INSIGHT & ACTION, FALL 2010 Back To School: A Time For Advocacy and Hope

It is that busy time of year again! Yes, that time when parents with their kids in tow are looking for the latest and greatest new styles of notebook, pens, paper, and uniforms; leaving the aisles of the stores in complete disarray. The community comes together to help make certain that all students have the necessary supplies to start the new year off right. Both parents and the community desire that students will be ready for school, not just with supplies, but also with the hope that a new year brings.

In citizen advocacy, we think about those students whose experiences often do not reflect this hope and enthusiasm. They are often excluded from the classrooms where the kids from their neighborhood are sitting in their new desks. It is often in these classrooms that the highest expectations and opportunities for learning and advancement are present, but there are many students who will not have the option to learn and interact here with their peers. Advocates for children in the school setting might think about ways their protégé could share some of this hope and excitement.

Here are three examples of ways that might happen:

1. Have lunch with your protégé in the school cafeteria. Sit at a table with the “non-special education” students. Once a week or twice a month sitting at the same table with the same students, week after week, watching the walls of sepa- ration fall as the table community builds.

2. Find out about clubs and activities at school and try to find a way for your protégé to be a part of the group. Scout troops or drama groups might be a great fit for your protégé when you find ways to have conversations about inclusion.

3. Join your protégé‘s family in becoming home room sponsors. Bring hope into the classroom, celebrating the seasons and events with all students. Those might sound like simple things when there is the hugely important conversation of a good inclusive education to be had; however, when you are young, being excluded from the larger community is probably more of a consideration than making this year’s Individual Education Plan perfect. In your protégé‘s life, these simple things might lead to the hope and enthusiasm the new school year brings if it included “both-and’s” and not “either-or’s”