Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On finding a 'good' school

I have tidied up the language a lot! I needed to get todays crap off my chest - so here goes:

I am on the open day treadmill as I type having visited an infants school earlier in the month and a local catholic school today with three other open days still on the to do list.

The whole process is disheartening and incredibly daunting. In spite of having been a high school teacher for nearly 20 years I found myself in tears raging, wondering what is the point of education?

Both schools I have been to have been are perfectly adequate and have good reputations locally. What I don’t understand is why educators aren’t beating down my front door. Here is a professional institution with a passion for learning – so why is it that they aren’t amazed and interested in my daughter’s progress?

I want a place where my daughter is welcome. Why do I have to negotiate with a school to accept my daughter and then try and stuff her into their square hole – my beautiful, fun loving, hard working little girl deserves so much more than that.

I get the theory that my daughter belongs in a regular classroom. I believe it too. Due to funding limitations that mere fact indicates the dilemma I have – my daughter’s not ‘disabled’ enough (Down Syndrome isn’t a significant disability? On what planet does that idea come from?). The state expects her to be in a regular classroom and so do I but without adequate support and expertise we are setting her up for failure. I discussed this reality with today’s Principal – and oh yes she understands that point very well too but the mother in me cries out to teachers and principals like her - why oh why couldn’t you say – “yes I know but we are really keen here at adapting to meet your daughter’s needs. We will go out of our way to help her adjust and meet her potential.” Instead at both schools they have been quick in linking me to various bureaucratic requirements such as IQ assessments that may get her some funding for support.

Why is it always about how she will fit in instead of how they are going to do their jobs and draw out at least some of what she is capable of? It’s not that hard – I’ve been doing it ever since she was a baby – and she is remarkable. She also has significant speech delay, takes longer to respond to questions while she processes what she is hearing and then forms an answer and is far better at visual cues that just spoken ones.

Today I am tired and I am upset. Neither school have done anything ‘wrong’ but they have been acting to their formula and I feel like I have to ‘prove’ my daughter worthy rather than they convince me that they can meet her needs – that they have that standard of excellence. All the gifted and talented programs and the Smart boards in Sydney wouldn’t be able to compete with that. Now that would be a school that educates.


Sharon said...

Hi I just started reading (being addicted) to your blog. I am also currently on the same journey investigating schools for my daughter who just turned 4 and also has DS. We live across the ditch in NZ. Am thoroughly fascinated in reading about how you are going.

Shelley said...

Hi Sharon! I'd love to hear how your travels in this schooling debacle are going. It feels a bit lonely trying to find a place for both the twins I watch the other mums with their kids and envy them the relative easiness of their decision. I have a number of friends also from the land of the long white cloud and have spent a lovely vacation with friends in Windy Wellington before the twins were born. I am feeling a bit more resigned or optimistic (not sure which!) about our schooling options after a nice glass of wine.

Jen said...

So hard. So frustrating. So disheartening. I can't understand why it has to be this way.

simplycamille said...

Oh, how I know what you mean... Emma is now in grade 2, her 4th year in school. Like you, I have tried to find the better school. And still am. Last year I even visited a school exclusive to challenged kids. (They have more speech, physio and occupational therapy).
I was once told I'd have to fight for Emma all through her schooling years. I did not want to live as a fighter, our lives is not a struggle. It is one of joy, of discoveries.
But I guess I am a "pusher". I push for everything. It took them 2years to find an easel for Emma; she bends over her work because of her vision. I bought a wonderful book : How to teach children who have down syndrome how to read. Guess what? The school had it; the teachers had not bothered to even look at it...
Sometimes I think us mothers should open our own school,,,

Sharon said...

Hi Shelley
How lovely to read your reply.
Hannah seems to be doing so well. Awesome! It must help having a twin brother I'm guessing to keep up with.
We have visited two schools so far, both with "units" (although offficially there are no units in NZ as all children are mainstreamed.) They were so different to each other it blew me away and confused me heaps. I know what you mean about it being lonely making the decision! Last visit though I took my husband, mum, daughter and the Early Intervention teacher so wasn't lonely at all - hahaha!
After the holidays we are going to officially visit the school her siblings attend and another nearby school. Maybe their answers to my questions will make it all clearer!
I also have a blog. I can send you an invite if you're interested? Haven't really discussed schools on it yet though.
Looking forward to reading your future posts.

Shelley said...

Sharon - I'd love an invite - we can journey into the jungle of schooling together!

Sharon said...

Hi Shelley

I'm relatively new to blogging and not sure how to send you an invite unless I have your e-mail address? Sorry

Shelley said...

Sharon - my email address is sppi01 at bigpond dot net dot au would love to have an invite if that is ok.