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Developing a sense of community and support is critical to a fully inclusive classroom. Accepting each other for where they are and seeing in each other what they can become requires a concerted effort far beyond the subject matter specifics in English, Social Studies, Math, the Sciences or any of our courses. However how we teach, the examples or activities and particularly our approach toward our students, the so called “soft curriculum” play a huge role in developing the foundational trust we require if we are going to meet the needs of students that span a broad spectrum of abilities, backgrounds, and aspirations.

Consider this scene from the movie Freedom Writers, the true story of an English teacher who demonstrated exceptional commitment to her students in an extremely difficult class.

“All”

Who would think that one three letter word could cause so much controversy, challenge, and conflict but when used in a value statement or a statement of conditions it challenges us to reflect on the meaning and then how we are going to work toward attainment of that statement.

Consider the word “all” in one of the most powerful sentences in all of the English language:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” American Declaration of Independence

We could certainly suggest that this sentence was an anchor point behind two major wars, the American Revolution and the American Civil War. We could further state that in working toward an inclusive education system and by extension an inclusive society we are taking this statement to its natural conclusion. All students are entitled to a full and complete education experience that meets them where they are and works to maximize their experience within their abilities TOGETHER with peers.

Looking back on the work of Alberta Education’s consultation process can be helpful, sometimes we forget that the province has engaged in considerable consultation over the past several years and the direction toward an inclusive education system comes from that consultation with students, parents, educators, and the communities in which we live and work.

The mission statement of inclusive education captured from the Alberta Education video in this post below.

Inclusive education mission

From the consultation period phase 2 Alberta Education provided this video along with several others for our consideration moving forward.

Alberta Education’s “Setting the Direction on Inclusion” Fact Sheet. 

Among our many challenges then is working to together leveraging our skills as a professional learning community to develop and support each other in drawing out the best for ALL our students.

Instructional practice, differentiation, assessment, relationships with our students and parents are all impacted in an inclusive school setting.

What does success look like in an inclusive education culture?

I’d like to start this post with a question, who determines or defines success when we are talking about a school setting?

Teachers?
Board Members?
Administration?
Parents?
Students?
The business sector?

How does the answer change, does the answer change, if the defining audience changes?  Should the answer be dramatically different if we ask the 18 year old weeks before graduation from grade 12 and the parent of that same student or a student just wrapping up kindergarten?

Let’s think about the parents walking that first child toward the doors for their first day of kindergarten.  Most likely they are holding the hands of that little one but try to imagine what they are thinking, what they are hoping for their son or daughter. Every parent’s greatest treasure is found in their children. The children they are entrusting in some form to our efforts as teachers.  What does success look like?

What would you add to the “definition” of success from this video? Was their a surprise? Was there something missing you really would like to have people include in their quest for success in an inclusive educational environment.

Gathering of resources

The intent of this blog is to gather resources, video clips, discussion points in blog format for parents, students, and staff.  The vision for inclusive education is one that meets the needs of ALL students. Naturally any use of the word ALL creates a challenge as sometimes meeting the needs of one may lead to a perceived conflict upon the needs of other students.  Balance, common sense and a willingness to be open to change are all part of the evolution to a successful inclusive environment.

Student centered – at the very core of the conversation is what is best for the student. This, might not always be the easiest thing to accomplish by the teacher, and may involve a concerted effort on the part of peers in the class but all of it will contribute to the learning experience of everyone in the system. Having students mentor or provide support to a student may in fact take them away from doing some of their own work, however the reinforcing aspect of working with another, explaining to another, or helping another come to understand the material will serve the supporting student at least as well as the student who received the support.

It is important to understand that inclusive education or inclusive learning is not just a new name for special education. This is about developing better understanding, drawing bigger circles around the greater population, and pulling everyone into the greater shared experience of learning in our schools. Inclusive learning addresses culture, race, gender, sexual orientation, gifted education, and the needs of students who require additional supports to address emotional, physical, and mental gaps or challenges to learning.

The Alberta Education Inclusive Education website

Alberta Education’s Inclusive Education video: