Today I went on my first school tour of the season. I am extremely excited to visit schools all over Kansas to spread my message and encourage our youth this year, and this was a wonderful way to start. My first school of the year was Valley Center Intermediate School and I just have to brag on them for many reasons.
First the school seemed wonderfully relaxed inside. Students all seemed so happy, calm, and kind. They were on a break when I was there, and there wasn't a single behavior issue that I saw. Sadly, this can be rare in schools as middle school seems to be a harsh time for some.
Beyond that, I was introduced to the principal who took me to the auditorium to get set up. He told me he wanted to get me to visit a classroom before the assembly began and we quickly made our way down the hall. The principal kept bragging on this class, saying these were wonderful students and he was so excited for me to meet them. He then explained that this was the special education classroom I was about to walk in to. Obviously I started BEAMING WITH JOY. I walked in and the screaming began as students were so excited to see us. I say us....because although they were excited to see "the princess", they were just as excited to see the principal. This made my heart leap for joy. He ran in and started giving fist bumps, high fives, and hugs to every student. They were so happy to welcome us into their classroom and I absolutely loved it. I don't think I've ever met a principal so in love with these individuals quite like this guy.
As we began the assembly, as if I needed any more proof that this school was incredible, the entire school sang the national anthem. Not only did they sing it, they sang it well and with full attention and respect to the flag carried in by another student.
BUT THEN, (guys this was so cool)
The principal welcomed the students to the assembly, congratulated them on a wonderful performance of the national anthem, and then said a few simple words that took my breath away.
"Remember that we snap our fingers or wave our hands instead of applause to help our friends with sensory issues, ok? Thank you!"
Guys its that simple. That one piece of instruction makes an all school activity truly and ALL SCHOOL activity. This one difference in the way students handle an assembly allows every student to be a part of the experience. The students were respectful, they were kind, and they were creating an inclusive community whether they knew it or not.
The disability community does not ask for huge things, they ask for minor details that can make all the difference. Minimizing the sensory stimulation in the room helped the entire special education classroom stay for the entire presentation without a single student not being able to handle the noise. It was simple. It did not hold a single "regular" education student back. In fact, it moved every child forward. These students are growing up learning how to take little details into account to make all people feel welcome. That is what it is all about.
From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU Valley Center Intermediate.