email originally written October 23, 2001
This afternoon, I was sitting in the waiting area of the art gallery where Skye takes an art lesson every Tuesday. Journey and K.J. were with me, and there were other mothers and their children. The discussion turned to one mother’s move to Stone Mountain from Decatur. She had decided to home school her children because she didn’t like the school in her area. Another mother whose family lives in the city of Decatur expressed concern about what might happen to the quality of Decatur City schools given the current discussions about moving children from over-crowded “white schools” to less-populated “black schools.”
I reflected that transitioning to a more diverse environment always seemed to be difficult — for a number of reasons. However, in my experience with our little elementary school in DeKalb County — once you have achieved a degree of diversity, there are many benefits. My impression of our school is that it is racially, ethnically, and ability-diverse. I then told the mothers about my daughter Emily’s best friend…
Emily had shared with me that she had a new best friend at school — a girl named Alana. I knew that Alana had special needs, and today I witnessed Emily’s interactions with her first-hand. I went on a field trip with the second grade to a Native American cultural event. We saw dancers and animals, learned Native American history, saw the utensils, weapons, instruments, etc. used by various tribes, and more. Most of the second graders came on one bus. The children in wheelchairs came on a separate bus. It takes a long time to load and unload each one, so they arrived later than the rest of us. As soon as Emily saw Alana’s wheelchair approach, she ran to greet her. For the next few hours I watched Emily talk to, stroke, feed, and hold hands with this beautiful, blind, African-American girl confined to a wheelchair. They smiled and laughed with each other. It touched me so deeply. They say that children retain approximately 5% of what they hear, 10% of what they read, and 20% of what they see and hear; but they retain 90% of what they experience. I am grateful for my child’s experience with persons of all skin colors, faiths, national origins, and abilities/ limitations at our school.