They Are Special

October 1, 2010

Today was the 4th Grade “Get Aquainted” day at Rahul’s school.  That’s the PS 24 version of an Open House–each teacher prepares a short presentation for the parents of their students outlining curriculum and expectations for the year.  For the last two years Rahul has been in General Ed classes with students of some of the most dynamic and involved parents in the school.  Every time parents were invited into his class for an event the room was packed with parents, grandparents, and tons of food!  And I have tried to learn from them what it means to be an “involved parent”.

 

This year I moved Rahul to a Special Ed class and it has so far seemed to be a great move.  I was really looking forward to this morning’s meeting, so I could get to know his teacher a little better and see where Rahul sits.  He told me the other day that the class had all written notes to their parents and they were going to leave them on their desks for us to read today.  I love that stuff!

 

So this morning, I trudged (2 blocks) through the wind and rain to the meeting, and when I walked into the classroom only one other parent was there.  The class is small, there are only 13 students, but I couldn’t believe we were the only two people there!  The notes the kids had written to us were laid out on their desks, along with a guide from the teacher and a bookmark she had made up for us.  We waited for a few minutes to see if anyone else was coming, but finally Ms. Vedevino began her presentation.  She opened by reading the poem that was printed on the bookmark, called “Unity” (Author Unknown).

 

I dreamed I stood in a studio

And watched two sculptors there.

The clay they used was a young child’s mind.

And they finished it with care.

 

One was a teacher; the tools he used

Were books and music and art.

One a parent with a guiding hand

And a gentle and loving heart.

 

Day after day the teacher toiled

With a touch that was deft and sure,

While the parent labored by his side

And polished and smoothed it over.

 

And when at last their task was done

They were proud of what they had wrought,

For the thing they had molded into the child

Could neither be sold or bought.

 

And each agreed he would have failed

If he had worked alone.

From behind the parent stood the school

And behind the teacher, the home.

 

 

By the time she finished reading the poem I was choking back a major crying situation because my heart just ACHED for the kids who’s parents weren’t able to be there.  Of all the kids in the school, these kids need their parents there.  But many of them don’t speak English, or don’t live nearby, or have to work, and maybe some of them just don’t care.  Or believe that they could make any difference.  But as I looked around the room at all the notes these kids had written with the expectation that their parents would be sitting in their seats and learning about their class, and looked up at the presentation Ms. Vedovino had prepared for us, I just wanted to weep.  I wanted to go around and read all the kids’ notes and write them a little one back, like I did for Rahul.  I wanted to go to all their homes and talk with their parents and learn what had kept them away today.  I wanted to invite them all over for a playdate.  Except Jose, who Rahul gave a wedgie to yesterday because he was bullying him…oh, OK, Jose, too!

 

I have already experienced the second rate attention parents of ESL students and Special Ed students receive from the school.  I know we are the quiet wheel and without a little squeak we won’t get anything we want for our kids.  And I know that without the unity of parent and teacher described in the poem, our kids won’t make it.  I feel prepared to fight the crusade (because if Special Ed in public schools is not a crusade, I don’t know what is) and I hope I can drag a few others along with me.  I have become BFF with Manny, the vice-principal in charge of Special Ed, have emailed the PTA presidents, cozied up with the looney school psychologist, I do the ESL teacher’s hair (and her daughters’)…I’m trying to engage a strong team of people to help my son get through this year.

 

And I also volunteered to be the room mother.

Rahul with his grandparents in his class last year

 

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