"Equity means that all people have full participation and access to the benefits and institutions of society – including quality health care and education, safe and affordable neighborhoods, viable employment, the right to vote – and are free from discrimination, hate and harassment." (This definition, found at www.whatsrace.org, refers to racial equity, but I think it applies more broadly too.)
|Let us in.|
We attended our first Kindergarten Roundup at our neighborhood school last week. To start the evening, all the parents and kids gathered in the library while the principal and assistant principal gave a little overview of the school using an overhead projector. Anthony looked around at everyone sitting at the long table and signed "birthday cake". He had a good point- cake would have made the evening more festive.
Ms. K, the neighborhood kindergarten teacher, offered to show us her classroom. It was wonderful and so was she. The room was bright and cheerful, with construction paper shapes hanging from the ceiling-- what I imagine a happy kindergarten class to be like.
Ms. K. showed us the class photos of the little ones in her class, posted above her door. I've never seen a more diverse group of kids. They were Mexican, Somalian, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, African American, red-haired and freckled. Ms. K. told us, "We talk about differences. We're all different."
Then it was time to walk across the hall to Teacher Dawn's room.
|He looks so tiny. My baby!|
Even though "we're all different"and that's okay, only Anthony is so different that it was suggested he would be better off in a segregated classroom. A friend of mine worries that Anthony will feel different if he is put in a class with kids who are all talking, and that being in the special ed classroom will show him he's not that different. Let's consider that.
Is 5-year-old Anthony more like a 5th grader with cerebral palsy than a kindergartner with no diagnosis, simply because they both have a disability? Why is the child from Vietnam who speaks no English not considered more like the non-verbal kids in Teacher Dawn's class than the English-speaking kids in Ms. K's class? No one suggests the English language learner should be separated from the other kids and put in a class of all Vietnamese speakers so that he won't feel different. And it would be absurd to think that would be the best way for him to learn English. But that is what is suggested for Anthony. He's not talking, so have him spend his days around other kids who aren't talking. We wouldn't want him to feel "different" after all, would we?
So we're pretty sure that if we do go with this school, he will be in Ms. K. general education class. She seems great, and if he was in her class, he would probably have a great kindergarten experience. But right across the hall will be the specter of Teacher Dawn's class. I worry that the first time something goes wrong-- and inevitably there will be some bumps at first -- the first time Anthony doesn't line up for recess or knocks the crayons on the floor or whatever, someone will suggest that it might be "better" if he was in Teacher Dawn's class, where he can get the extra help he needs. And what message is the self-contained classroom sending to the other kids in the school? How can they not view those kids as different- much more different than their classmates, because those kids can't even be in the same class with them.
|Already sucking up to the principal.|
The visit confirmed our fears that our neighborhood school might not be the best place for Anthony if we want him included with his typical peers. We're still just starting out in our decision-making process, though.
As for Anthony, he was not at all intimidated by the school. He acted like he was going to own those halls, and he kept signing "me" and "big school". That's right, kid. You're going to the Big School! Onward!