First and foremost, I am flattered that I was asked. I would like to think that means that the special education teacher I will be working with sees positive things in me that will support our special education students. Secondly, I have always considered myself to be an advocate for my students and this will allow me to push that to another level.
Backstory: I had a baby when I was 16 years old. I was a young, single mom (she is the product of abuse) and on my own for five years. I met my husband when I was 21 years old and we had a very whirlwind relationship (moved in together after 3 months and married after 6 1/2). We had our first baby together before our first anniversary and our second one before our second anniversary [you could say we did everything fast in our relationship!].
Our first daughter together has high-functioning autism, sometimes referred to as Asperger's Syndrome. She is also the middle child, has a processing disorder, anxiety, clinical depression and IBS. Poor kid. Of course, I didn't know all of these things about her when she was small. She has always been quirky but that's what makes her who she is. We enrolled her at a charter school for Young 5's (pre-K) because I was displeased with how our local schools had handled her speech delays. I will never, ever forget, as long as I live, sitting in that first IEP with her Young 5's teacher (a woman who spent her days with 4 year olds) and watching that woman have to think about something nice to say about my child.
I was a brand new teacher at that time. I was actually a first year teacher that year. That situation made such an impression on me, both as a mom and as a teacher. First and foremost because how do you have to think about something nice to say about a 4 year old? Second, this was not a school that was in a difficult area. In fact, most of the clientele in that school were single-income families with the mom staying home. I always felt like the early years we were there (while my younger girls were in Young 5's - second grade), some of those teachers judged me because I worked, even though they all clearly had jobs too. The exception was the first grade teacher who was amazing and totally understood me because she was a working mom too.
These teachers wouldn't have known hardship if it bit them on the behind. They certainly did not have teaching situations that were even remotely like mine in the city. Not even close. I guarantee they never had to stand between parents to stop a fight from brewing. I work with tough kids and always have. I have had some students that it was downright difficult to like because they were so challenging. But guess what? I could say something positive about every single one of those students without even batting an eye.
That's why moving into this inclusion situation makes me feel excited, even though it may also be scary because it is unknown. I want to be that advocate for those kids, their champion when other people haven't been. One thing we have insisted upon is that all of these students will be on MY class roster. I don't want anyone to be able to tell who the Level II resource students are and who the general education students are...because it shouldn't matter to anyone. Obviously accommodations will be followed and whatnot and I will know who is who but the average person who comes into my room should have absolutely no idea who is who...because they are people first and each and every one of them has an important place in the world. It's my job to help them find it.