Parents this one is for you!
If you have read some of my posts or if this is your first one, a message I need to hit home for you is the importance of parents/guardians in all student's educational journey. I truly believe as a teacher that connecting with my students' home life is key to me understanding who they are as learners. Parents and guardians you know your children better than I ever will: you have tricks, insight, and perspective that can help me to help your child.
TEACHERS NEED YOU!!!!
To help you understand my teaching perspective more, I have written this post- JUST FOR YOU! I want to share with you what you need to know about our current Inclusive Education system. Inclusion has transformed from its initial roots into something bigger and broader. It has changed from being a policy that ensures those who are excluded are included to an approach that celebrates diversity and individuality.
What is inclusion?
Inclusion is awesome!!! It is a beautiful quilt of unique fabrics. Inclusion is about all individuals within society working together, living together, and building community. 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. An argument can be made for same age students to taught in the same four walls. However, I believe an inclusive system allows all students to thrive within the group even if it looks different among the students. Some students need more support than others, but all students require varying levels of support at different times. I believe inclusion meets every child where they are in order to pull them forward within the learning society. All public schools ought to create an environment and a community that allows for ALL students to be present in the building, to participate in the learning process, and to grow. Inclusive Education is about each child and not about the adults, and it is certainly not about resource shortages. Inclusive Education should not be shaped because the resources are not there- our students deserve the best!
Right here in my home province, our public school system is an inclusive one....... in policy. Our Special Education policy states that all students are to receive a high quality education, with high quality staff, and, as much as possible, with their same age peers. In my opinion it is written very well. HOWEVER, an inclusion policy should be the driving force behind ALL policies. It should not be a sub policy of another policy....especially a Special Education Policy. This begs for a closer look at the notion of 'if you say it, its is true'...... eye roll, we know how that would turn out. Back to looking at my province, when the Special Education Policy is home to our Inclusive Education policy the outcome remains mainstream vs special ed (in this case, mainstream vs inclusion stream). Rather than Inclusion shaping all decisions, a small department (student services) decides what inclusion looks like. Again, inclusion is an approach to society, it is not a separate part of society. You would be surprised at the amount of educators that continue to view inclusion as a means for including vulnerable populations. An inclusive system does not require separate departments for special education, gifted education, EAL, or mainstream. It is a system where diagnosis (or suspected diagnosis) do not define a child's education (or educational discussions). Inclusive Education and inclusive societies invite all students, all people to the table as valued and welcomed members. Inclusive communities create meaningful and authentic opportunities for all members. They do not decide the status quo or the mainstream is the right way. They celebrate the difference in the fabric of society by ensuring all members are respected, included, and appropriately planned for.
Inclusive Education allows for students to receive the support they need to be successful (to participate, to be present, and to achieve) with their learning environment.
What is the purpose of inclusion?
The purpose of Inclusive Education is that it's real- inclusion in schools ought to be reflective of the society we want in a broader sense (not to be confused with the society that we currently have).
I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to live in a world where difference is not valued. Difference and individuality create vibrance, interest, and connectedness. Living in a community where unique is the norm instead of 'group think' makes for a much more interesting society. The purpose of inclusion is to showcase the awesomeness that individuals bring to the fabric of our societies.
Who benefits from inclusion?
WE ALL DO!!!
Do not get caught up in the though that only the kiddos with 'special needs' benefit or some kiddos get left behind because of inclusion. This is just not a true argument! Rather, this point of view is reflective of inclusive systems that have not been set up for success (lack high quality PD, lack focus, lack high quality resources, and lack organizational support).
Historically, Inclusive Education was the transformation of Special Education to 'Mainstream' or as some argue, inclusive special education. BUT we are now 2019, and our journey is way past that! Special Education exists in limited jurisdictions, Mainstream does not exist- what is normal?, and Inclusion is about all/everyone/the individuals that make up society. Inclusion is no longer about including vulnerable populations or certain groups, inclusion is everyone. There still are exclusive schools and special education schools, however, these two types of schools cannot exist within an inclusive system (otherwise we are labelling groups of students).
Inclusive Education moves away from a medical model, it leaves behind the special ed vs mainstream, and it focuses on the individuals as part of a group. Clear as mud?
It really is a simple concept, a fabulous approach that gets muddled up by policy, perspective, and organizational practices.
What is the parent/guardian role?
A parent's role or a guardian's role is to be present and participative in their student's educational journey. Remember, in an inclusive system all students should have authentic learning opportunities within the learning community- YOU NEED TO MAKE SURE THESE ARE HAPPENING!!! How? ask questions, ask for examples, connect with your child, frequently check-in with teachers. As a parent of a child with ADHD, I make a point to ask her teacher daily how her day went in person (email is ok, but phone is best if you cannot do so in person). I talk to my daughter about her day. Some of the stuff is the normal drama of being a 7 year old girl, but if something seems a little amiss- I send an email outlining the conversation. I find an email as follow up is ok. Unlike my quick in-person daily check-ins, an email allows you time to script what you a saying (remember who your source is!) and it allows the teacher time to reflect on your questions or insight. It gives the teacher time to chat with the students (yours and any others involved), observe, reflect on, and get back to you. As a teacher, I think I would daily check-ins would drive me nuts...I am a teacher. As a parent, it goes a long way to ensuring I am present in decisions, I am participating and I am connecting. Since my parenting likes win out in this situation, I now make a point to walk all my walkers out their parent or guardian. I give a greeting to both parent/guardian and student, and I share a little blurb about their- this varies depending on the day. For bussing or late pick up students, I make weekly phone calls and send frequent emails (or a bit more depending on the circumstances).
The end result for me is, my child's teacher includes me a lot- I know what is happening at school (in regards to my child), I am included in appropriate decisions, and I have a SUPER outlook on my daughter's journey.
Should parents and guardians be concerned?
DO NOT BE CONCERNED ABOUT INCLUSIVE EDUCATION!!! Inclusive education will support an inclusive society- a society that involves all! It is beneficial to all students, and it is real life. With Inclusive Education, all students win- all students learn, all students gain new perspectives & understanding, all students build compassion & empathy, and all students learn how to work within a diverse fabric. THIS IS REAL!!!
Where you should be concerned is in how policies are written, explored, and implemented. You should be concerned about the allocation of and attention to funding, resources, understanding, staff development, and infrastructure. Inclusion costs money- it costs money to make sure buildings are accessible, provide choice within materials & resources, and to ensure all staff have high quality training and professional development.
Inclusion is never going to hurt a child's education- but lack of attention to actions & details could.
Why is it important for the parent/guardian to understand inclusion?
This is an easy one- WE NEED YOU!!! You are a part of your child's journey.
Please keep an eye out on our latest and greatest...well, maybe, just helpful, but do keep an eye out for our newest resource. It is one for you!!! Check out The Ultimate Parent Planner to help you stay connected, organized, and involved!