When Education Works
Last Friday, I picked my son up from school as I do every day. He is in a "special day class," a full time autism preschool program run by our school district. My husband and I didn't know we would need this type of thing when we moved into our current house. We weren't even married yet, let alone thinking about where to send our future kids to school. In fact, we hadn't thought about schools much; we figured we'd be out of this house and on to our next one by the time our kids were in kindergarten. And while all schools have to provide appropriate services (FAPE), the quality of those services is variable. We were lucky that our district has several good programs. But I wasn't aware of just how lucky we were until last week.
It was the last day of the regular school year. As is typical on the last day of school, parents came with cards and gifts, tokens of their appreciation for their teachers' hard work. But as the special ed classes filed out, and parents said goodbye to the teachers for one last time that year, I witnessed something amazing: these goodbyes were unlike anything I'd seen at a school before. These goodbyes were beautiful and painful, like saying goodbye to someone you've shared a long journey with. The teachers and moms were hugging and sharing words of support, tears welling up in both of their eyes. My son's babysitter, who is working toward her credential in special education, and I were both tearing up just watching them.
Because of the timing of my son's birthday, he had only been attending this school for two weeks. (He qualified to start as soon as he turned three.) We both immediately took to his teacher but I hadn't had enough time to build up a relationship with her nor had I had a chance to get to know any of the other parents in my son's class. Over those two weeks, however, I did see the same moms coming to pick up their kids each day. I especially noticed the moms with older kids, providing a glimpse into what my future may hold. These moms looked so together, full of experience and knowledge. But this last day, I realized how much emotion they continue to have about their children's disabilities, and how grateful they are for caring, wonderful teachers who make a difference in these kids' lives in tangible ways every day. These teachers are not just teaching ABCs and 123s, they are giving their children - my child - a chance to have the lives we've dreamt for them.Continued on the next page