or should at least explore!
Let's face it, inclusion is here to stay. Unlike most teaching trends that are about ease, data, and shiny new boxes, inclusive education is about the rights of an individual and the fabric of the community. It is an important step towards realizing a fair, just and equitable world.
An inclusive classroom is not one that can be described as one-size-fits-all, it cannot be described as boring or predictable, and an inclusive classroom cannot be described as 'traditional'. An inclusive classroom is the opposite! It provides choice in materials & resources, it is accessible to all its members, and an inclusive classroom is as unique as its members. In essence, an inclusive classroom develops as the community within it grows together and individually. An inclusive classroom reflects the individuals as part of a mini-society- when you step back and think about what an inclusive classroom is, it is a pretty powerful image!
Of course, you cannot have 25 different resources that do the same thing. This post explores 9 tech tools that give you, the inclusive classroom teacher, great bang for your buck! I have had success with these resources within a variety of inclusive classroom communities.
During the research phase of my doctoral studies I concluded that all teachers understand that inclusion means all students being educated together fairly. This is not a shocking revelation, of course educators know what inclusive education is- it has been around for a few decades! However, what intrigued me was the comments that followed the simple question ‘what is inclusive education?’. In answering my practice-based questions, many of my participants acknowledged a distinct grouping of students: ‘mainstream’ students & ‘special education’ students (inclusive of students with behavioral challenges and, at times, EAL). The latter group was often referred to as the ‘students who fall under inclusion’. This example highlights the common conflict between theory and practice.
The conflict between the two can be explored in multiple dissertations. However, a recurring theme in the world of inclusive education is ‘if we say, if we write, it is true’. With education changing with every new government, we rarely have time to explore the system, let alone track our reforms. As well, taking the time to have the tough conversations surrounding the topic of inclusive education does not happen. And, as we are well aware, finances for education come and go like the tide. Creating accessible environments takes a lot of money, especially when it involves updating buildings from the 1950s & 1960s. If we do not create accessible environments for all our students, how can we expect all our students to be able to participate and achieve at school?
As we do in our personal lives, we talk and talk. We talk about nothing and everything, especially with our children. I cannot tell you how I get on to a topic or how a conversation actually unfolds with my own children. To be honest I usually talk in circles and make no sense. I do not have to it is my personal life, right?? However, every now and then I wake up in our conversations because one of my kids says something hilarious, ridicules, or insightful. I am sure many of you know the comments that stop you in your tracks. They are the comments that you want to hold on to.
Hold on to the comments and share them with your family and friends. They are important in your child's development and story. Yet, sometimes, these very comments give us insight into the minds of our children and our students. Stepping back and reflecting on some of the comments my children have said to me in our nonsense conversations, I realize how much more I ought to pay attention! Also, I realize how pragmatic our little ones are in their thinking. Of course, there is imagination and excitement, but the meaning behind so many comments is one of realism and sensibility. Our children are making simple sense out of a crazy upside-down world.
The world is moving so fast and education is not exempted. The speed at which new trends and fads arise is crazy- and it is hard to even know when a trend has come and gone. However, inclusion has been around for a few decades now and it is not a trend or a fad that will come and go. It is a movement to ensure that the mix in society is valued and reflected in our schools. If anything, this movement is getting stronger traction on a global scale. Prior to the introduction of inclusive education, students with learning disabilities, cognitive impairments or physical challenges were seen as having a deficit. They were assumed to be the problems. In the not so long past, education worked on two streams: able & disabled. THANKFULLY this mentality is no longer the case. THANKFULLY we continue our journey towards realizing truly inclusive school systems.
I know that the current implementation of inclusive education systems present themselves with challenges. It is important to remember the challenges are not with inclusive education, but with how inclusive systems have been implemented over the last few decades. With the introduction of inclusion being the driving force behind education systems, many things should have changed. Class sizes should have been reduced, schools should have become accessible, resources and staff should be plentiful, and systems & structures should have been put in place to support the variation in students. However, few things changed. Special Education schools and classes shut down and students requiring additional supports were placed in traditional neighborhood schools. In many cases, the additional supports provided in the specialized schools were lost and our most vulnerable students were expected to fit into a traditional one-size-fits-all mold. The presumed frustration with inclusive education comes back to the lack of change or inability to set up systems & structures that support all our students and not with the notion of inclusive education.
To get back to a more positive note, through inclusive education all students are given a fair education that provides appropriate support for each child (this is the aim). There are teachers who have studied inclusive education and there are teachers who just do it! The beauty of inclusion is that it is an approach and an attitude to society. It is not an art or a practice. When thinking inclusively, individuals become the focus of the group. The idea that all students are different, all students require varying levels of support, and all students are valued members of the class takes precedent.
The Learning Environment of the Inclusive Classroom
What makes the inclusive classroom different from the old traditional classroom setting? These are just a few things to note:
The fact that all of the students can participate together is awesome!
Some Inspiring Teaching Quotes to Check Out
There are moments wherein teachers may feel teaching in inclusive settings to be a challenge for various reasons. I know we love what we do, I know we love our students and want the world for each of them. Here are a few good quotes, among many, that will speak to the heart of your practice.
1. When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.
This quote talks to a key feature in our professional practice, reflection. Children are children. They are not broken nor do they need to be fixed. Our job is to educate our students based on their needs, a curriculum (for better or worse), and to be contributing members of society. If a child is struggling to learn in the environment that we provide, change it. Reflecting on what is working and not working is huge in meeting each student at their unique level and bringing them forward.
2. See the potential and find the unique strength in every student.
Every child is capable of learning. Every child has the right to an awesome education. Our job is to give each child an education in order to support whole person development. Every student is unique in their interests, skills, needs, and experiences. It is important to celebrate each student for being unique, but it is also important to use uniqueness to develop relationships, points of connection, and, at times, to support strategy development.
3. Children who learn together, learn to live together.
School is not only about academics, but about building positive communities. Students need to be contributing and valued members of classroom communities and school communities. Learning how to be a part of a community when you are young is a life skill. All our students will be members of the greater community once they leave school, we must ensure they are prepared for to live and work in a community.
4. Everybody is a genius. If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.