Jack will be starting a new school in a little less than two weeks. He will be attending the Visual and Performing Arts Magnet school in our district. Transitions and change are quite difficult, but my wife and I felt this was an opportunity we could not pass up. I've said it many times before, but if an integrated arts curriculum allows Jack an outlet to see that he can not only succeed, but thrive, in school, we'll take it.
We were not unhappy with our old school, in fact quite the contrary. There were several people there that really stood up for my boy. Teachers, specialists, and administrators that educated him, that loved him, that respected him, that saw value in him, and, most importantly, championed him. I will miss them dearly. I will never forget what they have done for my boy, for me.
And I was comfortable at the old school. I had made a handful of friends with mostly the other dads. Both special needs parents and NTs. A group of Dads having coffee with our three year-olds in tow hanging out in front of the Starbucks like some twisted 40s version of Jay and Silent Bob.
Mostly I will miss Mike. Mike's daughter was in Jack's class, his youngest was Jade's age (and they were buddies), and his eldest has Down Syndrome. I had the pleasure of hanging out with a support every day. A support that easily could have swayed my decision into staying at the school. A support that was a fellow special needs parent. A man I could talk to about real shit... all of the "nicey-niceys" put aside and have real, hard, often heartbreaking conversations about our children. All political correctness aside, all advocacy aside, all that "presuming competence" crap aside and talk.
All that aside, we mostly talked about music, Game of Thrones, and farts.
Mike gave me the blessing by saying "you're a fool to not take this opportunity"... and that's all I needed.
The coffee shop is still close by, we'll see each other soon, I'm sure.
Here's what I won't miss...
In the last week of school, it came to my attention that several (at least 4) parents had asked the principal that Jack not be in their child's class next year.
And that hurt.
It is, perhaps, the best way you could have handled it. I'm glad you didn't take out your frustrations on Jack, or myself, so I applaud your "restraint".
But it still hurts.
I am the parent of a special needs student in today's public education system. I understand the benefits of full-inclusion. I understand the risks (both to Jack and/or his peers) of full-inclusion. Sometimes I feel like we're all caught up in some big social experiment... sometimes it's great, sometimes it's not. An experiment that will not publish its conclusion before the analysis is completed. A dynamic "learning process" for all of us.
I am truly, truly sorry that Jack is a distraction to your child. I wish he weren't. I really wish he weren't. You have done the right thing in asking quietly, behind my back, for what you felt was best for your child.
But it still hurts.
I want to leave you with two thoughts.
First: "Not being mean", is not the same thing as inclusion.
Second: Jack is trying as hard as he can. He has a team around him trying as hard as they can. He has two parents that would love to simply throw their hands up and repeat the so often used mantra "we're doing the best that we can", but it wouldn't be true.
Instead, I throw my hands in the air and say, "I'm trying as hard as I can".
I will sorely miss several people at RD White Elementary. A huge thank you to all of them. You all tried as hard as you could.
To the parents that no longer wanted their child around mine...
You win. He won't be.
We'll find the same triumphs and tribulations at the new school, I'm sure. Until then, in the immortal words of F Scott Fitzgerald:
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Thank you for reading.