Higher Education News
Note: October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
Number One. “Did you know?”
They never complete the thought, as if just looking at him implies what they’re really asking. I ache to play dumb: Know what? That he would almost never cry as a baby and be a champion sleeper? That he would love to swim but hate to play soccer? That I could love him ‘til it hurts and still get so annoyed by some of his antics? As obnoxious as my brain screams for me to be, I simply answer “No. After losing the first one, I didn’t want to take any chances with this very wanted baby.”
The mention of my previous sorrow precludes them from saying anything directly about those tests, so I leave it at that. I resist ranting about warped concepts of perfection or the technologies the medical community pushes that are incapable of measuring the value of those born “dappled.” If I launch into my diatribe, their eyes glaze over as they nod in the faux agreement children give their parents when they just want the scolding to stop. I can always tell when they’re thinking, “I would have the test.” I couldn’t guess what they would do if it were positive.
Number Two. “My sister’s/cousin’s/brother-in-law’s/landlord’s daughter/nephew/classmate/neighbor is ‘like him’.”
What, rakishly handsome? Lucky them. A consummate flirt? Better watch out! The self-appointed town mayor, greeting every person or animal we see on the streets? Good luck getting anywhere quickly with such a gregarious kid.
I suppose it’s an attempt to connect, a way to say “he’s okay” because they know someone who knows someone who… But sharing an extra chromosome doesn’t make anyone like someone else any more than two people having green eyes does. Don’t tell me these six-degrees individuals are “like” each other. They aren’t.
Number Three. “He’s so high-functioning.”
Yeah, far more than I am at 3:00 a.m. “MOMMY!” “urgh…?” “WHY ARE YOUR EYES CLOSED?!” “I’m sleeping, baby.” “WHY?!” “unnnhhh…” “READ TO ME!!!!” (seriously?)
Number Four. “Funny, you can’t see it.”
What’s there to see? His almond shaped eyes that look through me as the spark of laughter flickering within them sears my soul? His cute little hands with that long crease across his palms holding mine, petting the cat, learning to write his name, wiping away tears when he’s mad? The orthotics helping reshape his desperately flat feet?
What exactly are you looking for that will legitimize him in your eyes? Maybe I should carry the envelope with the verdict handed down by some anonymous technician. Perhaps the letter from the state when the lab automatically reported his existence to the county health department “for statistical purposes.” What can’t you see? He’s a kid, growing up loved. What else are you looking for?
Number Five. “I’m sorry.”
You should be. You’ll never hear the thoughts he speaks to me with his smiling brown eyes as he tilts his forehead to rest against mine. You’ll never drink in the heat that radiates from his head or taste his soft hair on your lips. You’ll never be awakened (again) at 3:00 a.m. by the hot air from his mouth on your face as he whispers, “Mommy, I want snuggles.” You’ll never know how it feels to celebrate every jump forward in development that other parents take for granted, but when he finally does it, it’s a very, very large molehill.
You should be sorry that you can only see back in time. This is a new era with new opportunities and new ideas about potential and worthiness. I’m only sorry it’s taken this long and that we still have so far to go.
Number Six. “That’s awesome!”
Thanks, Brian—you are the right kind of friend. May everyone with a kid “like mine” know a man like you.
Number Seven. “I don’t know how you do it.”
I’m his mother. Still confused?
Things I Say:
“I’m so proud of you.” “Boy, you’re handsome!” “Why won’t you let me cut your nails?” “TURN THAT DOWN!” “Wanna go bowling?” “Sweetheart, don’t let the dog beg like that.” “Would you please put this stuff away?” “You’re just too good to be true/Can’t take my eyes off of you.” “No, I don’t want to smell your feet.” “I love you, my sweet angel. You’re my heart and soul, my love and my life.” “You know you drive me nuts, right?”
Number One Thing I Say. I’ve loved my son since before he was ever born. What else is there to say?
Jessica Wilson and her son, Jasper (aka Jaz, Jazzy, the JazMaster, or Dude!), live in a cozy house of fur with two crazy dogs and two lazy cats. Their favorite activities include singing movie hits, dancing in the kitchen, snuggling and traveling the world together. Jessica is Director of Communication and Dissemination for the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) and Resources for Access, Independence and Self-Employment (RAISE) projects with the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) in New Jersey.
(Cross-posted at the OSERS blog.)
I had the honor of attending the Georgia Green Strides Tour 2017 with Andrea Falken of the U.S. Department of Education and Keisha Ford-Jenrette of the Georgia Department of Education, and numerous other national, state and local partners. We rode a van to some of the school sites that had been honored over the years as U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. This year’s two-day tour focused on the theme “Taking Learning Outside,” and covered a wide range of approaches.
Our first stop, Pharr Elementary, had surveyed its teachers to learn their challenges in teaching and turned those into active, outdoors learning opportunities, which include hands-on outdoors learning modules to learn social studies lessons among the branches of a courtyard tree, various language arts rock gardens, as well as alphabet, word and numbers incorporated into garden pathways and signage.
At our second stop, Mason Elementary students were working toward answering the driving question of “How can we, as entrepreneurs, create a company to consistently produce enough to donate to the local community?” Students used their extensive hydroponics and aquaponics lab to determine which growing method might yield the greatest output. They also got dirty in an outdoor classroom pavilion and handicap-accessible raised garden beds.
Our third stop, High Meadows School, demonstrated its commitment to outdoor learning from its founding principles. Students take advantage of a large outdoor play area, “The Meadow,” featuring a tire swing, natural play areas for digging and tree climbing, outdoor boat and dragon constructions, monarch waystations, native plantings, a stick fort, a retired train car turned office space and playing fields in which the various grades learn cooperation and collaboration during all-school outdoors time. Students also learn to care for goats, chickens and horses under the skilled guidance of a full-time animal husbandry instructor.
Ford Elementary was our last stop on day one and demonstrated a tremendous ability to sustain and even grow an outdoor learning program over more than 20 years. Teachers explained how by letting students drive learning, there is always something new to discover and add. Each year, students have studied various areas of their campus and evaluated how to make it a safer and healthier place to learn. This has led to students creating numerous outdoor classrooms, learning gardens, a compost station, a boardwalk to the site where they test stream water, trails, chicken coops, as well as dozens of other smaller outdoor projects, utilizing nearly every bit of outdoor space.
Morningside Elementary kicked off day two, a day which featured the more urban schools in Atlanta. Students at this school demonstrated their mindful, sustainability learning through their drum circle, work with a master gardener and learning from local business partners who offer cooking demonstrations and taste testing in the outdoor amphitheater cooking station.
On limited land in an historic neighborhood, The Paideia School demonstrates a useful model for urban farming at campuses constrained by space. The full-time urban gardener and several part-time staff lead students to farm neighbors’ who volunteer their unused lands and successfully produce food in the city. How waste fits into this work is kept on the minds of these students with compost and recycling bins placed throughout the campus. The school hosts an annual zero-waste dinner for the community and features an amphitheater, fire truck climbing structure, monarch waystations and fairy garden, among other outdoor learning tools.
Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School leverages its outdoor space to teach about healthy, local foods and cooking. The dedicated chef and school farmer work with students to learn about how food is grown and prepared, the benefits of local purchasing and how sustainable, healthy nutrition impacts students’ bodies and minds. Students’ palates are thoughtfully broadened and the menu is coordinated with the curriculum. Students took part in the publication of a cookbook with some of their favorite recipes.
At our last stop, Georgia Institute of Technology, a 2016 Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee, we learned more about GIT’s Serve-Learn-Sustain initiative, which is engaging students from all of the colleges on campus to give back to their community. Students have focused learning beyond the boundaries of their college campus and are using the skills they have of collecting data to engage the community in the solutions, such as how to reduce carbon emissions and study population diversity in the area.
Suzanne Haerther is Community Project Manager at the U.S. Green Building Council – Georgia.
The post Learning Outside from the 2017 Green Strides Tour in Georgia appeared first on ED.gov Blog.