Each year, I have the pleasure of watching a group of people who come together with a singular purpose for one very special day. The special day is Bryan County’s annual Special Field Day.
The people are representatives of Bryan County Family Connection, Richmond Hill Police Department, South Coast Medical Group - Pediatrics, United Way, Department of Family and Children, YMCA, Georgia Housing Group, Ford Plantation, Bryan County Schools, several individuals not associated with any particular group or agency, and a few dozen wonderful special needs boys and girls from Bryan County Schools.
The purpose is to run, roll, throw, jump, race, compete, cheer, love, and share; in short, to have the best time of one’s life.
We are all about learning. No Child Left Behind has structured the way for students with special needs to be aligned with the same curricular expectations and proficiencies as their more typically developing peers.
The goals and objectives we write to move our students from where they are currently functioning to where they need to be functioning are drawn from the same Georgia Performance Standards as those set for students without disabilities.
Time on task, direct instruction, and progress monitoring become the mantra for our teachers as they begin their respective missions to achieve mastery on these skills.
So why go to all the trouble, expense, and effort for our field day? Where is the performance standard for throwing a tennis ball? What do our students learn during this day?
Somewhere along the line, someone determined that different colored ribbons would be a standard to mark competitive proficiencies for challenging events.
Blue is best, red is good, and yellow is pretty good. Being the first one over the finish line, throwing an object farther than anyone else, or jumping higher or farther than those around you is what counts.
Achievement is obtained when one comes in first. At least that is what I have always thought and have been taught to believe.
I learned a lot on this special day. I learned that though you cross the finish line first, a yellow ribbon is a whole lot better than a blue ribbon, if yellow is your favorite color.
I learned that if you can’t run, the cheers of the crowd are no less deafening when you walk across the finish line minutes after the person ahead of you.
I learned that you probably do not want to walk anywhere near or even behind the contestants during the tennis ball throw.
I learned that a wheel chair race is as deserving of a photo finish as an Olympic 100 meter run.
I learned that you will run faster if you aren’t laughing, but laughing is a lot more fun than running fast.
I learned that when you take a child’s hand and run alongside for encouragement, you and the child have already won the prize.
I learned that when you are running or jumping, or throwing, you should keep your eyes forward, but doing so does not allow you to shout encouragement to the friends who are behind you.
I learned that when you have a medal around your neck and a ribbon pinned on your shirt, you can conquer the world, so those basic math facts really are not that much of a challenge after all.
-by Frank Williams, director of special education for Bryan County Schools