Saturday, 23 March 2013

What a Week!

 This has been one incredible week for inclusion at our school.  One of our guys in grade 6 is transitioning to junior high in the next month and for many reasons his parents decided that Spring Break would be a natural end here and beginning there.  However, I can't begin to tell you how sad our staff and students were to see him go.  His friends in grade 6 were genuinely grieved that he would not be in their class after spring break.  In order to give him a great send off, they prepared letters for him to tell them what an impact he had made on their lives and what they would miss about him.  The letters were heartfelt expressions of love and friendship for this student.  Students wrote:
                         *You always know how to cheer me up.
                       *You shared your sled with me at recess.
                            *You were so fun to play with at recess.
                     *You are a genius when it comes to animals.
                 *You know so much about dinosaurs that I would ask you instead of the computer.
                              *You were my friend and I appreciated that.
                    *You were kind to everyone.
                            *You were always happy.
These are only a few that I can remember off the top of my head, but reading the letters warmed my heart because they meant it.  They included this guy like just one of the class.  They appreciated his strengths and looked past his difficulties.  On his last day, they enclosed him in a semi-circle and he took turns throwing a rubber fish to each classmate who then told him verbally what he meant to him/her.  It was beautiful to watch and our guy loved being in charge of the fish and obviously enjoyed the heartfelt comments.  He was truly included. Has it been a long road to get here?  Yah, but just watching that circle enclosing him in their midst gave me goosebumps.  There has been real change here.  Students are including their peers regardless of challenges.  But, we all know the kids have an easier time. . .  it is the adults we have to educate but that is happening too.  The staff will really miss this guy; his funny jokes, his laughter, his body bobbing up the hall and his love of animals.  Good luck in your junior high, kiddo.  You will be amazing!

     On  another note, my little grade one guy  took part in the class leading our regular Leader in Me assembly last Thursday.  Some of his classmates spoke to the class, some read a poem, they showed a stop animation video of the first four habits (clink on link)
and finally they sang a song.  Our guy is learning to speak and sign so I watched as he sat with his class at the front of the assembly until the end when they were going to sing.  He sat quietly with an EA beside him watching everything going on.  Not so much included except he was sitting there with his class.  But, when the song started, the music teacher had joined them and was accompanying them on the guitar.  Well, our guy was accompanying the group as well, on the finger cymbals.  It took him one verse to warm up and then he joined right in. First, he played along with the rhythm of the piece and then he switched to the steady beat.  He was thrilled to be playing and contributing and it showed on his face and his body as he moved to the music.  His music teacher made his inclusion authentic and meaningful.  He participated how he could and loved it.  The smile on his face after told all.  He was very pleased with himself.  I am not sure there was a dry eye in the house for the staff.  Wasn't it just months ago this little guy was so frustrated with us and our lack of understanding that he was raging every day?  Now here is was included with his class, his abilities embraced by his music teacher who now knows that he gets to pick an instrument every class so he can take part.

What a way to end the term!  Each time I think about those last two days of school, I get goosebumps and I feel so happy for these kids.  Both the kids we "include" (as if we are doing something so special for them when it is their right to be in school) and those who surround these guys.  I read an article about inclusion the other day by Jen Jones on the Undersold Benefits of Inclusion .  This doesn't just benefit the kids being included, but the kids surrounding them experience great benefits also.  They are learning that everyone is different and that is okay.

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