Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Ten… A developing story

This is my tenth year teaching.

I need to let that sink in a little bit.  It overwhelms me.  No, seriously.  I said it out loud today and I didn’t believe myself.  So I counted on my fingers to make sure.

I’m sure.  (Big gulp)

People who have taught longer than me will tell me that time flies, the years go faster, yadda yadda.  I know, ok?  I know.  It’s like telling a pregnant lady that if she thinks she is tired now, just wait until the baby comes.  

Some things are better left unsaid.

In my role as a division head, I only teach one class.  I spent the past two years working in our program for very academically at-risk students.  This year, I get to teach a class of Spanish again.  And so, on top of my minor freak-out about this being my TENTH year, I am also freaking out that holy cow, I have to remember how to teach Spanish.  I feel ready, but… I don’t know, nervous!

The first day of school is my absolute favorite.  I love the rush of the new kiddos, finding lockers, lost little freshmen, sharpening pencils, new outfits, old friends… It makes my heart swell every. time.  A year fresh and full of possibilities – it is the best.  And those nerves…. a thousand little butterflies ready to soar.

This year, I have been reflecting on where I will focus my energy, about how I will continue to develop in my roles in the building, but also in life in general.  It’s so funny, it’s like this new house has brought a sense of settling to life – things are still chaotic and ever-changing, but it feels stable, like I can breathe and think and do.

Part of my nerves, and oddly, part of my settling, is a song lyric that has been stuck in my brain for about two weeks now.  I think about it over and over, and then I pray about it, and wrestle with what it might mean.  I can’t get it out.  And with my tenth year gearing up to go, it just repeats and repeats…

“Every time somebody lives to serve and not be served…”

That’s it.

The message is clear as a bell.  There is no denying that.  How that serving looks in my world gives me much to consider, and certainly reflection on those times when I am living to be served merit reflection as well.  I can easily point to the others around me who I feel are demanding to be served, but this isn’t about them – it’s about me, and about a lyric that, in this tenth year, when life would seem to be settled, somehow is my driving force for change.

Go.

Do.

Try.

Help.

Love.

Live to serve and not be served.

This is a developing story.  More from the field as it becomes available.

To listen to the full song from which this lyric comes, see below:

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Advocacy #25: Include me

The law that requires a child to be taught in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is part of IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, that was passed in 1975 and then reauthorized in 2004.

This does not mean that every child will automatically be placed in a “normal” classroom.  It means that students are placed in the least restrictive classroom in which their needs can be met.  Sometimes these placements are in a general education classroom without any supports.  Sometimes students need a one-on-one aide or paraprofessional.  Sometimes they have some instruction in the general education classroom and have some time pulled out to work in a special education setting.  But school districts need to provide a continuum of services to meet the needs of all learners.

IDEA also stipulates that a child cannot be placed into a more restrictive or segregated classroom based on their diagnosis alone.  All too often, school districts will tell parents that this classroom is where our students with Down syndrome go or that classroom is for students with vision impairments.

That’s a big no-no in the eyes of the law.  Students must be placed based upon their own unique set of needs and abilities.

While schools may try it, they are also prohibited from refusing to provide services based on cost.  In a nutshell, this means that if the appropriate LRE for your child is in a general education classroom with an aide, they cannot deny that placement by saying that they can’t afford to hire an aide.  

It’s also important to remind yourself, your schools, and your community as a whole that when done correctly, inclusive education is more cost effective than educating students in a segregated setting. 

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