Thorn Bushes, Thistles, and Weeds

Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 6.17.13 PMSeptember 21, 2017

Dear Families,

My reflections of late led to a place that suggests I need to reshare my daughter’s academic journey with you. I, of course, obtained her permission. I share it not for sympathy. I share it not for any kind of recognition. It is, for me, a story of heartache and tears and failure.  But, in the end, it is a story of perseverance, determination, and empowerment. Hers.

Maddy’s academic journey paved its way through thorn bushes, thistles, and weeds. In second grade, her homework took hours. I mean hours. By third grade, she convinced herself she would never graduate from high school. I battled for her education. I mean battled.  I cried. I yelled. I cried. I pleaded. I cried. Before she entered our family, I earned a graduate degree in curriculum and instruction. I earned awards for my teaching. But I could not help my own daughter.

Determined I needed to help her before any other child, I walked away from the classroom convinced I would never return.  Our journey together took years.  Her standardized test scores in 3rd and 4th grade devastated me. To this day, her CSAP and TCAP scores from 5th, 6th, and 7th grade remain unopened. But during her years of struggle, she battled. She learned self-advocacy. She learned empowerment. She learned independence. By the end of 7th grade, the light inside clicked. In 8th grade, she earned a membership into the National Junior Honor Society. Still, in high school she continued to struggle; but she had tools.

Her freshman year, Maddy maintained a cumulative GPA of 4.0.  I know it sounds amazing.  But her academic battle raged. At every opportunity, she did extra credit. Her teachers pleaded with us at conferences to get her to stop. She assured them she needed it. At the end of the semester, her teachers flooded our inbox, baffled. She failed every single final. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. She never gave up. She is my hero. I obtained her permission to share her story for many, many reasons. If I share them all, this letter will never end.  She graduated with honors two years ago. She earned, I repeat, she earned an academic scholarship. Currently, she serves as Peer Jack Mentor for out of state students at NAU.

The grades that littered her report card until 8th grade resulted in a constant stream of tears. But she overcame it all because she battled.  I respectfully request that you let your child battle. I blinked and found my daughter entering her sophomore year in Honors College at NAU. The key phrase is “her sophomore year.” The battle won’t always be pretty. In fact, if you are like me, it will be excruciating. Opening my eyes, on the other side of my blinking, I can tell you the following with utmost integrity. I would walk the same road in a heartbeat. I would shed each tear again. I would let her struggle all over again. I would let her fail over and over again. Why? She personifies resilience.

If your student does not struggle, rest assured. I have one of those, too. Tune in next week, when I share the joys of raising an academic powerhouse. And by joys, I mean frustrations and annoyances that are second to none. Insert eye rolling emoji here.

Honored to Serve You All,

Janet Worley

Food for Thought: Cool at 13; Adrift at 23