Saturday, September 4, 2010

where they've been

Friday morning I curled up in our school's vault- the small room where we keep all our confidential files. The air conditioning there is broken and I sweated my way through my new students' files- reading important information, making sure they were organized, noting techniques that work, and writing down medical terms I'd need to google later that described treatments or syndromes they'd been treated for in their short five years.

When a child is qualifying for special education his or her parents sit down with a social worker who creates a social history of the child's life. These social histories only reflect what the parent wants to reveal- the social worker asks the questions and records the parents answer with no way to check if the answers are completely truthfully or not.

These social histories give me such insight into the child's life before they enter my classroom doors. Many of the children with special needs in kindergarten were found eligible at the age of two. Their social histories describe high-risk pregnancies and difficult births that already indicate the stress a family was under from early on. Then the histories go into the search for answers- the different doctor opinions, different diagnosis, theories ruled out, difficulty feeding, walking, different schools, developmental milestones postponed. Paragraphs of heartbreak and stress, stated matter of factly within the pages of the eligibility packet.

I'm not a parent, but reading the long paragraphs made me ache for these parents. The answers they've been looking for, the run around they've gotten from doctors, the difficulty of protecting their child's goodness and individuality from the parenting books of typical development. Amongst the blessing of their child the family has been fighting a battle with society, the medical profession, and their own expectations. These files indicate it's been a long five years.

Reading these files allows me to see where the family has been. It prepares me for how to adapt the classroom, how to be ready to differentiate lessons and make the child successful, but more importantly, it gives another level of depth to the child and the family- helps me understand why the family might not care about some of our little kindergarten woes- or why they care so much about others. It reminds me of how much we can't see when we only know the child within our school walls. I can't judge- I have not been on the five year journey- I have not walked in these parents' shoes.

I'm excited for Tuesday when I get to work on giving these little ones a great kindergarten year.

1 comment:

magpie said...

This puts a whole new perspective on watching the students interact within the class.

Jotting down behaviours and personalising data is a full-time job of organised chaos.

You're off to gr8 start.