Thursday, September 15, 2011

Everything is a Battle

Megan started the 2011-12 school year very well. Lots of good friends in her class, personal goals for her classes, and a great attitude. This was our first START of a school year with her diagnosis of dyslexia. We had all the tools in place. We had a plan for after school so emotions do not get the best of us. All of our preparation can be shot down in the matter of one day.

Yesterday, Megan was upset coming in the house after school. The first upsetting incidences of the year happened and unfortunately happened on the same day.

First of all, she failed a reading test… I was ok with this. I wanted to take a look at the test and see what the issue was. She was adamant that she knew the material, but somehow she got every question wrong in an entire section. The closer I looked, I saw that she made a simple mistake that we have all made. She put the wrong answer in the wrong place all the way through the section. She put the answer to # 4 in the # 5 spot. She put the answer to # 5 in the # 6 spot…and so on. I knew this because the teacher made her re-do that section and she got them all right. I am not clear on my feelings as to whether they should change her grade or not, but I think it should be considered. On one hand, I realize she needs to learn a lesson and be more careful, but on another hand, dyslexia is a visual processing disorder.

I wish that was the only thing she was upset about, but it was not. The other incident was more serious to me. The children received their PSSA (standardized tests) scores yesterday. They received them and then they were asked to go to an assembly about the tests. They were told how good the school did and how important it is for them to do their best on these tests. THEN they met with the children individually to talk about their specific scores. The kids had to open their scores in front of the other kids in the assembly and then they had to discuss them with the principal. Having been recently diagnosed with this learning disability, I find this to be extremely unethical. Her perception was that despite the fact that she improved from Basic to Proficient in Reading and Math, the principal told her she needed to improve her writing. She needs to get to the Basic level. He told her it was important to the school. Hmmm ok. Important to the school. What is important to Megan? It is important that Megan not be humiliated. Would they walk up to a child in a wheelchair or on crutches and ask them to run faster? I don’t think so. Why is it ok for them to ask a dyslexic child to write better? Dyslexia is a visual processing disorder. It is NOT seeing things backwards. It is defined by the difficulties that dyslexics have of putting what is in their head, down on paper. It was clear that the principals treated everyone the same. Kids are not the same. There are hard workers and lazy workers. There are kids with parents that care, and kids with parents that don’t care. There are kids that can work harder, and there are kids that no matter how hard they work they cannot make “it” happen. I am ashamed that educational professionals do not know this.

After I did damage control, I hope that Megan realizes that this is something we are working on. She should be so proud that she sets goals for herself. It may take her longer to achieve them, but she WILL achieve them just the same.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Beginnings

This is my first speech that I gave today at my Toastmaster meeting:
My name is Ann Marie Hepler. I am going to talk to you today about how my life is comprised of a series of New Beginnings. The first new beginning was on August 2, 1972. I was born in the Bronx NY to Maria and Philip McIntyre. My given name was Ann Marie McIntyre and I was so lucky to already have a big 5 year old sister, Maureen. From what I hear, Maureen prayed for me to be born. I spent the first few years of my life living in the Bronx. “The City” as we called it, was always our “home”. My mom and dad were born and raised there and so it influenced a lot of my life despite the fact that we moved to Cornwall NY when I was just a toddler. Cornwall was a new beginning for my family. It was a Norman Rockwell town, with a Main Street, American flags, the Hudson River just outside our doors, and the best fourth of July Fireworks anyone could imagine. For several years we spent the weekdays in Cornwall and the weekends traveling the hour drive to the Bronx to see our friends, my grandmothers and get our “fix” of city living. Our travels were always so much fun with me and my sister singing every single ‘50’s song that came on my dad’s radio station. We loved WCBS radio and Wolfman Jack!! My parents were both only children. So I don’t have stories of loud aunts, crazy uncles or annoying cousins. I only had my 2 grandmothers, my mom, my dad and my sister. A family reunion at my house was just about the same as every day dinner. Pretty quiet. Soon enough we were in Cornwall full time. My sister and I were having sleep overs and walking (ok getting a ride from mom) to and from school with our friends. We lived right in town. We could walk to everything.

I was always shy until you got to know me. I loved to be around my mom and dad. My family friends insisted that I would never move out of the house. They said my parents would never get rid of me. Well, on a chilly, rainy day in August of 1992 I surprised them all when my mom, dad and Maureen dropped me off at Slippery Rock University. A “new beginning” that was 7 hours away from home. I knew nobody. I remember the day. After we moved all my stuff into the dorm and after a quick lunch at what is now the Red Rock Falls Restaurant in Slippery Rock, I said a quick goodbye, gave a quick hug and kiss, and did not look back at the car on the walk up the hill to Founders Hall. Tears were streaming down my face.

My dad thought for sure I would be back home for good by labor day.

I worked part time with the Physical Therapist Assistant license I got back in NY from Community College and went to school full time at SRU. In 1994 I graduated with my Bachelors and decided to pursue my Masters. I was offered a full time job in the Mars, PA area and decided to give it one year. After one year, I would assess the situation and move back to New York to be with my family.

My dad thought that no doubt I would be home in a year.

After one year I was getting ready to revisit my decision to move back to New York when one night I went out with some friends. I was tired, I was the designated driver, I had to work in the morning and I wanted to go home. My friends convinced me to make one last stop. They had to see if some guy was at the local bar. I agreed to stop… but only for 5 minutes. There we were in this dark, dingy, local bar. I was cranky, tired and cold. Three guys walked in after us, all hooting and hollering and having fun. I couldn’t help but be sucked into their fun. Dutch, the tall, broad, funny looking one immediately started talking to me and asked for my number. I was going through a major rutt in my dating life…. My track record was men that were too old, men that were married, or men that couldn’t speak much English. So I was pretty skeptical at this point. After some coercion, I agreed that he could call me…. here we had another new beginning. I made the decision that I would give this relationship 1 year. If things were not more serious in a year, I was going back to New York.

My dad was CERTAIN that I would be home…..

Dutch and I had a blast together. He loved to manage benefit concerts and events. I enjoyed helping him. He was so outgoing and fun. Everyone knew him and everyone respected him. He was a hard worker but he was just so fun to be around. A year later he and I were living together and were talking about getting married. We visited New York a couple times, but the more I visited New York, the more I realized what Pennsylvania was doing to me. It was becoming a part of me too. On my birthday weekend in 1996, Dutch knelt down and proposed to me under fireworks. (it was at the Boyers festival….if you can believe that forshadowing!!!). Our wedding was in October of 1997. What a new beginning.

I think my dad believed I would STILL come home someday.

Our wedding was so much fun. The first few years, we continued to live the leisure life. We worked hard, but we played hard too. I was working as a Physical Therapist Assistant. We had fun on the weekends. We traveled and camped and spent a lot of time with each other. We made decisions for ourselves and had no one else to consider. I visited New York several times a year to visit my family. I always had to get my share of NY Pizza, NY Bagels, and NY canolis. Soon enough we decided it was time to grow our family. Megan Corrin was born in May of 2000. She was a precious little 6lb 6oz little girl. She was our new beginning. What a bundle of joy. She was perfect.

I think my dad wanted to believe that I would come home to NY to raise Megan.

I knew I wanted to have a sister or brother for Megan. I knew I wanted my children to know that when everyone and everything in the world is against you… one person has your back… your sibling. So in 2004, we decided to have a second child. Joshua David was born in June of 2004. He was trouble from the very start. Entering the world as an Emergency, he has given me every single one of my white hairs. We love showing our children the blessings of NY and PA. They experience the best of both. Megan will not eat any other hot dog than a NY Sabretts and Josh has an amazing NY accent impression for a 7 year old. I found it was very important to show Megan and Josh how I grew up and how Dutch grew up. My kids have been to “the city” many times already and especially love it in the winter time.

Unfortunately in February 2007 after a long illness, my dad stopped hoping and wishing that I would move back to NY.

Becoming a mom was probably the most defining NEW BEGINNING in my life. From that point, I started making decisions not only for myself, but for my family. It was as if everything that that happened in my life was on purpose to make me who I am. Today I am married to Dutch for 13 years. Megan is 11 and Josh is 7. My mom moved to PA to be next to her grandkids. I have had jobs in private industry that ranged from a Physical Therapist Assistant, to a rehabilitation director, to a workers compensation agent and finally have been working for OPM for 9 years . I travel 11 minutes to get to work. I am adaptable and ready for change because there is nothing more fun than a new beginning.