Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Last Day of Kindergarten

This post is a little late but I'm still have trouble believing Cate finished her first year of elementary school!  I don't think I ever told the full story but in August last year when it was time for Cate to start kindergarten, was probably the hardest time of my life after her birth and heart surgery.  Cate went to a little two day "Kindergarten Camp" before school started and it was a disaster.  She had multiple potty accidents, hid under things, walked out of rooms and scared all the teachers I'm sure.  Unknown to any of us at the time, those two days were a worst case scenario for Cate.  The kids were just "tasting" everything they would see in the coming year.  They spent half an hour or less in each room doing one activity then moved on to the next room with a new teacher and activity.  Cate just doesn't function well with that many transitions.  That experience prompted a meeting with the teachers and admin where I'm sure the expected result was for Cate to be moved to a self-contained special needs class.  Luckily for us, after some persuasion and the help of Cate's Pre-K teacher they agreed to give general education kindergarten a try.  Unluckily for us, the first 10 days didn't go much better.  Cate had potty accidents, she refused to do activies, she didn't demonstrate any skills, and was just plain stubborn.  Another meeting was scheduled and after I just about had a complete breakdown over the weekend, Ric & I sat down with a team of teachers, admin, and a resource representative.  The school explained the "safety concerns" and classroom issues in great detail while I tried hard not to cry.  I wasn't upset with them, no one could blame them for doubting Cate could handle this.  I was just frustrated because I knew she could do this but didn't know how to help her.  Her teacher had her best interested at heart - I mean when you look at it as a logical basic choice, putting a child in a class with one teacher and 20 kids or a class where there are only 6 kids a teacher and a para-pro, the decision of which is best for any kid seems to be the small group, right?  They wanted to move her to special need small group for kindergarten with the hope that she would be able to transition back into a gen ed classroom after she got the basics.  But I knew in my heart that Cate needed that gen ed kindergarten class and Ms. E was the right teacher for her - I was so sure.  My straightforward appeal that this was Cate's best chance at a general ed classroom experience and to make friends was listened to thoughtfully.  I told them that we felt that our expectation were realistic - general ed was probably not going to last forever for Cate, at some point she will most likely fall too far behind - and that is OK.  But that was not the situation in Aug 2011 - Cate had sight words, knew her letters, could count to 10 and knew all her colors and shapes.  The team agreed in the end to make some accommodations but not to pull Cate out of Ms. E's room.  We compromised and added para-pro level support for the full day.  In the end Cate spent the first unit of the in the small group classroom due to resource restrictions, then had a para-pro in the classroom for all academic classes but attended specials, lunch and recess unassisted.  It was so hard to make these decisions back then, I was going on feelings, the school on experience and facts.  I know how lucky we are that our school didn't put up a fight about  allowing Cate to participate in the least restrictive environment.  I am so thankful that the fight was worth it and that Ric  & I made the right decisions and compromises.   I cannot thank Cate's school and teachers enough for taking our wishes into consideration, not holding grudges for the fights and making her Kindergarten experience an amazing one.

1st day of kindergarten
last day of kindergarten
waiting with Lucy - how little they both look!

A note from Cate's para-pro
"Dear Lisa & Rick,  Thank you so much for the gift you gave me this year - Cate!!  She has touched each and everyone of us in so many ways.  I can't imagine not having her in my day.  Have a wonderful summer. "  Ms. L

They are both growing up so fast!

Cate gained more than just reading and math skills this year. She gained confidence and spunk. She isn't the little girl I sent to kindergarten anymore, she is a true "big girl" with her own ideas and attitudes. 

Note from Cate's teacher
Dear Cate and Family,
... I have so enjoyed having Cate this year. She is a special little girl who has brightened so many lives at Hickory Hills. Thanks for all that you have done for me, our class, and Hickory Hills. But mostly, thanks for sharing Cate with me this year. Ms. E

These two notes made every tear and every fear worth it.  As much as I want a high school diploma for Cate some day - this is what I really strive for, that Cate affects peoples lives for the better and makes some else sun shine a little brighter.

1 comment:

  1. This really makes me smile. Compromise. That's what it's all about, and to have all parties willing to comprimise to come out with the best solution for Cate is so amazing! I'm so glad Cate had the experience she's had there this year. I love teachers who dedicate their lives to ensuring that children (of all abilities) *learn* in their classrooms. :-)