High School 1st Semester

Decided to shift gears from ABLE to inclusion. Wanted to name this High School 1st Semester in the Books but not quite. Rachel had the flu and missed all of her finals. Her teachers were great and for the most part froze her grades. She had worked on projects for some of the classes already so we went ahead and submitted those. Her English teacher says she is so close to an A in her class. If she feels like it, maybe she could finish that project?  I think she’ll feel like it.  So almost in the books would be more accurate.

Rachel has had a good 1st semester of high school. It has not been without bumps. She doesn’t know about most of those bumps. Most are behind the scenes things that the adults deal with. An IEP strategy I share with lots of families is to focus on the positive. If anyone starts down the path of everything your child can’t do, re-focus their attention on what your child can do. “Yes, we know what our child can’t do. Let’s talk about what he/she can do and what supports are needed to make him/her successful.”  Today, I’m going to focus on what has worked.

I’ve heard over and over again that high school is different – especially for students with IEP’s who want inclusion. I admit to wondering if people think IEP’s are a list of suggestions. Rachel would say high school has been super amazing. If you follow my blog, you know that she was the 9th grade volleyball manager and loved that role. This role gave Rachel a feeling of belonging and value.  She also serves on student council. She’s a member at large. The senior leadership on Student Council has been awesome. They try to be sure that I know what’s going on. One of the things I’ve loved is that some of these students and her theatre friends re-tweet her tweets and my tweets. Most notably – they re-tweet about the ABLE Act. I cannot tell you how much I love this and how inspired I am by this! Kudos to so many students who have been there for Rachel and us. Her church friend Allie, a senior, who has lunch with her many days. Her peer mentor Andrea and Savanna’s sister Sierra just to name two others who have been critical to her successful transition.

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A true key to success in this first semester has been Rachel’s teaching team though.  They have been awesome. They have worked with us. Some seem surprised that this is not always true. We now have a case manager who does what he is supposed to do and responds promptly to communication. When I met him I told him that the number one predictor of being good case manager was responding in a timely fashion to my communication. He too has exceeded expectations. He also has high expectations. Overall Rachel’s teachers have a good grasp on what kind of modifications she needs. Our case manager works with them to tweak assignments and tests. On a couple of tests, I’ve mentioned that she might do better if tested in a different way. Sometimes we’ve changed format and other times her case manager has mentioned that he would like to let her try it a certain way. Honestly, what I’ve thought is “there is a reason we avoid certain formats. We didn’t just decide she preferred a different method.” Doubtingly I’ve said “okay.” There is a bit of truth to both sides of this quandary. She has been challenged and managed to do quite well though. One teacher even communicated that he was quite impressed with what Rachel had done. Me too!

Rachel loves school an aside from math seems to enjoy all of her classes. She will quickly tell you that “math is not my favorite.” One class in particular is really her favorite though: drama. Surprise! High school drama class is not like her CYT classes. They learn history, techniques, write papers and plays and do monologues. Rachel has a great memory for every movie she has ever seen. However, memorizing word for word and then reciting it is a bit of a challenge. She had to memorize two pieces for her drama class this year. Her teacher told me all semester not to worry about Rachel. “She is one of my best students.”  We want Rachel to do her best and we don’t want her to embarrass herself if it is something we could help with. On her first monologue, I was skeptical but she did it. The second monologue was a Shakespeare piece and she chose something from “The Tempest.” She worked very hard and did her best. She didn’t quite get it all memorized but she pushed herself beyond what she had done before. She was proud. Her teacher was proud and her parents were proud.  She exceeded expectations.

For drama class she had a two-part final and the students were allowed to work on it at home. Rachel did the written portion as a PowerPoint Presentation. Note: Often when Rachel has writing assignments, she does a PPT. Her middle school theatre teacher came up with the idea. It is a life skill Rachel will use more than writing an essay. She already gives presentations. She needs to be able to put them together. Great out of the box thinking by the teacher. Her current drama teacher and I exchanged some emails about her project. Here are a couple of exerts from the email and he did give me permission to share via my blog:

“The students are working on their finals in class. Rachel came up to me and asked for clarification. She was interested in a doing a scene. She didn’t have a partner, but I told her that it was ok. Honestly, she is one of the higher achieving students in the class. She listens, participates, has fabulous energy, and asks excellent questions. She is really a role model for other students. You should be so proud. She really is amazing. So, I told Rachel that she might be better off without a partner. While she could inspire some students in the class, I didn’t want her to be let down by other students not living up to Rachel’s work ethic. “Did you say I can write a play?” I said yes and Rachel began to tell me her plan. It was completely thought out and it was very reasonable. …..

So … I think she has an idea and I think we should stick with it. …..

Honestly, the objective is for the students to find a way to explore a part of theatre that interests them. Rachel seemed to know what this was for her. I think I would just have her expand it with you. ….

Your daughter is amazing. Thank you for sharing her with us.”

Yep, I think we got a good teaching team. Inclusion is work and inclusion does work. First semester of high school, almost in the books.

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