The word trouble was not part of the narrative, but that’s the word that came to mind when I read what unfolded during circle time. I have mentioned Addie’s home/school communication binder in the past, what a critical tool it is in my understanding of her progress, setbacks, victories and challenges at school. It’s also my window into just what inclusion means at her school as she spends full days in a senior kindergarten classroom.
On Wednesday I cracked open the binder as Addie played outside in the snow. Actually, as she munched on all the snow she could scoop up, is probably a more accurate description. The first category on the daily sheet is circle time. Wednesday’s entry for circle time sent the cartoon balloon above my head, the one that said “trouble,” in bendy bold letters. My cartoon face below the word, though, had no down-tipped eyebrows, no pinched lips of disapproval, not even wide-eyed worry – none of the things you’d imagine at the source of the “trouble” bubble. Cartoon me, however, sported googly round eyes, distended with the paradoxical combination of hunger and satiation in them as seen on, say, Scooby Doo, for example, when an impossibly high and abundant club sandwich wafts into his olfactory radius. Add to the bulging eyes a half smile of knowing. He’s gonna get the sandwich and is already relishing just the thought of it.
I even said my single line out loud. Trouble. I was calling her by a new name, making sure it fit. It did and I liked it. Saying it out loud felt similar to that sort of fake exasperated, but smiling tone we parents use when we talk about what clever things our kids say, how busy our kids are, how much they read, what play they are in, what scholarships they got, how they are doing in college, how many kids they have, what company they started…. We hold pride at bay by figuratively dangling the facts of their greatness between finger and thumb, removing it from ourselves in false objectivity. We are never believed in this – the more desperate we try not to sound impressed by our own offspring, the more our glory is revealed. I said it again, feeling my own sly smirk, “Trouble."
I wasn’t sure who I was going to tell first. My husband was out of town for work and Addie's sister, who would completely get it, was studying with a friend. I have certain friends who could appreciate this more than others, as it would resonate with a few. But then again, it meant so much to me, maybe grandmas should know first, like when first steps are taken, front teeth are lost, engagements are made, promotions awarded. I decided just to go ahead and make technology my friend again by shouting it out electronically in all directions. Thus, this story is a dead horse to all that surround me.
But I tell it again.
Addie got in trouble at circle time. She and a friend were talking when they weren’t supposed to. They got a warning, but chose to continue their conversation in which her friend asked various questions about winter break and Addie replied with details. Ultimately, they had to be separated to different carpet squares for the remainder of group time.
Addie is functionally nonverbal and intellectually original. She uses sign and a dynamic display communication device to speak. To my knowledge, this was among the first peer conversations at school not only not facilitated by a teacher, therapist or paraprofessional, but also among the first to occur to the indignation of all of the above. A natural, collaborative boundary-bender in a K5 classroom, addressed with a natural corrective action for both rule-breakers.
If the word were part of my lexicon, I might even venture that it was typical.
The sauce of meaning I drench this morsel in: Addie buys into her device and is not just using it to please adults with agendas. Her friends buy into her device as her voice. Her friends want to know more about her and are not afraid to ask. Addie is confident that she has interesting things to say. She is a full member of the community in her classroom, accountable to the same rules, subject to the same corrections, eligible for the same relationships, capable of the same progress, expected to contribute her talents like everybody else. All of that stacks up to a fragrant and promising tower of “inclusive thinking comes naturally where I drop Addie off every day.”
I got my impossibly high club sandwich right in front of me.
More trouble at: Farmer John Cheese and Other Joy