Diversity is not skin deep

#3’s teacher has been gone the last couple of days….at diversity training provided by the school district.  The training is expensive, and time consuming.  In fact, the school district signed a contract for $1.2 million dollars for this training.  It’s clearly very important to the superintendent.  And, I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

 

Except…….

 

How many years have I been telling administrators in the district that my children, because their brains are wired differently than most people’s, need a different reading curriculum and instruction methods?  They are diverse.  

Diversity is defined as “a range of different things.”  My children learn differently.  Learning is diverse.  

However, it seems that the administrators are only interested in diversity when it means skin color or country of origin.  A Pioneer Press article states, “The policy calls on the district to seek out input from diverse students and families on teaching practices and curricula.”  But these same administrators seem tone deaf when I talk about the diverse learning needs of my children.  Is it because you can’t see their diversity?  Does the school district only consider a child’s race to be where diversity lies? I don’t know.

I haven’t gotten anywhere with my pleas for help for children with dyslexia.  Unless your “diversity” is obvious, it seems the children are placed in a classroom, mandated to sit quietly and complete tasks at the pace dictated by the district administration.  Decisions are made based on numbers on a standardized test without taking into account the individual needs and potential of a child.  It seems even the potential of a child has been standardized by the district with the use of testing.  Individual potential is no longer part of the conversation, as long as the individual child’s achievement falls within the district norms.

When #1 started kindergarten at our current elementary school they had wonderful programs that celebrated multiple intelligences.  They had a program called “Theaters of Learning.” Children could choose classes about Fairy Tales, environmental science, card games, etc.  It was diverse and many learning styles were valued and appreciated.  The teachers do the best they can to hang onto their value for diverse learning styles and interests, but it seems to get harder for them every year.  Many of the programs that made the school inclusive of all learners and celebrated diversity have gone away in the wake of mandates from the district office that claims to value diversity.

They do value diversity….and this is good….but it seems to be a very narrow definition of diversity.  They do not seem to value the diversity of learning styles.  The achievement gap is real and serious.  I do not want to take away from the efforts to help this serious situation and the intense needs of so many children.  Going to training to learn about your own racial stereotypes and understanding the needs of other cultural groups is wonderful and should happen.  Institutional racism is real and greatly effects the lives of people.  I firmly believe this.

However, helping one group of children should not come at the expense of helping others.

It’s frustrating to show principals written documentation from educational psychologists stating the intense learning needs of my children and explain to them what an Orton-Gillingham based system is only to hear “We don’t have the resources for that.”  I have been asking people that work in the district office “why isn’t there a reading specialist at my child’s school?” only to be told “We don’t have the resources for that.”  I ask for reading interventions designed for a child with dyslexia and I’m told “We don’t have the resources for that. ”  (Lucky for #3, his fabulous classroom teacher took on teaching him with an Orton-Gillingham system on her own because she recognized his diverse needs.)  At our previous elementary school, when #1 and #2 were struggling, parents told me, “This is not the right school for YOUR kids.”  I was furious.  You would never say that to a child because of their skin color, but because my children learn differently some people felt it was OK to exclude them from a public school.

When I am told about lacking resources for children with dyslexia, what I hear is: “We are using our resources to help with diversity in our district…..but we don’t mean your kind of diversity.”

As I watch the curriculum continue to narrow in our school district I wonder where the place is for a child who needs a different reading and writing curriculum, a child who is particularly gifted in the area of recess, and spends a rainy Sunday happily making a sculpture out of a box, duct tape, string, plastic wrap, tinfoil, water color paintings, old cabinet pulls, and of course gobs of glue.

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 Imagine the possibilities if the school district would train all the teachers to recognize warning signs of dyslexia and how they can help.  Children would no longer get lost in the cracks.  Children would be able to realize their potential before.

Diversity is not skin deep.

Sometimes diversity is in how we learn and process information. 

It’s time for my school district to recognize that diversity is, in fact, diverse.

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