The word itself sends shivers up my spine. And not the good kind. The I-don’t-even-want-to-start-thinking-about-sending-my-precious-kid-into-the-shark-tank kind of shivers.
If the truth be told, I am terrified of school. In my naive, my-kid-is-only-two mentality, I feel as though the advent of school will truly mark the stage of life where Jake is out in the world. Where I am not there 24/7 to protect him and advocate for him. Where he will begin a whole new stage of life, complete with the possibility of being bullied, being picked on, or being labelled as “different”. If the truth be told, it scares the crap out of me.
I hope I’m wrong. I pray that in hindsight, I can chide myself for ever thinking the negative thoughts that pervade my mind at this point. I know that our education system is making incredible progress. I have heard of teachers who are amazing, individuals who have gone above and beyond to ensure true inclusion, acceptance, and respect. I dare to dream that these stories will become a reality for Jake one day.
But for now, I worry. I fret. And I. Am. Terrified.
One of the questions I received as a part of my Q&A plea goes along with the topic of school. It has made me think about what I truly desire for Jake when it comes to his education. Here is the question, followed by my convoluted answer, interspersed (as always) with my random thoughts on the subject of school, education, and inclusion. Enjoy:)
There were times as a PUF assistant that I felt I was not given the opportunity to find a way to include the boy I was working with because the activity was beyond his skill level. The Kindergarten teacher told me to take him out or away from the action, even though inclusivity was the goal. I felt frustrated and it singled him out. Would you as a parent feel hurt by this decision? Would you want Jake a part of a public school kindergarten?
At this point in our journey, and knowing what we currently know about Jake, about his personality, and about his growth and development up to the present, Curtis and I would say unequivocally that YES, we want Jake to be a part of the public school system.
We would love inclusion to work for our child. We are planning on doing everything possible to send Jake to a school that not only preaches inclusion, but also practices it in a way that actually works for the students. We fully understand that Jake’s learning curve will look different from that of his typical peers. We fully recognize that there will be areas of weakness for Jake, and that his curriculum will likely need to be modified. We readily acknowledge that the process will not be seamless.
Having said all this, however, I also feel very strongly that Curtis and I will need to advocate for Jake on a regular basis throughout his school years. If a teacher was constantly suggesting that my child be removed from an activity, especially when inclusive education is the goal, I would definitely feel hurt by this decision. I would also without doubt advocate for Jake, so as to limit the number of times in which decisions that were a detriment to my child’s inclusion were made in the classroom.
Ultimately, we want to give Jake the best education possible. The education that he deserves. The education that will inspire him to be a life-long learner. The education that will make it possible for him to make wise decisions and succeed at what he does. If, at some point down the road, we come to the conclusion that an inclusive setting in the public school system is not providing that for our son, we will weigh our options, and go from there. For now, however, based on what we know about Jake so far, the direction we are heading is towards inclusion.
Thank goodness that day is far off:) Today I can just enjoy my tiny two-year old toddler, and breathe easy!