What is Inclusive Education? What is the purpose of inclusion?
Inclusion is an approach to society that allows for all its members to have opportunities to be present, participative, and to achieve. In terms of school, inclusion is a school system built on the foundation of all students being on an individual educational journey as part of a learning community. It is about individuals as part of a group.
The purpose of Inclusive Education is that it's real! Inclusion is about communities of difference, diversity, and connectedness. In an inclusive society (big or small), difference is not viewed in terms of being different from the norm, rather, difference is the norm. In other words, there is no norm or expectation of how someone ought to look, act, or be. Of course there are general rules or laws within society, but that is a whole other area- Inclusive societies do not tolerate mainstream vs everyone else- it is about all unique individuals within a group: living, working, being.
When you think about the purpose of Inclusive Education, you must realize that the purpose is to ensure all individuals understand they are valued, wanted, celebrated, & expected to be present within the learning community. Unlike yesteryear with special education classes, inclusive systems create differentiated learning opportunities for all its members that are appropriate, fair, high quality, and focused on the individual within the community.
Inclusive Education requires resources, changes to infrastructure to ensure accessibility, high quality educators, and an open mindset. I realize that many many school systems that are 'inclusive' have not dedicated themselves to inclusion as the driving force in decision making. It is hard for teachers to create fully inclusive settings when the school systems are not putting their actions where their words are. However, there are little things that you can do within your class and within your planning that support a more inclusive classroom.
Who benefits from inclusion?
WE ALL DO!!!
What is the teacher role?
A teacher's role is to teach all students regardless. A teacher facilitates learning opportunities and learning experiences for each and every one of their students based on the unique needs of a each child. Inclusive Education requires differentiation, accessibility, flexibility, and attention to the uniqueness of each individual learner.
Is teaching inclusively challenging? YES and NO- it is hard when you over think it. How can I teach 25 plus kiddos number sense ranging from number identification to operations?? How can I teach all my students to read when 5 of them cannot sit still for longer than a minute? There are some very challenging classroom climate situations that can impact the learning of all students. There are some excitable classroom groupings that making teaching certain concepts impossible (ish)?
The no it is not challenging to teach inclusively is when you let go of you preconception of what teaching is and how it works and who you teach. Teaching inclusively is not a perfect science nor is straight forward. Rather, it is an approach to how you do what you do. Instead of getting caught up in the grade level rat race, when you teach inclusively you teach to each child. Instead of worrying about where the student ought to be, you meet your students at their level.
How do you do this?
- CHOICE!!! Providing choice in activities, in materials, in resources, and in the concept level is a great starting spot.
- GROUPING: group your students into small levelled groups. Do no worry about whole class lessons when only 25% of the students are working on the same concept level. Cut yourself some slack, use small levelled groups, and teach the students that way. You can teach one concept at 5 levels without any more planning.
- Mini Lessons: I love short mini lessons! Clear, concise, and focused lessons then practice the skill or concept. When using choice and levelled groupings, mini lessons are an easy way to support differentiation in your approach, your strategies, and your demands.
- Expectations: Keep your expectations the same for all your students: EVERYONE WILL LEARN, EVERYONE WILL PARTICIPATE, and EVERYONE WILL BE PRESENT.
What isn't Inclusive Education?
Inclusive Education is not a division of education like Special Education or Gifted Education. Inclusive Education is not concerned with any one group of individuals over any other group- because when we think inclusively, students are students are students.
Why is it important for teachers to understand inclusion as an approach to and not part of education ?
I think it is so easy for us as teachers to get caught up in what we expect our students to be able to do at certain grade levels or ages. However, we need to let this go. With the inclusive journey, our approach to how schools are set up needs to transform from the 'old school traditional' to something that is more flexible and individual. Remember, inclusion is about individuals functioning as part of a group. If we continue to focus on grade level curriculum guides, standardized tests, and labels in our education system we will not get very far in our journey towards a more inclusive destination.
As teachers, we cannot easily change the big picture items. However, we can make a choice to be inclusive through openness & flexibility in our approach, differentiation, and focusing in on ways to ensure all our kiddos are included in the learning community appropriately. There is no one size approach to inclusion.
Check out our Organizational Guide for Inclusive Teachers & our Ultimate Teacher Planner.
Both of these resources are helpful, informative, and will keep you organized and focused on your students.