etc etc etc ...............

The GC jar had the most code numbers in it, since that's the closest to the school and the most populated area of the county. Making our odds even worse. But we held our breath each time she got to GC. Then she called out "GC17". Our heads turned quickly to look at each other. "Wait, our number was 17", I told K, but we knew the letters were OOD and not GC. Talk about roller coaster--my heart leaped at the number 17, then plummeted knowing that the letters weren't right.

The lottery was almost over, she only had a few more numbers to pick. As each number came up, they were taping them to a big poster that would be hung up by the door at the end, so people could inspect it and make sure they'd heard correctly, etc. So, she called the last few numbers, thanked us all, and we got up to leave. Something was nagging at me, though, and at K as well, in thinking that each number was only used once, even though letters were repeated to assign location. Meaning, there shouldn't be more than one code with 17 in it. I was dejected, head hanging, already trying to digest the fact that he wouldn't be in this school and wondering WTF we were going to do. But K said "I'm going to ask her, just to double check", and he walked to the front.

I was ushering the kids out, Energizer was out of his stroller by this time and getting very antsy, but K pushed through the crowd, talked briefly to the principal, then made his way back to us and said "It's him, that was our number!"

Praise the Lord!

He'd explained our confusion, and she said that in fact that code number did say OOD, but since it was in the GC jar, she just said GC instead. Figured it would be confusing to other parents to hear the OOD label since they wouldn't know what it means, etc.

I insisted on going up to the poster to look at the number myself, not yet believing what he'd said. There it was: OOD17 . I was happy, relieved, excited. We went out for ice cream to celebrate!

Little did I know then, though, how much that selection in the lottery would impact our lives, and my children's future. There's no way I could have known how wonderful this school is, how much we love it, and how absolutely and completely right this has been for Mr. Literal in particular.

It's a small school, around 400 kids......kind of a "everybody knows everybody else" sort of place. And they're so "child centered", so attuned to the individual strengths and talents and abilities of kids. They amaze me on a daily basis. For Mr. Literal in particular, these past 2 1/2 years have been a time of flourishing, growth and accomplishment, bolstered by the faith and support of wonderful teachers. If you look at it superficially, and say "we made a child with autism the star of our Christmas program", some might say they're crazy. But these people had no qualms whatsoever. They dealt with his sensory issues regarding the costume, they dealt with his meltdown when he got the part. His art teacher even told me "knowing kids like Andrew makes us all better people". Can it get any better than this?

The school is a family, it's as simple as that. And the foundations that are being set for my children here will have an unending impact on their future. Thank you, Lord, for making this happen for us, as I unquestioningly believe you did. You knew we needed this, a place where my special boys wouldn't just be part of the nameless masses walking through the halls. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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