Today I had the opportunity to volunteer in my son’s classroom. This was my third time in the classroom and each time I am nervous to go (apparently kindergarteners scare me) but I’m so grateful when I leave. Seriously, kindergarteners are the best therapists in the world!
I was able to witness first-hand inclusion working for our son. He was an equal and valued part of his classroom.
It was like seeing my dreams for my son’s kindergarten experience played out in real life. My heart was filled with joy!
Any of you that follow this blog know this has not always been the case. At the beginning of the school year, I found myself caught in a constant rainstorm just hoping for a rainbow to magically appear. I was in a constant state of bracing myself for the next storm without the time or energy to dream about the future. But lately, thanks to one key change, our days have been full of sunshine and no rain. Rather than being so weighed down by the stress of what the daily report would say, our son’s successes have lighted my mind. I have even allowed myself to dream BIG thoughts of inclusion working for him well into the future.
Now each day at pick-up we bust into his backpack like it is Christmas morning, looking for the gifts of the day. Finished work, notes from the teacher that are positive and include words we have dreamed of hearing like, “participated,” “laughed,” and “knew.” He is doing it! He is a part of a kindergarten classroom with friends that engage in conversation with him; want to play with him and where he is celebrated!
One day just prior to pick-up, his class was walking back from P.E. and our son was leading the line. All of the other kids naturally slowed their pace and walked behind him content to let him lead, at his pace. My heart burst. This is inclusion. He has the power to be himself and the other kids are becoming kinder and more patient (without even realizing it). But, the beauty of it all is how naturally it happens. The kids adjust to his slower pace without giving it a second thought because he is a valued member of their class. Everybody benefits from an inclusive classroom.
I am ashamed to admit that in the first few weeks of school I would catch myself thinking of ways to help our son to “fit” into his classroom. That isn’t inclusion. Inclusion is making his classroom the best for him and his classmates so they all can succeed together. Inclusion is our son having the power to be himself and have meaningful experiences that will increase his confidence and help prepare him for the future; to live in the one world we all share.
Inclusion has been an investment. It requires a lot of time, knowledge and energy to ensure our son has all the resources he needs to succeed. It requires knowing what is best for him and not settling for anything less. But in return, there are days like today when I had the privilege of watching my dreams play out in real life. I got share my gratitude by writing an email to the principal just to say, “Thank you,” and praise the work of her team.
There is always going to be bad days, more work to be done, and improvements that can be made to make the inclusion more valuable, but days like today, feel pretty darn good.
If you feel like you are caught in a rainstorm right now, I’ve been there too. I understand the pressure you feel to do and be the best for your child. I understand the anxiety that comes with each day and the feeling that you are failing your child when things aren’t working out. I’ve been there, and I’m sure I will be there again a million times more. It’s hard and it’s tiring, but stay strong, stay confident and never give up on your child or your vision of what the future holds. Our kids WILL achieve their goals!