The young mom in me was excited for elementary school parent-teacher conferences, my first chance to meet my son Kale’s new teachers. I was eager to hear how well my bright and easy firstborn was doing in school. I got an unexpected earful.
While I’ve become accustomed to labels given students in the education system, I prefer to dismiss them. Kale, they assessed, is talented and gifted. Second-born Noni, on the other hand, is multiply handicapped. My children cover the spectrum.
With my first, I admit to thinking that I must be a pretty good mom for raising a smart child. Then along came Noni to inject me with a double dose of humility.
During our conference, imagine my jolt when the school specialist for the gifted informs me of a new movement afoot in public education that threatens the well-being of my son and all gifted students.
“Perhaps you’ve heard of it, Mrs. Schulz,” she explained. “It’s called inclusion.” She pulls out a protest petition for me to sign.
Whoa, why is my head spinning? Did I hear her right? Are you bleeping kidding me? This woman doesn’t know her audience!
Hmm, I think to myself perhaps a smidge mean spirited, let’s have a little fun with this. “Tell me more,” I urge.
She digs a deeper hole as I listen, straight faced and steaming. Her premise: Kids with disabilities in the classroom will deprive gifted students of the special attention they need.
I never considered my son needy of special attention. He learns on autopilot, absorbing knowledge with ease. I have a clear picture of special needs, and it doesn’t resemble him.
“You know me as Kale’s mom,” I pipe up. “Let me introduce myself to you as Noni’s mom. She is the inclusion student you speak of.”
Welcome to an unapologetic baloney-macaroni moment to thin the air.
I am not the least bit concerned about my son sharing a classroom with children like his sister. I see it as a wonderful opportunity for him to use his talents and gifts not just for himself, but to help others.
No petition signing for me, thank you.
Because every student learns in an inclusive classroom a life lesson in humanity.