21 March, 2012

Every Kid Is A Person

I wasn't asked to have a conference with Lucy's teacher, Ms. June, but Lucy asked me to make an appointment just the same. I sort of wanted to check-in anyway given that my daughter is already a different kind of person than I was at her age with her own way of learning things and her own worries and passions.

She is enough like me that I see myself --my mannerisms, for example, and I can hear my inflections in her voice, and yet she is enough different that I do not always understand what makes her tick when I tock. So I like to get other people's perspective on her whenever I can. We have lots of people who report about Jake to us, since he can't tell us his stories himself. There is even a journal that travels back and forth to school each day for Jake, but my daughter with her 31 other classmates... it would be impossible for any teacher to write a note about each child, each day.

Sometimes I get anxious before I meet with teachers; education is different than the business world where I am generally confident. I have a reverence for teachers, and admiration for their service. And they do something I'm not sure I could do each day. Teachers, especially those that have been around for awhile,  really know kids, so any comment about my child from a teacher is founded on having known hundreds and hundreds of children, and those opinions carry more weight to me.

Of course the meeting went just fine. Lucy is on track and she is a good kid and she has friends, and she keeps writing the number 4 backwards. I saw a sampling of her work where I can see how much she has improved in just the last month with her letters and her coloring. Her pictures have great details and she seems to get the essence of the stories she hears. She's doing well. I was relieved, but I can't help but think there is more we should be doing.

Lucy's teacher and I chatted a bit more,  debating piano lessons versus violin, tennis instead of soccer. Then about how being tall generally gets you more responsibility at an earlier age, at least that's what I experienced. And when Ms. June mentioned that Lucy shows a nice maturity she quickly told me about something that happened just today.

There is a 'little person' at Lucy's school, and apparently some children had teased this boy at recess. When Ms. June took them back to the class (after having the story related to her by the yard duty aide) she sat the children down to have a discussion about differences. They talked about how it would feel to be made fun of for something that is just a part of you. They talked about all kinds of differences there can be, and Ms. June said that as soon as the conversation started Lucy raised her hand. I am paraphrasing but I have now heard the story from both Ms. June and Lucy, and they each related about the same thing.

With conviction, Lucy told her classmates:
My brother has autism, and he has a wheelchair. He's different. But he still likes to decide things and make choices. We offer him two choices because he doesn't communicate like we do, but he still wants to decide things. Every kid is a person, so you should just say, "Hello." and ask, "How are you today?" because even if they don't talk like you do, you should still say hello.
There I was, worried about how far along she is in reading, and stressed about the number four... and as it turns out, some of the hardest things to teach, respect, accepting differences, presuming competence..she's understands those things. She knows her non-verbal brother has opinions and that he deserves to be heard. She knows that "every kid is a person."

And perhaps I am most pleased that she has it written on her heart to stand and be heard. I'm grateful that she could face her peers and unabashedly advocate for that young man, and she did it on her own without prompting or practice. I am so proud of her.

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