Thursday, October 30, 2014
Racism, Friendships and More
I feel this needs to be addressed since so many commenters have brought it up. I am in no way at all racist or prejudice. I don't think many know this, but I was born into a mixed race family and was often asked if I was adopted because I looked so different than other members of my family.
I live in a good area. Our school boundary crosses into a very bad part of town. It's a part of town full of notorious gangs and gang violence that occurs on a daily basis. In between, there are very low-income project areas, interspersed with apartments and lower end housing. This doesn't mean that the people living in these areas any better or worse than my girls and I, it means that their challenges, language, economic situation, beliefs, education, and so much more are different - in some cases, so different that making friends would be very difficult. Yes, they'd be school acquaintances, but I'm talking about the kind of friends where you have play dates after school, the parents get together, etc... On my part, it's not about skin color, religious preferences, what brand of clothing you wear, but about the things that draw us toward another person that develops friendships that last - things in common and being welcome in their neighborhoods and homes. I would not be welcome in some of these neighborhoods because I look Caucasian and it would be dangerous for me to go to some of these neighborhoods because of that. In the past, I'd never have believed that, but after seeing how much blood My Firefighter has to hose down from public places in these areas, and listening to the local news and being told to my face by people all over town, I'd be stupid not to know that it's true.
The middle school has a security staff, is totally fenced in with wrought iron, has lines of the walkways that the students have to follow and they say all this is necessary to keep the students safe. I was not even allowed out of the administration building during passing - the reason, to keep me safe, according to the staff. When my new neighbor inquired at this school about enrolling his son, the first question the office administrator asked was if he's white. When my neighbor said yes, the school encouraged him to find a private school, which they did. The reason, he'd be at risk. Physical risk. He'd be bullied at best, murdered at worst. I am NOT kidding or exaggerating. Is this the kind of school you'd choose for your child? Especially if they wanted to put her into classes with children who are ALL functioning at a SIGNIFICANTLY lower level? I'm not talking academic level here because my daughter would probably be the lowest in some academic areas. On the day I observed the class, not one single student could take their folder out of their desk without help! I am not exaggerating, it took the entire class 5 minutes just to take one single folder out of their desks and they all needed help and one boy had to leave the class because he was so disruptive! When the teacher saw the work my daughter did independently that morning at home, she said that not one single student in her class could have done that. NOT ONE. She came to our next IEP meeting and told the team that my daughter's functioning level was way beyond her class and it would not be a good fit, yet the team doesn't have any other place for my daughter that meets her academic needs.
Switching to socialization, here are some things I've found online specifically about making friends:
"A good friend will show a genuine interest in what's going on in your life, what you have to say, and how you think and feel about things. A good friend will accept you for who you are and listen to you attentively without judging you or trying to change the subject. A good friend will act in a trustworthy and loyal way, and will feel comfortable sharing things about themselves with you."
"One doesn't necessarily have to have a lot in common, but there can be a common interest."
"Best friends have been known to have lots of things in common--many times it is these commonalities that cause us to become friends in the first place!" This is what I've experienced in my own life. It's our commonalities that draw us to certain people.
I have two best friends, one is married with a family and the other is single. I met them both around age 18-20. My married friend is white. My single friend is black. I have religion and core beliefs in common with my married friend, we share many of the same hobbies and interests, a similar background, but due to her responsibilities to her family, she has very little time to hang out. She had more time earlier on when she had just one or two kids, but it dwindled the bigger her family got. Now that her kids are older (the youngest three match mine in age), I see more of her again - despite moving three hours away from her! My single friend can't sew a stitch, doesn't like crafts, belongs to a different faith, is not a native English speaker, isn't physically active and I am, but she and I have so many other things in common. We greatly value family and believe in taking care of our elders, we have a strong sense of responsibility and we were both on our own at an early age, we love to cook and experiment with new recipes, I learned how to help her with her hair, she learned from me how to be strong and do medical stuff when her dad needed home medical care. Because she and I were single, we spent a lot of time hanging out. That did change when she got a boyfriend and I got my kids.
I am going to share something another mom wrote on her blog: "One part of this journey that is (very) hard is that everyone has an opinion or judges the way we do things.
Just this week her teacher flat out told me that she doesn’t agree with one of the decisions I made concerning Josie and the cafeteria line.
Well, you know what??
I’m her mom. So what I decide goes.
And then at Josie’s IEP meeting this week we were going over Josie’s goals and such (these meetings are so painful) and Mrs. Kline wanted to have Josie go to the “regular” 5th grade art class. The whole “inclusion” idea.
Now imagine me sitting at a table with 3 therapists, a psychologist, Josie’s teacher and the SN coordinator from our home district….so lots of “experts” around little old Mom who doesn’t “know anything.”
Well. I kindly but boldly stated that I did not agree with this decision. Josie already struggles with not being able to do what the other able-bodied kids are doing already. She already puts so much pressure on herself and then for her to be pulled out of the class that she LOVES and can SHINE in to a class of “typical” 5th graders…that just wouldn't be helpful or good for Josie.
And you know what the “experts” said??
“Oh, wow, we didn’t think of it that way.”
“ That is a great point, I can see how it wouldn’t be healthy for her.”
“We agree with you, we will keep her in her lifeskill class fulltime.”
Why, thank you for agreeing with the woman who isn’t an “expert,” who doesn’t have the “degree” but just has some Mama instincts and some common sense to go along with it.
Still not everybody agrees with the decisions we make or the way we do things.
(And trust me, they let me know!)
But I know that I know that we make decisions and do things a certain way for the health of our WHOLE family unit. And also what is best for Josie."
Now how do you think my daughter will perceive herself if put into a classroom as the highest functioning child? Will she feel superior? Will she become impatient having to wait and wait and wait for the class to perform the simplest task? Will she be compassionate? Will she begin to dumb herself down and emulate them in order to fit in and be accepted? We all know that this is what experience and studies have shown time and time again.
How will my other daughter feel if thrust into a class room of children who are ALL so far above her that she won't have a clue what is going on and can't follow due to her disabilities, not to mention functioning and educational level?
I was very lucky today. The school psychologist that I first talked to last May is now at the school that provides early intervention so she covers Apple. Last year, she was at the elementary school that is trying to put Jie Jie into 5th grade. This school psychologist came into my home this morning to start Apple's evaluation since she's turning 3 soon and will qualify for special education services through the public school system. She was kind enough to look at the reports I was given at the IEP meeting for Jie Jie and watch her read, converse with her, look at a sample of this morning's school work, and observe me conversing with Jie Jie and was able to talk to her, herself. She told me that a placement into 5th grade is completely inappropriate based on Jie Jie's scores, that her processing disorder is very apparent in simple conversation and is clearly impeding her and will impede her ability to function in a regular classroom. She said a lot more, too, and told me that I can and should fight their recommendation and not to accept it and that it will be DETRIMENTAL to my child, as will placement of my other child in the proposed classes at the middle school. She is the second school psychologist to say this about my middle schooler, but I already know that for myself.
What I still want to put out there for homeschooling families is what YOU do for your children's socialization.