No more pencils… no more books…


“Hello? Mrs Green? This is [vice principal]. Jeremy’s on his way home from school now. He was arguing with the teacher over lessons. He wanted to copy files from the school computer to his little zip drive instead.”

I glanced over at the clock. Jeremy had left barely an hour earlier, cheerful and eager. Which was a welcome change although apparently short lived. This was on Friday the 19th and only three more days were left until the end of school. Speaking of which…

“I should let you know, Jeremy has an appointment on Monday so zie won’t be at school that day plus zie has counselling on Tuesday. Zie’ll be back on Wednesday though.”

I waited for the obligatory giggle and “oops, I meant zie” which has followed ever since I had a school administrator come in to discuss the board’s transgender policy last September. It didn’t come. I guess the principal figured she doesn’t need to bother anymore now that zie was almost done school. As if correctly gendering someone only matters when board policy forces it (and when another adult can hear).

“If he wants to come in for an hour on Wednesday to copy his files he can. Over lunchtime.”

Heaven forbid my child inconvenience them by trying to attend zir entire last day of school with the rest of zir classmates.

Then I called Jeremy and listened incredulously. I try my hardest to support zir teachers and strongly feel spelling is important. On the other hand, they know how much Jeremy dislikes the subject. Zie’d missed almost a week of school due to anxiety, which they knew because I called zir in sick with anxiety and panic attacks every day. Plus they only have spelling tests on Fridays so there wasn’t going to be another spelling test ever for zir. So what did the teacher choose to do first that day? Sit Jeremy down with a list of words to memorize. Something that gives zir anxiety on the best of days. Jeremy asked why zie needed to study for a test zie’d never take and was immediately told to go home.

“Other students get sent home for throwing chairs. I get sent home for asking a question.”

Jeremy flipped through mood swings all Tuesday to the point where I wondered if it was possible for zir to have PMS. Zie’d be laughing one minute then start yelling at me, only to burst into tears two minutes later. Then zie’d be laughing again. And zie waffled about school, deciding zie would go only to change zir mind a short while later. It wasn’t until I was crawling into bed that zie made zir final decision.

“I’m not going to school tomorrow,” zie announced in a voice thick with tears. “M already has my number so if he wants to call me he can. Except he doesn’t even know his own number…”

Jeremy’s best friend P moved last year and hasn’t contacted zir once since then. Jeremy can’t call him because his number changed with the move. M is the only local friend zie has currently and they have no contact outside school. Meanwhile zie’d already downloaded zir files from the school’s cloud, all that was left there was a plastic storage container. I can live without that.

“Okay,” I said reassuringly. “I’ll call the school and bus company on my way to work.”

Which I did, making the bus dispatcher laugh when I announced it was my last time calling in. I simply left a message in the school’s voice mail. And now zie’s done, leaving me feeling unsettled… unfinished.

No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks…

Jeremy was so eager to start school… so eager to learn. And zie still is. Zie loves math, loves learning about electronics and computers. Zie’s fascinated with politics and current events. I spent Jeremy’s entire time at high school arguing for zir to take electronics, computers, politics, auto mechanics, a work-ed program to do with electronics or computers. I got shot down every single time. I fought for zir to have testing for learning disabilities and got told “next year” every single year. I asked repeatedly for zir to have a school laptop due to language difficulties and fine motor skill issues and got turned down. The only success I managed was getting them to use the right pronouns and that only happened on paper or when they were prompted. Zir entire high school career was remarkably similar to banging my head against a wall, except it was less fun. And now it’s over. Kind of.

Jeremy cried two nights ago that zie was an adult and had no education.

“No education yet,” I pointed out. “That doesn’t mean no education ever. You’re just starting.”

The principal didn’t ask about zir appointment on Monday. She was just glad zie wasn’t going to be at school. If she’d asked, she’d have found out zie’s getting psychometric testing. And once zir anxiety’s a bit more under control, zir real education will begin.

10 thoughts on “No more pencils… no more books…

  1. The pressure for everything to happen very quickly at Jeremy’s age is enormous, and absurd. It’s actually pointless because we’re still exploring, still discovering, still deciding. I got into university at a relatively early age and then changed course completely- which basically meant starting over. And then as life progresses we learn we may have to change course yet again.

    Tell Jeremy he has to put the whole timing concept aside. Just as you’ve all managed to put the gender issue aside. I’ve just moved to another country at 37. That means re-learning everything. From little things to big things. It’s like being 17 again. I don’t how to do French taxes, I don’t know how to sign up to the health system. I have to get a French driver’s license 🙂 We just have to face life as best we can within our circumstances and capabilities.

  2. When Jeremy is famous for Something Important ™ (I know it will happen), zie can go back to that school and be an advocate for all those whose voices were silenced by the teachers and administrators when zie attended. (That is, if zie chooses to do so…maybe this is not important to zir.) Zie has talents that are unrealized by these ignorant people and zie will show them!

  3. I think it’s a good thing for you to put high school behind and focus on Jeremy moving forward. You are correct- now zie can get a real education focusing on the right things.

  4. I know I mentioned it before, that I’m taking online college courses, through the Coursera and EDX. It’s an amazing thing really. I’ve taken courses, for free, at universities I’d never be able to afford. Right now I’m taking a course on Coursera about happiness. I just finished a course about the ethics of eating, and before that one about diet and public health and the environment.

    Since the classes are free I have also signed up for a few that I dropped. Either because I was too busy or didn’t follow through for whatever reason, or the class turned out to be be badly run or boring.

    I realize there are downsides…. Like no college credit. But there are also big upsides: convenience, amazing flexibility about when to watch the lessons, many kinds of anxiety greatly less.

    There are lots of computer programming classes available. I haven’t looked for math ones. Some topics I’d expect are not available, like I have not found good Spanish classes. When I search I find classes IN Spanish, which is frustrating.

    I realize the school experiences you”be been having Really Suck. Still, it is really wonderful and important that you’ve been willing to advocate for Jeremy, in spite of the poor response from the schools. I think about my own brands of gender nonconformity. My parents were one of the SOURCES of gender policing, not a support. Granted, probably very minor compared to what some parents do, it was still psychologically stifling.

    Hugs if you want them.

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