|Beautiful, right? That was a beautiful photo. I win!|
I've been there several times to learn about their place and to see if the Nativity folks are interested about Maybelle.
- The first time I went to see the principal and to meet the woman who would be Maybelle's teacher. They parked me in the first grade class for twenty minutes or so, so I could get a real sense of what that class is like. The kids were doing their thing, answering lots of questions together and getting to write answers on the board. Looked pretty good. Then the teacher and I went into the principal's office--Patti--and talked extensively about Maybelle's characteristics. No matter what I said, they looked at each other knowingly: "Oh, I remember that kid who walked on the roof for the first two weeks of class. Maybelle's gonna be much easier to settle in."
- The second time was when they wanted Maybelle to meet them, and them to meet Maybelle. She came to the school for four hours so that she could meet the kids who'd be in her first grade class, do more of the studying in first grade, and doing some kind of game/PE since it was raining. Apparently Maybelle loved it. Patti and the teachers talked with the kids ahead of time, letting them know that everybody's different, and Maybelle's not going to talk the way you do, and she'll be in a really different place." The kids were eager to take part in meeting with and supporting Maybelle--so much so that the teachers had to get the kids from smothering Maybelle (a very good problem to have). I wish Maybelle could tell me what they did that day--whatever it was, she was pleased.
- The third time I went there, which was today, I asked Patti whether Maybelle is going to be able to go to Nativity. Will she be able to come? Like, really come, not just "let's see"? She smiled and said, "Yes!" as if she was a bit confused about why I was asking.
"She's accepted," Patti agreed, smiling. "I thought I told you the last time."
"You told me it was 99.9 percent," I said.
"Well, she's definitely welcome."
I threw my arms in the air in a "woo hoo!", then covered my cheeks and mouth, like I needed to suck up and collect the overwhelming happiness I was feeling in this moment.
I know that many of you read the letter I wrote to another Catholic school (and if you haven't, you might as well, because what I'm writing here is a response). I thought we were in great shape when I visited, and I was happy when four of the teachers and their assistants spent four hours at ECDC. I thought they were studying the most effective way to incorporate her into the school. But I was wrong. This Catholic school said that they can't meet Maybelle's needs. They can't provide the right support or a successful educational experience. They seemed to see her as a lot of work--more than they could do in the kindergarten or first grade rooms.
Meanwhile, there's Nativity School--which has less money, very few administrators, and no teaching assistant after kindergarten. And they don't seem to worry. They aren't concerned about Maybelle's needs because they feel that people in the world have all kinds of differences, and because we're in a place where we value everybody, having different people is a good thing. Everything I know about inclusion, they already know. I mean, really! Cindi--inclusion goddess--and I went there today, but they were already all over what we'd hoped we could train her to do. Patti said, "We know that one of the most important thing is for her to become a member of the community." She said, "We expect all the kids to have big, challenging transitions at the beginning of the year. It may take longer for Maybelle to do that, and we'll respond to that." She said, "We've had a student who sometimes needed to stretch in the back of the room, and that's fine."
Do you get this? Do you get it? Nativity School! Even though I've got no God going on here, I'm grateful that Maybelle seems to have a perfect school that will allow her to be an inclusive person, to learn valuable skills, but more importantly to become a real person.
Here are Cindi and I after today's visit with Nativity:
|We love you, Nativity! Also, we both look totally cute.|