MARK ME ABSENT

To say this school year has been bumpy would be an understatement.

Our school is a wonderfully unique place. It’s a public charter school. The charter is inclusion. The student body strives to mirror the real world average ratio of typical students, gifted students (about 20%) and I.E.P. (Individual Education Plan) students (also about 20%). The I.E.P. students are those who have learning disabilities, behavioral disabilities or physical disabilities.

The children are all taught together in the same classroom(s) and there are no pullout services (i.e. kids who receive speech or physical therapy being removed from class to do so – therapies are integrated into the class). The classes are co-taught by a general education teacher who is supported by a special education teacher. Modifications are made to school and homework that challenge, or better access different students. Moreover, the children in our community are exposed to all different kinds of kids and quickly learn that despite sometimes obvious differences, they’re all more alike than not. Compassion and acceptance abound.

That said, it’s not an easy task to walk into a class with twenty something new students (yes, we have small class sizes too!) with various issues and have everything magically fall into place. It takes a lot of skill, patience, insight and dedication. It also requires adequate support of the special education teacher, collaboration with the families, as well as with the paraprofessionals who support the kids with needs. Successful school years are those where everyone is working together, communicating and supporting each other, as well as supporting the student.

Cole’s had great school years. He’s had ones that started bumpy before, like his fourth grade school year. He started school in full leg casts and a giant wheelchair that couldn’t fit near a desk or near his communication device due to a summer hip replacement surgery. He was miserable and disheartened that he couldn’t access things as he was accustomed to. On top of that, he had a brand new teacher. A teacher who did not yet have experience with kids like Cole and who at first seemed terrified. A month in, the casts came off. Cole returned to his usual chair and happily participated in class again. His teacher gained confidence, learned to access some of the more difficult kids, and quickly became one of the best teachers at the school. Definitely one of Cole’s favorites, and mine. Fourth grade ended up being a terrific year.

This year however has been slow to pick up. All of his teachers (in 7th grade you have six classes) are new to both our school, and a couple to teaching. There’s a great learning curve for all of them in general, coupled with the challenge of middle school kids.

Sadly none of seems to be working well and for the first time since he started pre-school, Cole routinely doesn’t want to go to school. This is a kid who formerly would tell you that he’d like to live at school. He used to be happy to get ready each morning, and was reluctant to go home at the end of the day. Now he wants nothing to do with it. We have a team meeting coming up where I hope we can make some strides toward improving things. One of the new teachers resigned last week, and a new permanent replacement will start after Thanksgiving. Perhaps fresh eyes on things will help with everything. This school is unlike anywhere else and I can’t imagine Cole thriving in a different environment. I have faith that things can improve.

One Response

  1. Cynthia, Thank you for sharing. I had no idea this was such a difficult time for Cole. A bumpy start indeed! Hopefully this too will work out for the best. The greatest aspect of Chime is that they only want the best for their students and will do whatever they can to help. I know how difficult that must be for all of you every morning. This seems to be such a huge year in terms of change and transition. I think all of our kids are morphing into the unknown, sure to keep us all on our toes. even more so in the years ahead. Please let me know if I can help support you and Cole in any way. Xo

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