I attended a workshop for teachers of ELL students (English Language Learners) today. This year I am teaching three sections of Algebra 2, one section of Honors Geometry, and one section of ELL Geometry. It's a small class of eight; they are all Hispanic and all have varying levels of English proficiency and math proficiency so it's a challenge. I've been to so many different workshops over the past 10 years, some better than others, but this is the first one I've attended since Tera's been born and I have to say I found myself distracted by thoughts of her future education.
I always thought it would be difficult and interesting to be on the other side of the desk one day as a parent instead of a teacher and as it turns out, that day will come quicker than I anticipated it would. Tera is currently in Early Intervention which is how her therapies are arranged and how she is evaluated. When she turns three, she'll transition out of Early Intervention and into Early Childhood which means she really will be in school, not just at Montessori which we call school. We will have to meet with a new person to write goals, or an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), for Tera every year that she is in school until she graduates high school. This is a realm that I am very unfamiliar with in education just because I don't have much experience with it. I have some knowledge of how it works as a result of having students that have IEP's in my classes, but I have no idea what to expect when it comes time to address Tera's teachers about what we expect from her that year and how we want her to go about doing it.
Tom and I have always done well in school. I was always the hard-worker, top of my class, honors and AP classes and he was always the classic, "does not work up to potential" but could still get by with mostly B's. While I was pregnant we discussed how we would address the academic issue with our child. As the educator, my view was that I would always expect them to do their best. If that meant a B or even a C, that was okay as long as I knew they were doing everything to the best of their abilities.
Unlike so many other things, I don't think that has changed. I now know that I will have to fight to make sure she is where I think she can do her best and then make sure she has all the tools she needs to be the best that she can. As a teacher I've seen kids mainstreamed or "included" when it seemed like maybe that wasn't in their best interest. But at some point we'll have to be in that position to decide whether we think she will be more successful in an inclusive setting or a special education setting. I've read many posts about parents fighting for their kids to be included because they deserved the same opportunities as other students. And I completely agree with that if it's in their best interest. Sometimes a student can't get the attention they may need from a regular ed classroom and I don't want Tera to lose out on critical instruction or attention because we're worried about her being "regular". At that point, we'll make sure she can be "regular" someplace else because I'm not willing to risk her education.
Now I do have a few years before these decisions have to be made and there's a very good chance I'll change my mind or point of view on this one or more times before she's actually in the situation, but I'd like to think she'll be that great kid that all the other kids want to work with not because she has Down Syndrome, but because she's friendly and funny and hard-working, and completely adorable.