I hate to say it, but this quote is all too real. I don't think anyone is actually trying to avoid an inclusive approach, but I think the tensions between what we are 'expected to do' and what the kiddos need to be successful is far too much.... and guess what, the easier approach often wins.....
Think about it, we are given a standard curriculum guide (sometimes with a spectrum of access points), but we open our doors to 27 nonstandard kiddos.... How is this going to work??
Teaching to the curriculum is, often, a one-size approach to education. It assumes that we have one standard type of student. It assumes that all students, or most students, are at the same level at the same point of every year. Maybe this can be true in some settings- but not many. However, when we start thinking inclusively we have to think in grey, we have to think openly and we have to think differently. We have to abandon the singular approach to education and adopt a 'difference is normal' approach.
I am not advocating to burn curriculum guides. Rather, I am advocating to approach them differently. Use them as a resource to guide you through skills, concepts, and knowledge. Then you, the teacher, present choices and options to how students can access, present, and learn the skills, concepts, and knowledge. For example, if you are studying fractions and 1/3 of your class cannot identify whole numbers up to one hundred.... but the curriculum says in grade 5 students need to demonstrate an understanding of fractions, what can you do???
Easy- teach to your students' strengths and pull in their challenges- don't stress about what they are not ready to learn. (they will be ready, but they need to focus on a few other things to get there). In your small groups, focus on fractions for those ready.... but keep going with whole numbers for the students who require more support here BUT.... this is their strength, whole numbers up to a 99.....focus the learning on this and then pull in a few 3 digit examples to bridge the strength and the challenge. DO NOT FUSS ABOUT THE CURRICULUM.... the kiddos just might not be ready. BUT, for those teachers who really view the curriculum guide as the shaping force to learn, then use every day fractions to gage your students' understanding of fractions in a natural non-math lesson kind of a way. 'Billy, can you pass out pencils to half the group?' or 'Susie, can you split your cookie in half?' or 'Sally, how many quarters make up one dollar?'.
Building and maintaining an inclusive approach and an inclusive classroom takes time, dedication, and a lot of learning. It is easy to follow a curriculum guide, it is frustrating to follow one that misses so many kiddos. Remember, difference is normal- often a curriculum guide assumes similarity, the same, or one direction.
A key take away for teaching to each child is that inclusive learning communities focus on individuals within or as part of a community. In other words, inclusive education creates appropriate opportunities for all students- regardless of a singular curriculum guide.
I understand why jurisdictions released and continue to release curriculum guides (despite promotion of inclusive education as a priority and an approach). It is important to provide guidelines for what is to be taught throughout school, they are helpful to teachers, and they ensure that ALL students learn in progression. However, I do wish that curriculum guides were less about the grade level and reflected more of a fluid spectrum.
Keep reading to find out 6 things you can do to support a teach to the child approach:
✔️multiple entry points: Do not assume that all kiddos are at the same level in the curriculum benchmarks. Provide different 'levels' of demonstrating the benchmark for your different students. Same benchmark, different levels of access to it.
✔️choices, options, variety: Provide choice, variety, and options. Make this a part of your daily practice. Choices should be given for resources & materials. You should present information to your students in multi-modal way. As well, allow your students to pick from choices (you present) how they want to demonstrate their learning to you.
✔️strong relationships: Get to know your students- strengths, interests, and challenges. You need to build a connection with each student, especially the kiddos that challenge you the most, to support their feeling of being a part of the learning community- and it helps you to provide meaningful choices.
✔️understanding needs: Understanding their unique needs as learners and as members of the learning community is crucial in providing authentic choices, options, and multiple access points. If you don't understand what your kiddos needs additional support with, it is hard to support them!
✔️team work: Work with your colleagues to provide support and choices. They may just have a unique perspective or experience that can help open your eyes to something different. Call on the parents for their help- they have awesome insider information!
✔️be kind: treat each child as an individual who is valuable, productive, and has every right to be in your learning community. This seems so common sense, but it can often be forgotten in the hustle and bustle of checking off benchmarks. Just remember it is hard for us to teach to so many unique kiddos, but it is really hard for the kiddos who feel like they don't belong to show up.