Monday, April 29, 2013

Joy

                                                    Joy!

Here is my joy...

 I call him prozac with fur.

Three years ago he was born...he entered my life 1023 days ago.  There has not been a single day that he didn't add a little bit of joy.  Many, many days he's added big heaping gobs of joy to my life.  As a matter of fact, my love is irrational, biased, over the top and just plain sloppy.  

I like it that way.

I'm officially one of those dog people. And guess what, my dog is one of those kinds...the one who sticks by me, follows me around the house.  Wherever I am, he is.  

Do you notice my pile of clothes in the background of this pic??
 Yeah, me neither.

That's how it goes with Buddy.

He makes it all better.

When one more piece of crap piles on an already bad day and my tears can't hide anymore...little padded paws come and check on me.  They don't tell me to hush.  They don't ask me to explain or need me to think.  A pair of chocolate eyes just looks at me...a wet nose nudges...this unbelievably wise and gentle soul just bears witness and comforts.  He's just there.  Present in the moment.  That alone is enough.

I want to bring him to every hurting place on our planet.  I want him to comfort sad kids, lonely old people, angst-ridden teenagers...even my crabby, weird neighbor.  But then, I wonder.  Maybe his comfort is made for me alone.  (Well, I can't leave out the rest of my family, but you know what I mean.)  Maybe dogs and our other bright spots in our day are just that...our individual, made-just-for-us-in-this-crazy-universe kind of joy.  

Maybe our dog is like our fingerprint...personal, identifying and only ours.

It's a mystery.  
One of my very favorites.  
I waited a long, long time to get a dog...too long.
I'm so very grateful for him.
Grateful for his effervescence.
Grateful for his willingness to just hang out with me day in and day out.
Grateful that somehow our worlds collided and I get to be with him each and every day.

I marvel at the sheer luck...but maybe it is something bigger.
Maybe something, somewhere, knew I needed this kind of love.
Maybe, just maybe, it was meant to be.

Buddy...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Separate is NOT Equal...We Know This...Let's Move

"We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." 
United States Supreme Court, Brown vs. Board of Education (1954)


19freaking54.  What on earth are we still talking about 59 (!) years later?
Why is there any question how children are educated and why children are educated this way?
Why??
Because old habits die hard and ignorance and preconceived notions die even harder...or maybe they never die.

We have students separated from each other. All sorts of students.  We have the students that are identified as "gifted" (based on their performance on an exam) separated in my town from the rest of the students.  This is a big controversy here.  Ironically, this spot is a fully inclusive district for students that have identified special needs.  Those students are included in the regular classroom, no questions asked.  
How refreshing.

In other districts, if you have a child with an identified disability you have to fight your way into the regular kindergarten. As if all of those other typical kids entering kindergarten spoke coherently, had well-developed social skills, knew all of their phonemes and were ready to read. Ask any kindergarten teacher about her typical class.  She (or he) will tell you of the wildly differing abilities of the students.   This, in fact, couldn't be a better time to allow students with special needs into the regular classroom...but often the parents of these kids feel cornered into a separate classroom known as an SDC class (special day class -- that sounds super equal to the typical kindergarten class, right?) 
Wrong.

Here's the deal...separate is not equal.
It was true in 1954 and it is still true in 2013.

Let's look at the data.  We have 30+ years worth now.
It's overwhelming.

"The largest study of educational outcomes of 11,000 students with disabilities, the National Longitudinal Transition Study, showed that when students with disabilities spent more time in a general education classroom they were more likely to score higher on standardized tests of reading and math; have fewer absences from school; experience fewer referrals for disruptive behavior; and achieve more positive post-school outcomes such as a paying job, not living in segregated housing, and with having a broad and supportive social network. These results were true regardless of students’ disability, severity of disability, gender or socioeconomic status."
Also, the data is substantial for non-disabled students within that same classroom -- they do better too.  Together, they also are learning how to live with each other in a positive way so the social implications are huge too.
(cited by Cheryl M. Jorgensen, Ph.D., University of New Hampshire)

In a nutshell, if a student with disabilities is in a fully inclusive school environment they have a better chance at:
1) finding work
2) making friends
3) living independently
4) having a serious and lasting relationship

In short, they get a real chance at freedom.
That is exactly what Brown vs. Board of Education was fighting for...freedom.  They were fighting for a real chance.  Fighting for some hope.  
Fighting for the opportunity to become the person they were meant to be.

We ALL deserve that chance.  Kids with disabilities are no exception.

At two different places, with two different groups of educators I was pleading my case this week. On my way to speech #2 in the car I was practicing my presentation out loud.  Out of annoyance and silliness at having to say that "separate is not equal" in another room of educators in 2013, I decided to call myself The Lorax.  
Only instead of speaking for trees, I'm speaking for something even more important: kids.

Who doesn't want to find work, make friends, live independently, or have a serious relationship?
Nobody.
All people want is a chance.
That's all anybody deserves.
It's a given.  We figured it out 59 years ago...
can we please follow through?

Imagine how amazing our world would be if we used the vast and amazing and exponentially growing technology to actually serve our students in inclusive classrooms.

Imagine not having to prove yourself just to get through the door?

Why should ANY kindergartener not be included?  
You tell me.

Why should any student be told you're not good enough?
Why should any student have a separate education?

We have a beautifully written law called the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).  It was ground-breaking legislation in 1972.  And it stated boldly:
 “Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.”

WOW!!!
That right there is telling the students with disabilities to come out of the shadows. 
Get out there and "fully participate".
You are part of us.
You deserve every opportunity.

19freaking72. That's when that law was written. 
Why are we still talking about it?

Open the doors.
Let the students into the very same classroom as all of the others.
Use technology.
Use the best practices for teachers that we know work.
Give supports to the students who need it.
Use the internet to connect with educators who are doing it right this minute and doing it well.
Watch the magic.
Watch the typical students rise to the occasion.
Give them that chance.
Watch the students with disabilities rise to the occasion.
Get ready to smile and know joy and see social justice and educational equity in action.
Full inclusion's time is now.

Ben Franklin said it best:
"There are three types of people: the immovable, the movable and those that move."

Let's move.

video
It's Where's Waldo!  Can you spot the kid with a disability during PE?
They are all just having fun...they all deserve to...together.







Monday, April 15, 2013

Slip Sliding Away

"Darn the wheel of the world.  Why must it continually turn over?  
Where is the reverse gear?" 
-- Jack London

We negotiated.  She wanted a shower.  I wanted to give her a bath.  We compromised as we fortunately can often find our way to do: I'd wash her hair in the tub and chat for a minute.  I'd enjoy her hair, her little face wet with water, her closed eyes and lashes laden with dew drops. I'd notice her leaning her head way back, letting me rinse and rinse and rinse long after it was necessary.  I'd wash her face and touch those cheeks and suck up that smell of cleaning away the grime of the day and getting ready for the night.

After that, she'd get to have a shower on her own.  I'd set it up and hand her the soap and give her the freedom of water rushing down, time alone lost in her thoughts, the privacy and big-ness she is ready for and waiting for.  Darn.

I remember reading a long time ago that we make a big deal about the beginnings.  We take photos of the first day, the first time, the first class and we record them.  But no one gives us the memo on the last day, the last moment, the last time.  Hardly ever can we tell that it's ending.  It just slip slides away...morphs into something new and before we know it, it's over.

Because I've done this a few times, I'm more aware of the endings as they approach.  I'm on the look out now.  I know.
I can feel it and now I take the mental photograph.

I can't tell you how many baths I've given but I am my mother's daughter and she loves a clean child.  She scours the fingernails (I still remember my fingernails hurting from her own fingernail cleaning underneath mine), washes behind the ears and inside the corners of the eyes.  She gets in every nook and cranny and the result is a very clean child.  

I am the same. 
 I never minded giving baths.  I loved the forced opportunity of stopping and slowing down and cleaning and caring for my babies.  I cherished the smell of a fresh-from-the-the-tub child.  I snuggled in bath towels as long as possible, giggled at the naked adorableness, watched those bouncing booties...but now, twenty years into it, my time is running out.

I know.  I know.  Get over it.  
It's not that big a deal.  But for me, it's another reminder that the joy of babyhood, toddlerhood, preschoolerville and yes even early elementary school is on its way out.  My chickadee is turning seven in just a few weeks and her patient tolerance for my intensive mothering in the bath department is going down the drain...the final whirlpool is beautiful.  It's all very very good.  I'm just noticing.

So, today, I'm grateful for the few baths I have left.  Grateful that I have had the joy and chance of bathing four kids.  Grateful for the bounty of clean water that I so often use with the barest of acknowledgements, knowing there are millions of mothers who would love nothing more than to put their baby in a hot bath and scrub them clean.

Today I'm grateful for my baby and my ability to finally see the bend in the road and know that it's all changing...as it should be...
in all the right ways.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

It's All Yours


"I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today.  
I can choose which it shall be.  Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet.  
I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it."  
--Groucho Marx


Sometimes I wake up and realize I get a fresh start.  A brand new day.  No old news.  No shadows.  No expectations.  Just a beautiful new day and it's all mine.  My one and only.

When I wake up like this, I view my world through a different lens.  Even the radio blaring away seems  new.  I contemplate the morning routines that I never think about.  I change it up.  Even if my regular daily obligations are still the same, when I am like this, it is all up for negotiation.  

I ask myself...do I want to spend my day this way?  Do I want to go through these same motions?  Do I enjoy the view?  The soundtrack?  The characters in my story? Who's the villain?  Who's the hero?  Who is the mysterious stranger in the background that I never noticed?  What is the action or reaction that might change the entire trajectory of the day?

It's heady to think this way.  It's transformational.  It's all yours.

Sometimes we are in a spiral, chasing our tails.  Whenever I watch Buddy doing this, I always smile.  I think of it as a movie preview that God has just whispered to me.  What am I chasing that is already within my grasp if I would only stop and notice or view from a different vantage point?  Why am I chasing anything?  How can I simply flow like the river...using the stones in my way to make larger ripples...more beauty...better sound?  How can I act like water...expanding and contracting as needed? 

I marvel at the opportunity a new day brings.  Strangers crossing my path, old friends, family, and the regulars.  You know them.  They're the dry cleaning the lady, the mailman, the neighbor who always walks her dog the same time you do, the guy who always checks out your groceries at the market.  These are the background notes to your symphony.  How quiet it would seem without them there...but do I ever stop to truly see them? To cherish our paths crossing? To hear their unique and vibrant notes that they bring to my daily song? I do, on days like this.

So...today is all yours.  Your one and only 4.6.13.  My one and only one too.  I'm going to cherish it.  Savor it.  Listen to great music. Dance. Love. Get curious and snuggle.  Those are my priorities.
I can change them up tomorrow -- add a few, subtract a few.
That's the beauty of today and I'm grateful for it.