As I sit here on Canada Day, feeling like the year is officially over, I am able to sit and ponder. Like most teachers in North America, my year begins in Aug/Sept and ends in June (July is New Years Eve and August is New Years Day). This year has contained stress for me on a multitude of levels. At home, I learned to deal with my first born's independence. He took a step out of his comfort zone and moved back to Illinois to live with his grandparents and go to college/university there (he made the dean's list both semesters, FYI). Our church life had its own stressors (which I will not go into). And then there was my class.
This particular group of students was what I like to call the "perfect storm". It was a lively combination of autism, developmental delay (which I strongly suspect is actually Fetal Alcohol Syndrome), children on the younger end (half didn't turn 5 until Oct-Dec), and a few that if they were diagnosed with ADHD or learning disabilities later on wouldn't surprise me. I went home many Fridays conflicted. On the one hand I was glad it was Friday, but on the other hand, I was wishing I had one more day, one more chance to get it right. It was a rocking good year, I tell you!
But what did I learn from this group that I couldn't have learned from anyone else?
-Slow down, take your time
-Look closely at everything
-In every situation, there is an explanation (and sometimes a really funny story!)
-Kindergarten children will tell you ANYTHING (I already knew that one, but I certainly wasn't prepared when one child told me his uncle was sent to jail).
-Play is not a 4 letter word! And I refuse to say "inquiry based learning" again. It is play and play is how we learn. Because that is how our brains work!
I learned about Inclusion in a way I have never understood before. I have taught preschool and kindergarten at an inclusive day care. I have worked with children with autism, Downs Syndrome and developmental delay. I thought I understood what inclusion was. But this year taught me that inclusion is more than just having children with special needs in the classroom. Inclusion is a not singling out, not propping up, not paying lip service to special needs. It is community. It is being together through thick or thin. It is learning to communicate my needs in such a way that everyone understands. It is teaching children that fair isn't always equal. Some children need a little more than others. Sometimes we all need a little more than others. It is helping others and allowing others to help us. It is caring enough about someone that you are willing to deal with a melt-down because you know, in the end, they will be better off without getting their way.
I am thankful for 18 students. All unique, all individual's, all teachers to me.