Friday, February 17, 2012

First Midterm

Earlier this week Jessie wrote her first midterm for her first college course—An Introduction to Public Relations. At this point, the only accommodation she has is time and a half and the use of a computer. This was a bit problematic, as, aside from Centre for Students with a Disability (CSD) having only a hard copy of the test, formal tests have never been a great way for Jessie to demonstrate knowledge, even with extra time. However, we decided to jump into college with this one class—with just basic accommodations and no real modifications—to test out the waters.

Of course, a basic accommodation on this trial run includes Dan taking the class with her. As an instructor at the college (he teaches screenwriting) he is allowed to take the course at a preferred rate (compared with the $345 or so Jessie had to pay), and it allows him to rack up credits towards the various certificates he seems to be working on. However, after the first class he was pretty well banished from her sight as she got in with the cool group of young women taking the class, all of who are now her Facebook friends. Now Dan is just trying to teach her that the “I-told-you-so” face that she turns around to make at him every so often—such as when he told her not to hog answering in class and then the instructor kept calling on Jessie—is actually visible to others and doesn’t do much for her claim on maturity.

However, according to Dan, she is more than holding her own. The instructor adores her and has established her own relationship with her, she participates fully in the class and is able to give examples and responses that show her clear grasp of the material, and she is actively included in the small group discussions. In fact, her dance company, Propeller Dance, was chosen as a case study for some marketing brainstorming, which I thought was a brilliant move on the part of the instructor. So for an interim run at college, it is going pretty well.

Jessie desperately wants to be a “college student” but is adamant about not entering a segregated program. I could write reams about that, and most of you could link me to the reams written, and the research, and the myriad opportunities . . . everywhere but here. I read posts like the ones Gary is writing about Alex and try very hard not to be incredibly jealous. Unfortunately, at this point here in Ottawa, we have few choices when it comes to post-secondary education: a segregated class called Academic Assistance for Adults with a Developmental Disability (AAADD) or mainstream classes with minor accommodations. A truly inclusive post-secondary experience doesn’t (yet) exist, but we are working on it! Mostly at Jessie’s insistence, as she feels that the next natural step in her growth and independence (aside from moving out) is being a college or university student.

It is interesting, and understandable, just how much weight she places on following what she sees as being the acceptable/defined/normalized road to independence. She has a tendency to ignore, or at least at this point, discount, her work as an artist and advocate (such as performing, teaching, and giving workshops for Propeller Dance), which takes up much of her time and provides her with an income! But the drive to independence through recognizable means sometimes overrides the unique journey that is unfolding. The challenge is to support her, as what she wants always seems to involve inventing something that doesn’t yet exist.

As she left for the college on the night of her test, she was a bit anxious. Okay. More than a bit. This was going to be her first test in over two years. She hadn’t written one since leaving high school and the academic stream (she was fully included all the way through her school career), and even then, formal tests were never the best measure of her learning, knowledge, or understanding. I tried to reassure her, but what do mothers know? So I called Dan and reminded him to reassure her that just writing a college midterm was the goal. Whatever mark she gets will be okay. I’m not sure she believed him either (Dads are just slightly higher on the humanity/level of consciousness/life form scale than Moms), but by the time the test was finished (Dan said he found parts of it challenging, and Jessie didn’t actually complete the whole thing), it was apparent that she had already processed the experience and was on to the next thing.

I knew this from the phone call that I usually get from Jess as they get on the bus at the college reminding me to get ready to drive to our local bus stop to pick them up (by 10:30 pm in our cold Canadian winters I am willing to do at least this much so they don’t have to walk home late):
“Mom, we’re done.”
“How did it go?”
“I didn’t finish, but I did alright I think.”
“Just remember, and I don’t say this often, you’re perfect just the way you are no matter what your mark.”
“Not everyone is perfect Mom,” (said with an exasperated sigh).

A Jessie-ism: This post was originally written to include a bit from her first class, where, on the bus on the way home, Dan went over what they were going to do in the next class. “It will be about ethics,” he said. “You know what ‘ethics’ is?” “Sure,” said Jessie. “Ethics is about different people like those who are black or aboriginal or from another country.” While this little Jessie-ism didn’t quite make it into the post, it was too good to omit completely.


Alex's Mom said...

Hi - I love this post - we are all doing what our children want using the different opportunities we have. It is so amazing that all our kids strive to be included and a simple thing like a great teacher can make that happen. We just have to keep on trucking - not so easy all the time but well worth the reward. Congrats!

Nan said...

Thanks G. Jess is now watching a 2-part news item on Sterling Peebles going to UVM. It doesn't help that we have friends in Vermont! I had to tell her just how much THAT would cost!See and