At the very end of last week we found out one of my students was moving. We were all shocked and heartbroken. This student is absolutely incredible and she is the poster child of what having high expectations and a good balance of general education inclusion and a special ed placement can do for a student. She surpassed all of our of expectations academically, socially, and with her general language. She is incredible.
At the end of the day today one of the students from her gen ed kindergarten class was brought into my room crying. We were in the midst of end-of-day chaos and were trying to get book bags and jackets on without complete losing our minds (this is a daily adventure). When this little kindergarten girl and her tear-streaked face entered the room we all stopped and stared.
The teacher with her explained that the girl had a card at home for our friend who was leaving but she had forgotten it. I looked at this little five year old crying and felt my own eyes fill with tears. This little one was truly sad to see my friend go. Their teacher had done such an incredible job including her in the classroom that her kids didn't see her as "that special girl". She was a part of their community and she had true friends in there.
My friend hadn't shown any emotions yet during the day and we weren't sure how much she was processing her move. Yet when her friend walked in crying her expression immediately changed. "Oh no! What's wrong?" she asked. Although she hadn't been concerned for herself, she felt empathy and concern for her friend. They had a real friendship.
Friendship is something we can teach about, model, and encourage, but it isn't something we can force. Kids are "friends" in our classes, but whether or not they are genuine friends is up to them.
These girls were genuine friends.