The Inclusion Class
When we first got the placement letter for my 4th grade son this year I noticed it had 2 teachers' names on it. I live in a town where this could mean a number of things. The first which I know was not the case could be that he was in a dual language class. I know that was not it because he is in 4th and that starts earlier and after much debate and research, I admit my parenting geekness but it is all with good intent, I had already decided that it was not a program I wanted my kids in but is a good option to have. I still think we should teach kids another language other than English much earlier than we do in the States, maybe starting in 1st grade, as a subject, conversational first and add grammar later. Two teachers could also mean collaborative class - which is basically 2 classes combined with two teachers. Neither son would do well with this - the oldest is much too social and the youngest does not have tolerance for that much chaos. I did what every overbearing mom does in the internet age - I emailed the school and of course checked the town Mom FB page for info. He was in an inclusion class.
I who proudly and diligently have gotten services to help my older son with his fine motor issues, I who could care less really what people think about this except if they are going to be mean to him in which case forget that we are in Westchester 'cause Queens girl will give you a beat down. I who really pride myself in being self-aware and who befriends people based on their actions not their appearance or beliefs. Me -- all that -- well I actually took a deep breath and did not know if I was happy about it.
Why the PC police will ask. Why some of my friends will ask. Why am I acting this way I actually asked myself. It is because if it is different and unknown or veers off the path and if you do not admit that you have your own questions how will you ever get comfortable with it? I did not know what this meant for my son, who has worked on patience in the classroom because he used to ask out loud how many times a teacher had to explain something if he had gotten a concept already, my son who up to 4th grade had learned fairly quickly and then drifts if you do not challenge him and who is working on being ok with just waiting it out because that's life.
Maybe it is that anything that is an impact on what your expectation is for our children, that veers from the path you think they are on, that is not the way you anticipated it gives pause to parents. We want to protect them, to make sure they are the best at whatever they choose to be, that the world which is ever so harsh to them is kept as soft as possible for as long as possible. We know that what gives us pause can translate to mean behavior in children and adults.
So here I was and in just a few hours of receiving the letter and getting my information, official from school it is an inclusion class, unofficial from other moms "she is a good teacher, my son was in an inclusion class for many years and it was great it was like having 2 teachers for 23 kids" and after reflecting on my own thoughts I was comfortable. I was comfortable and actually thought how good an opportunity this was.
My son would benefit because he needs to learn to be able to work at the pace of a group, slower or faster than him, and if he needs help then he needs to learn to ask for it. It would teach him that people who have educational needs are his peers not "special needs" label on top of a body. It would mean that kids who would have felt ostracized or not have had help now were part of a community as they should be.
Inclusion is not only about the kids who have extra help but it is a great lesson for our kids on how to be kind to others who are not like them - to accept people for who they are and their actions not by a label that is attached to them. My son is doing well, he did not the first 2 weeks. Not for any of the reasons I thought but because his non-inclusion teacher was a bit standoffish. I am not one that needs hugs in the classroom but I saw what he meant at back to school night. - she seemed to just be not engaged. The special needs teacher on the other hand was totally upbeat, maybe that's why they are a combo. That has since changed, maybe she needed time to get to know the class much like they needed time to get to know one another.
Does my son realize that he is in an inclusion class ? Yes he does but he could care less and in fact invited one of the kids (there are 3) who he has befriended to his birthday party. It has given us a good opportunity to talk about how to be with people who are not like us and in a town as diverse as mine it seems that the only thing that doesn't fly is being mean to someone based on who they are. It still happens because drama and school are just a part of growing up but much less for the reasons I see in other places.
As a parent I guess the biggest thing I learned was that we are all imperfect in some way and isn't that what makes the world so much more interesting? Kids and adults are not one thing; not their race, not their sexual orientation, not their religion or lack of it, not their limitations, not their successes - they are the sum of all of these things. The only thing we should not be inclusive of is mistreatment of others in the name of these things. Now I think - "What a wonderful gift this has been for my son - to be in an inclusion class!!!"