Sunday, May 29, 2011

We say goodbye to the school on the hill

Friday was Jack's last day in SFUSD's Language and Learning program. Designed for preschoolers with mild to moderate speech and social issues, it was the only early intervention service SFUSD offered Jack.
He started L&L a year ago, squeezing in a month of classes before summer break, then picking up again in autumn.

I remember his first day; his assignment was to Malcolm X, a small elementary school with a gorgeous hilltop view in Hunter's Point. We drove along with garbage trucks down Cargo Way, turned to pass the old power plant site, and headed uphill through the projects to arrive at the school. Jack's teacher, Miss Jeanna, welcomed him and I took off for a few hours, returning to see the kids walking down the hall toward the school doors together, each holding onto a different color of the walking rope. Jack was calm, but his tongue was sticking out a bit, and at the time that was his indicator when he was stressed -- first days can be like that! L&L gave him many challenges: Miss Jeanna kept the day structured with fine motor and gross activities, reading, singing, art, and snack. Everything is designed with communication in mind. Some of the kids this past year were simply speech delayed while others, like Jack, had sensory and social issues. He definitely made progress at Language and Learning, particularly improving his ability to share his space and tolerate a schedule. His speech is better, but social communication was hampered by the other kids' limited communication skills -- this year he probably had the best speech in his class. We deeply appreciated that Miss Jeanna (along with her aide Miss Shamika, whom Jack adored, in part, because he said she always smelled so nice) and Jack's teachers at his preschool approached his challenges the same way, so both programs reinforced each other.

I felt sad saying goodbye to Miss Jeanna. She's the best kind of teacher, smart and kind with incredible reserves of patience and creativity. SFUSD is lucky to have her. I also would not hesitate to recommend L&L placement at Malcolm X. The principal and staff obviously care deeply about their kids, most of whom come from the nearby neighborhood. The school is immaculate and the Language and Learning kids are kept as separate as possible from the other students, to minimize the fear some of the youngest kids might have for those big elementary students!

But we move on now, continuing at Jack's preschool (of which I will write about in a few months) until August when he will start kindergarten!

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