[Just go back and read the other posts if you haven't done so already and you want to know what's going on.]
High school didn't get better. It almost did, but, then, it just didn't.
The first problem was that taking drama as a class was not like working on a production. Working on a production, while fun, had a purpose. There was a goal, something everyone was working toward and, while there were production aspects of drama class (they had to perform short one-acts at the end of the school year), mostly it was just playing games. So it was fun, but it had no purpose. It got boring.
Because he got into the arts program through drama, he was required to take two periods of it a day, and he couldn't drop it without dropping the whole program and leaving the school. Not that there were any thoughts of that, because we didn't know drama was an issue.
No, the thing that came up first was English. I got an email from his freshman English teacher telling me that they had had an in-class essay to write as part of a test and that Phillip had sat and stared at his blank paper through the whole class and not written anything. She went on to tell me that she should have contacted me sooner because Phillip had been having some issues for a while, mostly that he seemed disinterested in the class and, therefore, was not participating. He was not passing, especially with the blank essay. This was an honors class, and her suggestion was that we move him into the "academic" class because, obviously, he was not capable of performing in the honors class.
The problem here was that she also had never addressed the issue with my son. She had not ever once said to him, "Hey, what's up? I'm noticing that you're not turning in any work. Is there anything going on or anything I can help you with?" No, her first response, her belated response to the situation, was to contact me and tell me that my son was not cut out for her class. (More on that in a moment.)
Now, we already knew that Phillip was having an issue with timed writing assignments. That had been something that had started during 7th grade. It's just not the way he works. (It's also not the way I work, either, but, then, I never had to write any timed essays when I was in middle school. Or, for that matter, much in high school, either. Essay questions are one thing, but the idea of sitting down and writing an essay on a topic in 45 minutes is something else entirely.) I mentioned previously that he's a perfectionist, so he has to work out the whole paper in his head beforehand. I have literally watched him stare at blank paper for six hours then write the entire three-page assignment in less than 30 minutes. Asking him to sit down and write an essay RIGHT NOW is about the same as throwing him off of a building and telling him to fly. The same kind of panic takes over his mind and, rather than being to figure out what to write, he's consumed by the ground rushing at his face.
When this started happening in middle school, he had a teacher who cared about his success as a person, not about the success of her class; and she worked with him to find alternate solutions for timed essays.
[I want to point out here that the idea of timed essays as preparing you for life or your career is bullshit. There is no time in your life after you get out of school that you will be asked to sit down and write an essay, timed or not. Sure, there are some careers that require writing at a high level, but it's not essay writing. The essay is a very specific form of writing that is almost exclusively used within the boundaries of school. And, while there are deadlines for the things you may need to write, none of those are SIT DOWN AND WRITE THIS RIGHT NOW kind of things.]
His freshman English teacher was not interested in working with him to find any solution other than him sitting down and writing the in-class essay. "Get with the system."
We had a conference -- the teacher, my son, his counselor, my wife and I -- wherein we worked out some strategies, within the system, for my son to use to find some success in his English class. And in his Algebra 2 class, as it turned out, which wasn't going as poorly as his English class, but it wasn't going at the level of his ability, either (the math issue was completely around the issue of homework (have I mentioned how much I hate homework? (but you can't pass a class with As on all of your tests if you aren't turning in the homework (which is RIDICULOUS)))).
I learned some things about his teacher during that conference including why she had never spoken to my son about the fact that he wasn't participating in the class or turning in his work. During the conference, his English teacher never once looked at anyone, either when she spoke or when anyone else spoke. She kept her eyes focused off at the floor to her left. Every once in a while, she would flick her eyes up at the group, but she was completely unable to make actual eye contact with anyone. It was disconcerting, to say the least. And off putting. Her level of introversion made me wonder how she was able to teach at all, but, also, made it obvious as to why she had never spoken to my son one-on-one. She was incapable of it. In effect, he was being punished for her inability.
The other thing that became obvious was that his teacher still didn't believe he belonged in her class. She expressed some vague belief that he couldn't write and that he should be in a class, i.e., the "academic" class, where writing wasn't required. I told her that she only thought that because she hadn't read anything that he'd written. She, basically, blew me off when I said that. It wasn't quite a "yeah, whatever," but it was close enough.
However, the next unit they were doing was fiction writing, and they were required to write a short story for that. That's my son's area of expertise, so to speak. I got an email from his teacher after she read his story, read it during class while the students were doing something else, letting me know that she had burst out into laughter during class while reading it, something that never happens with her. She apologized to me and told me that I was correct in my assessment of my son and his abilities. Not so amazingly, the relationship between my son and his teacher got better after that.
I think, in the end, that that is what made the difference, her view of him. Once she offered him some amount of respect and appreciation, he was able to come around and perform in the class, and that affected all of his school life. Of course, he was also following all of the strategies he had been given, so I missed the importance of what happened with the teacher. I think we all did, including my son. We chalked it up to him doing the things he was supposed to be doing. Not only did he make it through his freshman year, but he made honor roll. We thought we had it all figured out...
That is until he started his sophomore year, the school year that is, as I write this, just now drawing to a close.
For an example of my son's writing, you can visit this post. He wrote the short story "Into the Trench" when he was 10, and it was that story that initially alerted me to his ability. At the end of this series, if my son is agreeable, I will post the story he wrote for his freshman English class.