6.20.2008

Blog Blast! Education! Important!

I'm participating in a group blogging effort today, spearheaded by the amazing April, to bring some attention to the oh-so-important topic of education. For more perspectives and to show your support, go check our her blog, It's All About Balance.

Up in the mornin' and out to school

The teacher is teachin' the golden rule
American history and practical math
You studyin'’ hard and hopin' to pass
Workin' your fingers right down to the bone
And the guy behind you wont leave you alone...

Education. We’ve all done it. One way or another. Sometimes formally, sometimes not. With varying degrees of success achieved.

Me? Well, I’ve done it now in three variations: student, employee, parent.

And it’s the latter -- the role of parent in education -- where I’m finding that I’m not just a parent, I’m still a student too.

I’m involved in a subculture of education that never fails to amaze me. In a good -- no, a great way. Exceptional education (which I’ll refer to as ESE here on out, as that’s shorter and easier and provides me with less chance of misspellings)

Quick back story on why ESE: Will. Son. Born extremely prematurely at 25 weeks. Share of health problems since birth. Has cerebral palsy, extreme nearsightedness and developmental delays. Aaaand I think that’s it. Save for the fact that he’s adorable and hilarious...

Will has just finished his kindergarten year -- yay! But he’s been part of the school system since he was just over a year old. Thanks to the networking between early interventional specialists at our children’s hospital and the ESE department of the county school system. His vision issues were diagnosed early on and he was placed with a vision teacher who would come to the house to hang out and work with him one hour a week. Our teacher = wonderful. She still works with Will and I consider her a friend.

Once he turned three, Will was eligible to go into an ESE Pre-K class. Where he was for three great years. His classroom had anywhere from five to eight students over that time, a teacher and two assistants. The classroom was in a building separate from the rest of the school -- his class was one of four in that space, which had its own playground and kitchen. It was just like a private preschool in many respects. And in addition to working with his vision teacher, Will also got a hand from the on-site occupational, physical and speech therapists. Fantastic.

We made the decision to change schools when it came time for Will to hit kindergarten. That decision was based on a lot of things, some positive, some negative (more on that at another time...) -- not the least of which was the excellent teacher he was going to have at the new school. A week before school started last year, I learned that the teacher whom I thought we would have had been moved to a different ESE classroom, teaching second and third grade. We would be with a teacher new to the school. I got nervous. All for naught, I soon discovered.

Will’s teacher, while new to the school, was in fact a 30-year teaching veteran who was bored in retirement and went back to work. Lucky us. I could not have asked for a better instructor and guide for Will’s first year in elementary school. The classroom setting was also ideal, with five students, two assistants and a wonderful therapy entourage. He thrived in kindergarten, happily saying every morning “it’s time to go to school” -- even on the weekends. Who could ask for more than that...

I realize that my situation is unique in many ways. The world of ESE is its own universe. It’s different in structure and nature from mainstream classes, where the numbers of students in a classroom can vary wildly and where all hands on deck may often just mean one pair.

I have heard my share of ESE horror stories from other parents who have to fight to receive this, that or the other service for their children. Who have to battle federal and state bureaucratic restrictions and rhetoric to get what they need for their kiddos. Who have to deal with unsupportive and insensitive staff at the school level. It can be a challenge like no other.

We’ve been extremely fortunate. And oh-so-blessed. Never have had to deal with any of bureaucratic bullshit. Or challenging teachers with unhelpful attitudes. *knock on wood* The school personnel we’ve had in our education lives have been amazing. Caring, kind people who have taken as good care of me, as an involved and passionate and often nervous parent, as they have of my child. The hearts of Will’s entourage are huge -- these amazing folks have chosen to work with young people who need something more than the standard issue kiddo. They’re patient, focused, patient, loving, patient, funny, creative and patient. Did I mention how patient they are?

My educational experience as a parent has been fantastic. And I am so grateful -- I have tears in my eyes as I write this. But I know how lucky we are. The exception, rather than the rule. I know there are many others -- both within the ESE system and within the standard school world -- who have to work and struggle and fight to insure that their children get the best education they possibly can. My heart goes out to them -- as parents, we have many roles, not the least of which is advocate. It’s hard work, this advocacy. And I applaud and support every parent who steps out and speaks up on behalf of their kids and their kids’ education. I might not be right there with you on the scrimmage line *knock on wood* but I’m on the sideline cheering you on. We’re really in this together, y’all.

School days, school days,
Dear old golden rule days.
'Readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic,
Taught to the tune of a hick'ry stick.
I was your queen in calico,
You were my bashful barefoot beau,
And I wrote on your slate,
'I love you, Joe,'
When we were a couple of kids.

11 comments:

Tara R. said...

I'm so glad our son has had such a wonderful experience in school. Good for him and great for you. Stay involved and stay connected.

[via BlogBurst for Education]

April said...

I'm really, really glad you have such a positive, inspiring story to share. I hope that your son's journey through education continues to be as excellent as what you've described!

Thank you for participating!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I'm so delighted that you, and more importantly, Will, has had such wonderful experiences so far. Your district/county must be doing it RIGHT! Yay for educational successes.

CableGirl said...

Sois the ESE program part of a private school? or a public one?

citizen jane said...

CG, it's the public school system, believe it or not. We are VERY lucky.

I know my tale might very well the exception, rather than the rule, where this stuff is concerned. I have friends, both with ESE kids and standard issue kids, who have endured so much fighting on behalf of their children. And while we've been lucky, things haven't been perfect...

I wanted to share a positive education tale just to let y'all know that yes, they are out there. And to toot the horn just a little for the wonderful people in Will's entourage, past and present. The bureaucracy and shit more often than not overshadows the good things that happen in schools. They're there. Promise.

sparklingmama said...

I love stories like this!

cajunvegan said...

I'm all philosophical today. Here's what I believe an educator's task is for ALL students:

“Our task is to provide an education for the kinds of kids we have, not the kinds of kids we used to have, or want to have, or the kids that exist in our dreams.”
- K. P. Gerlach

I loved your post. That is all.

Dingo said...

I am so happy that you have had such a positive experience. Sadly, it seems to be out of the norm when dealing with the educational system. Makes me so glad the only education my girl needed was Sit, Stay, Let's Go, and a bag of Milk Bones.

LunaNik said...

It's so nice to read about a positive experience!

Kori said...

I loved this post; this is how it should be for EVERY student, and I am so grateful for your sake, for Will's sake, that this has been your experience. Thank you for sharing this with everyone.

Wildhair said...

Man-cub was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2nd grade. By the grace of God he, too, has been the exception to the rule of how children like him are taught.

Many parents lose faith in the school system, as a whole, and homeschool. I could never have managed that, work and raise him alone.

Lovely post, lady. I always enjoy reading about your little man's incredible journey.