Kent, Lauren and I after a school awards night.
Kent, Lauren and I after a school awards night.

 

Right now, my younger brother, Kent, is on the final stretch of his high school career, and set to graduate at the end of June.  Just like anyone in his shoes, he couldn’t be more excited to be done and is counting down the days.  I remember how slowly those final few months seemed to go by.  As Kent’s older brother, I am extremely proud of him.

Kent is profoundly deaf which, as you might imagine, has made his education a struggle over the years.  When he was three years old, he was a recipient of a cochlear implant.  I will spare you the details, since that is not what this post is about, but essentially this implant has allowed him to hear, albeit not as clearly as non-deaf people can (if you want to learn more about Cochlear Implants, check out this site).  Despite his implant, he obviously has some communication difficulties.  His speech and vocabulary is less than what is expected for his age, but incredible considering the challenges he faces every day that most people could not possibly imagine.  Because of this, he has had to take some modified classes, which cover the exact same material, just with simpler language.

Kent’s work ethic and the knowledge he has gained because of it makes my high school efforts look pathetic.  Despite his disability, Kent has been able to achieve over an 80% average.   I find this incredible.   I couldn’t imagine battling through a disability like his and achieving like he has. I  have given up because of much, much less difficult challenges on many occasions.

I graduated top of my class receiving the Governer General’s Academic Medal and was on the honour roll at the school since seventh grade.  In my eyes, what I achieved academically doesn’t even come close to what Kent has.  Kent has never been on the honour roll and I have never seen his efforts, which greatly outweigh many, recognized at a school awards night.   Below is an excerpt from the school’s student handbook.

Schools are academic institutions. We honour academic excellence in several ways in [our] School:
HONOUR ROLL:
The Honour Roll is printed in our graduation exercise program each year. To be included on
the Honour Roll a student must have achieved an average of 75% (or better) to the end of
term three.
HONOUR WALL:
To be listed on our honour wall, a student must have achieved a final
average of 80% or better

But wait, didn’t I say he has had over an 80% average?  I certainly did, but if you ever walk through the halls of our school, you will  not find Kent’s name on the honour roll  plaques. Why?  Apparently, if you take any modified classes, you are no eligible to be on the honour roll.  I’m sure you can imagine the thoughts that came into my head and the words that came out of my mouth when I finally learned about this earlier this year.

Are the achievements of students with disabilities not good enough? Are their accomplishments not worthy enough to be listed side by side those of able-bodied students?

I dug around a little more and found this on the school’s website (copied word for word):

A] VISION STATEMENT – Students will be knowledgeable, independant and respectful lifelong learners who contribute positively to society.

B] MISSION STATEMENT – To create a positive learning environment that ensures student learning and personal growth.

C] VALUE STATEMENTS – We Value:

  1. Recognition of all student successes in academic and extra-curricular activities.
  2. Independant learning so that all students achieve personal growth.
  3. Community involvement.
  4. A safe, caring, respectful learning environment that promotes lifelong learning.
Kent at school
Kent at school

I hope I’m not the only one who sees the problem with this picture.   How can you possibly think a positive learning environment is being created when this is happening?   Clearly, these so-called “values” are not something that are taken seriously.  We value the recognition of all student successes in academic and extra-curricular activities? Either this is being overlooked or Kent doesn’t fit in the category of all students.

I vividly recall him being upset on the days of both mine and my sister’s graduation, since the honour roll students were shared in the ceremony programs.  In no way, does this promote lifelong learning.  What motivation is there for him to continue working this hard?

What is the purpose of an honour roll anyways?  Surely it is great to recognize students accomplishments.  But is it really effective when students who do not try get recognized and students who try their hardest do not?  I understand that those questions could lead to all sorts of discussion about assessment, so I’ll stop there.

We are supposed to be doing our best to provide students with an inclusive education, or at least that’s what I’m being taught currently.  How can this ever happen if this is incidents like this occur?  Does this happen anywhere else?  As a future teacher, what can I do?