Our school journey was a bit of a bumpy start. I first sent Juan to a playgroup. We were all excited to drop him off for his “first day” – I remember what he was wearing. It was cute. I think he only went 3 times.
Our second attempt at school was when he was about 2 1/2 and we had just managed to get him walking. It wasn’t anymore successful.
At 4, his sister (then aged 2 and a bit) really needed to start going to school. She needed a place to just be a kid, not to be the sister of a sick child. So, we tried again. It was better.
Finally, when the time came to for Juan to start BIG school, we weren’t on a list. We hadn’t put our names down, we hadn’t done this “best school search” and we most definitely hadn’t taken factors like best sports team, best academic curriculum and best interschool activity into account. I was just like “Sh*t, its November, he needs to start school in 2 months. What now?”
Truth be told, the reason we hadn’t planned for this time in our lives, was because we were unsure Juan would live this long, and if he did, if school was even going to be possible. We were still in the “living through one chest infection to another” and swinging from the “physio to doctors room” treetops. School was not a priority.
So you can imagine my surprise, when, we finally started contacting schools, to hearing things like “Unfortunately, we don’t have appropriate facilities” or ” we not sure we best suited to teach a child with his needs”, or, and this was my best,”we don’t have a fridge to store his medicine”. WHAT? You don’t have a fridge at the school? So the staff tea room is just a myth, and teachers don’t actually survive on coffee?
But then, we met the cool kids on the block. The teachers that looked at my son and said “I want to help your boy, like I hope someone would want to help mine”. The headmaster that said “we will simply move the classroom to be closer so that he has to walk less”. The security guard who would always carry Juan’s bag in the mornings to help preserve his energy. The teacher who brought in a beanbag for Juan to take naps.
This group of teachers, and school staff, have been our heroes. They have been our people. They are 100% committed to adapting to fit in with the child, not changing the child to fit the system. They have not only seen Juan, but us as
a family. They have given Jordyn the space to be her own person, and develop her own identity. They have seen homework diaries never signed, and smiled anyway. They have sent gentle reminders about mundane paperwork that hasn’t been returned. They have educated us as a family, and allowed us to ask questions, express fears, and generally, just fall apart when necessary. I don’t attend parents meetings, as we don’t need to. This journey is daily, not once a term.
This special group of people have taken a job, and turned it into passion. They have taken a challenge, and turned it into vision. They have taken my “special needs” boy, and changed him into a regular learner who does things a little differently. They have taken the box, banged out a couple of the sides, and turned it into an inclusive, fluid shape that changes as it needs to.
To all of our teachers, and headmasters, we thank you! For taking a risk, and making it a reward. For seeing my child as more than his limitations. And for believing in him so much, that he sees his own potential.