I went to Julia’s annual IEP meeting. IEP is Individual Education Plan which is done yearly for kids who receive special education. This is my fourth meeting and after each one, I am always ready do fall on my knees and kiss the ground that her teachers walk. Yes, Madison schools, at least the ones Julia goes to, are that good.
For the first time, Julia has met and exceeded every one of her IEP goals. Now, after her Kindergarten and First grade years, those goals are pretty modest, but for K, First and Second grades, she had goals carried over year to year. She still needs a lot of support and this year so much time has been devoted to dealing with her skin, but still there are gains across the board in every subject and in her social development. Next year, for the first time, there will not be behavioral plan for Julia’s bad behavior because bad behavior is something that she no long exhibits at school. There will be no behavioral goals because she doesn’t need any. Just typing this, I tear up. Four years ago, I didn’t think this time would come. I had no idea that there would be whole days, whole weeks, whole months and semesters even when no one from school would call to talk about Julia’s behavior that day. We do not have behavior charts that comes home with sad faces. We do not have behavior charts at all. And school is a wonderful reason to wake up early when the bed is warm and my girl would really like to sleep for another hour or two.
I officially asked for Julia to repeat fourth grade. I’ve mentioned it to her special ed teacher and chatted with the principal about it, but this was official. The responses were immediate and without hesitation. Her classroom teacher said that she wanted to retain Julia in her room (which is not normal procedure for kids repeating a grade but will benefit Julia incredibly!). Her special ed teacher, said with undisclosed glee, “I get to have Julia for an extra year!” The other thing that was said was that there would be disappointed fifth grade teachers next year. There can be no final decision about repeating a grade until closer to the end of the school year, but barring great changes of one sort or the other, Julia will stay at Randall School for an extra year.
Just wow! If I was one to believe in an micromanaging god, I would be more than sure that Madison had been hand picked for us, and when David got the call from the Madison Chief Justice offering him the job weeks before he got a similar call from a judge in Brooklyn, that there was divine guidance. And to be serious, I can believe that the Universe, that some divine being, just nudged our decision just a little and just to make what would be such challenging years for me, just a wee bit easier for us. And of course, it is not that I did not research Madison and schools and neighborhood, and not that I didn’t pick the particular school that she goes to, but chance, as well as divine intervention, favor the well prepared.
One of the things that has been devised for Julia this year is Julia’s Art Club. Most every week, Julia picks four kids from her class who have previously expressed interest in doing art with her, issues invitations at the beginning of the day, and during recess the five of them go to the art room and draw. They are given a set amount of time to draw and then time to show their drawings and comment about the drawings. Julia leads the discussion (with some help) and there are actually kids who like to sit next to Julia and watch her so that they can draw like she does. Julia then thanks everyone for coming and helps all the kids clean up. Again, it is with some prompting and help, but what a way to have a social group. How perfect is this for Julia who does not read at grade level yet be the leader in something that she does above grade level.
Listening to NPR as I was chopping garlic, an interview of a film maker who has made a fictional movie about the Bayaka pygmies and the ethnomusicologist who lived with them. What struck a chord with me was the that the words for singing and dancing for these people is the same word. They sing and dance a lot, close to all the time. Everyone does it and everyone makes original music and dance as well as singing the songs and dancing dances that have been passed down to them. What does it feel like to grow up in such a society? Dance and song the same word!
James Taylor singing Up On the Roof on pandora and I sing a few words and move from the inside out. The same word. The same word! What a wonder that would be.
When Cheshire went to Sycamore School, she had music every day as part of the school day. She played in a school band, carried one, sometimes two instruments every day into school to practice and perform with her friends.
She had music homework that was as important as math and history. It was, sort of, the bonus of going to a private gifted school, the fortunate circumstance of a brilliant music teacher who helped devise the original curriculum for the school, who believed that all kids could play and learn to play together. It was such a gift to Cheshire who loved music from very little on and it taught her so many things outside of playing and performing.
What music did for Cheshire, graphic art may do for Julia. How incredible that would be.