"Sometimes grace manifests itself as synchronicity -- its energy brings together people or events in a soothing, helpful, or dramatic way when you most need it and least expect it. At other times grace is the energy that suddenly illuminates us with understanding, allowing us to see what we had not been able to grasp before. Grace can also lift us into an altered state of consciousness, suffused by an unfamiliar energy -- an indescribable combination of love, hope and fearlessness."
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Tony Tobin Elementary School -- What Do You Stand For??
*** Note: This might seem eerily familiar to my last post. It is!! This is a special post written on behalf of a friend who is working full tilt to have her son attend his neighborhood school fully included.***
Do you ever wonder why
social change takes so long?
PEOPLE AWARE OF AN INJUSTICE
THOSE WHO CARE ABOUT IT
THOSE WHO SPEAK UP ABOUT IT
THOSE WHO GIVE MONEY
THOSE WHO GIVE TIME
THOSE WHO TAKE INITIATIVE
Be an ally.
Beautiful Temecula, California holds an elementary school called Tony Tobin Elementary.
It's named after an amazing long time citizen of Temecula, Tony Tobin.
He was interested in recording his area of the world's history.
He helped to build a museum and worked to save the historic chapel in town.
He was proud of Temecula and worked to make his city better.
Would he be proud of his namesake school?
Here is the mission statement of Tony Tobin Elementary:
"To ensure that each student will build a strong foundation of knowledge and skills, think independently, work collaboratively, and develop mutual respect and self-worth.
Our school will set the educational standard of excellence of
today, tomorrow and into the future."
That's a pretty noble mission statement.
I'd be pretty proud if I was the real Tony Tobin...
except for one tiny thing...
that mission statement doesn't seem to apply to all of its students.
It appears that if you have Down Syndrome,
you don't get to attend the same school as your sister.
Monday was the first day of school and Hudson had to stand at the door of his home and watch his sister get her backpack on and head to second grade.
He had his backpack on.
He was ready for kindergarten.
He was uninvited.
To a public school.
His neighborhood school.
Alongside his sister.
Husdon, it turns out, has a little too much Down Syndrome.
Which, by the way, isn't even a thing.
People with Down Syndrome either have it or they don't.
They are all learners.
They all have hopes and dreams.
Some might be more delayed but that doesn't mean they aren't learning.
What's going on in kindergarten that a child with Down Syndrome can't participate in?
Is it the social skills?
Well, let's be honest, Hudson won't be the only one who needs to work on that.
Is it the academics?
Pretty sure that Hudson isn't the only one who could use some extra help there.
Do you think that Hudson is so retarded that he can't "develop a foundation of knowledge, think independently, work collaboratively, and develop mutual respect and self-worth."
Pretty positive that Hudson could do every single one of those things with your guidance, support and high expectations.
Hudson isn't broken.
He doesn't need any fixing.
He just needs an opportunity.
The opportunity to go to his neighborhood school.
You know when they wrote the federal law in 1972, the authors had the audacity to write that "disability is a natural part of human experience and in no way diminishes the rights of individuals to participate in or to contribute to society.
Way back then, before the internet, Google, apps and Ipads, those visionaries thought
BIG and BOLD.
They actually believed a person with a disability had the ability to learn and contribute.
How can Hudson learn or contribute if he can't even attend his neighborhood kindergarten?
How can he contribute if he is segregated?
May 17th, 2014 marked the 60th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court Decision of Brown vs.The Board of Education.
SIXTY YEARS ago the Supreme Court decided that "separate was not equal".
How in good conscience can you perpetuate segregation sixty years after the fact??
It is educationally unsound.
We have thirty years of research to support the academic and social success for students with disabilities who are fully included.
We also have the research for the rest of the kids.
Every single study.All of the research.Supports the positive social and academic benefits for typical students too.
We need bravery.
We need courage.
We need a whole crew of people to step up and shout that Hudson deserves to be here.
Right alongside their own kid.
Learning and growing.
We need voices.
We need action.
We need to live social justice and not just talk about it.
Tony Tobin -- the school, the faculty, the parents, the students -- where are you??
Do you even know this is happening?
I know because I've lived it.
My own son, Patrick, who also has Down Syndrome, went to kindergarten at
St. James School in Davis, California.
His neighborhood school...six houses away from our house.
He actually went to first and second and third and fourth and fifth and sixth and seventh and yes, even eighth grade there.
He just graduated this year.
Was it perfect?
Did we learn a lot?
Was it worth it?
Could we help you??
I've got not just one kindergarten teacher but two that would be willing to help.
(Heck, I've even got a couple of principals who would talk to you!)
They are amazing teachers and yes, they believe that Hudson can learn
alongside of his classmates.
In fact, they know he will read and write and learn his math facts just like the rest.
It might take some more repetition. It might take several different ways.
But it will happen.
In Hudson's way. In his timing.
And it will be exactly right.
And, I'd love to have an excuse to visit you down in beautiful Temecula
and introduce you to Patrick...heck, maybe I could even meet Tony Tobin himself!
I'd love to do an inservice for your teachers and share what we've learned.
I work with beginning teachers as my job with our local university, UC Davis.
I can send you a resume.
And guess what?
We know what to do.
We know the teaching techniques that work.
We know what apps work.
We know how to use technology to help learners like Hudson
...and here's the good part...
that research, that technology, those teaching techniques won't just help Hudson,
they will help all of your struggling learners...
and let's not pretend that Hudson is the only student who struggles.
There's a guaranteed 10% that struggle.
In every classroom.
Your entire school will benefit with Hudson's inclusion, both academically and socially.
Here's another mind-blower:
In the entire United Kingdom, it is standard practice to place every child with
Down Syndrome into their neighborhood school fully included with support in kindergarten.
If it's good enough for the UK, don't you think Tony Tobin Elementary could try?
I know you want to do what's best for Hudson
and the rest of the students who attend your school.
I know you care.
What's best for Hudson (and the entire student body) is creating an environment that allows Hudson
to learn at the same school as his sister.
What's best for Hudson (and the entire student body) is the message that he is valuable.
And good enough.
That's how you develop "mutual respect and self worth."
You actually walk the walk and talk the talk.
You live it.
As a school.
It stops becoming just some words on a website and starts to actually become the vision for your school.
ALL students can learn here.
ALL students are valuable.
We'll find a way.
Can you imagine how proud Tony Tobin would be??
Can you imagine how proud you would be as educators??
No one gets into education to be a separatist and exclusive.
Educators by their very nature love the underdog.
You should love your struggling students in such a way that they feel valued, honored, supported and expected to do great things
...and then watch what happens...
they'll do just that.
They will rise to the occasion.
They just need an opportunity.
Access to the curriculum.
And an unwavering belief that they will achieve.
Tony Tobin could put his name to that.
Stop being afraid.
Stop thinking you can't do this.
You just have to believe it is possible.
Do you think it's an accident that Hudson's mom and I crossed paths?
I know it's what the universe intended.
Here is Patrick on his graduation day, May 30th, 2014.
It is my fervent hope that Hudson's mom will be inviting me to Hudson's graduation from his fully inclusive placement in 5th grade at Tony Tobin Elementary in six years.