This morning, while Ella was taking her coat off and putting her backpack in her locker, I went into the class to ask her teacher a question. After my simple question was answered she proceeded to tell me about yesterday.
“I don’t know what her literacy tutor is doing but it is amazing. I said “llll-aaaa-ppp” and then asked Ella to go up to the front and arrange the letters to spell the word and she did! The whole class cheered and congratulated her.”
“That’s amazing!” I said. “Yes, we love her tutor, it seems to be a really good fit – she’s come a long way.”
“When do they meet?” the teacher asked.
“Thursday afternoons – you know, if you are interested you are more than welcome to go and observe a session.)
“That might be a possibility, it would be great to see what she does since we are a team.”
[Queue heart-melt] You had me when you actually asked Ella to spell phonetically.
There are so many aspects of this recollection that not only warm my heart, but make me want to bubble over. As I said to a friend the other day, “You know how I will sometimes use the hashtag “see the ability”. I really felt as though her grade one teacher didn’t see the ability but her teacher this year does.” I can’t even tell you how happy I am that I stood up for Ella and insisted that she be placed in the grade two class with her friends. It is only because of that, that Ella was able to have that moment yesterday. It ensured three important aspects of her learning:
1.) Her teacher sees the ability
When I spoke with Ella’s teacher from last year (the person they wanted to teach her literacy again this year, she had admitted that she had hit a wall with Ella. She told me that she didn’t know how to teach her. In my head, I wondered, “Then why didn’t you ask?” She was so caught up on what Ella couldn’t do. She focused on the fact that Ella could not place words that started with B in the B jar. She focused on the fact that Ella can’t rhyme. She focused on Ella’s lack of attention and stubbornness. She focused on her inability to transfer the skills that she did have and would say, that she didn’t really have those skills if it wasn’t 100% consistent.
This year, Ella’s teacher brings only those presumptions, which she chose to accept based on the previous teachers’ comments. She doesn’t really know what Ella CAN’T do and so, it would seem, makes few assumptions about what she can do. She [and I] aren’t ignorant – we know that Ella has her limitations but it is not what guides her expectations of Ella, nor her instruction to her. Instead, she sees the ability.
2.) Her teacher recognizes that she is part of Team Ella
When you have a child with a disability, your child often has a built in team. So many people have invested in Ella and continue to invest in her. Ella has a Speech Therapist who comes once every two weeks. They work a lot on not only the formation of the sounds, but building her language reservoir as well. Ella also goes once a week for tutoring. In these sessions her tutor uses the LiPS program, which explores the oral-motor movements of phonemes (mouth shape) in order to sequence sounds into words and improved phonemic awareness. Then Ella has her teachers, (two this year) as well as an Educational Assistant and finally, she has us, her parents, who are consistently but passively and practically trying to reinforce all the things learned with the other team members.
The fact that Ella’s teachers recognize that they are part of a bigger team is huge. You see, when you are part of a team the other teammates are there to help you. Each has their strength and area of expertise but as you can see there is a lot of overlap between language, speech and her general academic as well as everyday life experience. If one hits a wall, as her teacher did last year, the others are there to offer suggestions and strategies. No only that, but we all need to be on the same page, helping Ella move forward – not pulling her in four different directions.
3.) Ella is motivated, encouraged and rewarded as a result of being in a class with her peers.
Finally, if I had accepted that Ella would go into the grade one class I strongly doubt that she would have experienced the encouragement from her classmates that she did. That’s not to say that the grade one class doesn’t have some lovely children in it but the kids in grade two already know Ella and she has some AMAZING friends. I love the kids in Ella’s class. So many of them are kind and gentle souls who love Ella for who she is. One of her teachers told me yesterday that sometimes Ella’s friends will interpret for Ella, (since, there are times when she can be hard to understand).
Seeing the ability is not just paying lip-service to inclusive learning but it is putting it into action. It is truly believing that Ella CAN read, and CAN write, and CAN learn. It’s more than thinking that she is a sweet little girl (which almost everyone does), but seeing that she is capable of amazing things. I am hopeful friends. It have a feeling it is going to be a good year.