Friday, January 13, 2012

this could be my version of "I Have a Dream"

Since I teach in a center-based special education school, my students do not regularly have contact with typically-developing peers, as they would if our classroom were housed in a regular elementary school. Our school has had a sister school partnership with an elementary school in the neighborhood for a few years now, and I've never had my students participate in the program, for various reasons - but mostly because I'm very sensitive about and resistant to anything that makes my kiddos out to be the "token special ed kids" or a charity case.

But, something made my principal ask me to head up the sister school program this year (the teacher who previously led it had taken a job in a different school). So, naturally, I needed to have my students participate this year. And after seeing how it all works (and changing a few things around), I'm now completely sold on the program! We partner with one classroom in particular at our sister school, and it just worked out that we have an equal number of general ed and special ed kids participating in the program this year, so everyone has their own personal buddy. We send letters and cards back and forth, and actually get to hang out in person at each other's schools every other month or so. We're trying to get it so we can Skype, too, though technological glitches and scheduling issues have prevented that thus far. My kiddos love the program, and talk about their friends from the other school quite a lot. They have truly been able to build relationships, which is awesome.

Yesterday was one of our meetup days. Our regular ed friends came to our school and swam in our pool with us. After swimming, each pair painted a ceiling tile together, which we'll place in our main hallway. I loved seeing the friends working together to create colorful, creative works of art to adorn our school! There was much discussion (verbal and non-verbal) of what should go on the tiles, and each kiddo took the open-ended project so seriously. I can't wait for the tiles to go up in our hallway (hopefully by next week). I'll have to take a photo when they're up.

These ladies chose to go with an all-pink theme. They put their initials in the middle of the heart when it was completed. We paired the students randomly at the beginning of the year, and these two were a perfect match - both girly-girls to the max!

These guys were creating a tornado on their tile.

I'd love to hear from any other teachers - regular or special ed - who may participate in any sort of similar partnership. I'm always looking for more ideas. And if anyone has questions about how we set up and run the program, too, I'd love to talk more about it.

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