Red Clay parent Ashley Sabo, who I’ve written about a few times on here, just gave a stirring public comment at the Red Clay board meeting. While I wasn’t there, Ashley was kind enough to share it with me.
As an involved parent and inclusion advocate, the magnitude of inclusion did not become real until my daughter started kindergarten last year. It was with great trepidation, major anxiety and a lot of prayer that we put her in full inclusion at Forest Oak. We met with her teacher soon into the school year and we continued the constant communication throughout the year. It did not take long at all to know that not only did we make the right decision putting her in full inclusion, but when it came to Kindergarten teachers we hit the jackpot.
Jackie Gallagher worked with our daughter, Anna, to meet her where she was then pushed her forward to develop new skills and abilities and onward to success. When one method or plan didn’t work for Anna, she would alter things. If equipment or modifications were needed she worked tirelessly to get them. She reached out to other staff who had different knowledge and experience to create new ways for Anna to learn. She approached each day with understanding and patience and behind her was an administration who listened not only to the teacher but to us as parents – fully respecting our expertise when it comes to our daughter and was committed to the mindset that Anna was just as much a Forest Oak student as any other student without special needs.
We often hear about needing to close the achievement gap and more rigor, rigor, rigor. I can assure you it was not the rigorous worksheets and overwhelming curriculum thrown at kindergarteners these days which made Anna’s year successful. It was the open communication between parent, teacher and administration. It was the willingness to be flexible and make adjustments. It was the collaboration between colleagues to develop plans and find the right resources which made Anna’s kindergarten year so successful.
Growth and success will never be from a standardized test or learning at a computer. Closing the achievement gap is not something that can be done through legislation.
Successful inclusion happens when the line of communication between parent, teacher and administrator is always open. When requests for resources and equipment are met in a timely manner. When teachers are flexible and willing to make changes to meet the needs of their students.
Seeing the joy as my daughter received a birthday invitation to her classmate’s party is the outcome of inclusion and is proof inclusion can be a wonderfully, beautiful thing.
If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And Inclusion is worth doing so we need to make sure it stays as a top priority and that changes take place so that we can look back and say Red Clay has done well.