In effort to remain positive as we reintegrate students back into “regular, inclusive” classrooms, I have refrained from posting anything about local inclusion initiatives until we could see them working! SO:
Lots of upheaval and change and several people are frustrated with what they see: Here is what I see: parents frustrated with a lack of accommodation, a lack of responsibly and responsive IEP/IPP/ISPs, change of schools to get to the program the school board recommends (and a distinct lack of appropriate transportation…), an unwillingness to take parent observations and input seriously, and an extreme unwillingness to support the BYOD program endorsed by the school division! (BYOD = Bring Your Own Device) And this has been seen over 3 school boards in the Calgary & Southern Alberta.
Parents: You are not alone.
Teachers: You are not alone!
Principals: You are not alone!
IS it all BAD new everywhere? NO! There are fabulous teacher with fabulous ideas working their butts off in all three divisions and more. I applaud the fabulous work they are doing with limited time and limited resources AND an uncertain environment.
HOWEVER, I believe no student should fall completely through the cracks. There seems to be a lack of synchronous, uniform ideas that are rolled out across the province. There are unique needs in each area of the province, but there should not be 61 different versions of inclusion.
As one parent recently exclaimed when trying to get her school to help: “it’s not rocket science and it shouldn’t be this slow and painful” (text message, 1:39 pm 23/01/2014). The only reason it feels like ROCKET SCIENCE to schools is because the idea has not been clearly set out for everyone. The reason that it is slow and painful is because the idea has not been clearly set out for everyone.
Based on the Canadian Association for Community Living’s National Summit on Inclusive Education of November 2004 “…inclusive education was defined as arrangements that ensure that teachers have the instructional and other supports to:
• welcome and include all learners, in all of their diversity and exceptionalities, in the regular classroom, in the neighbourhood school with their age peers: “
• foster the participation and fullest possible development of all learners’ human potential; and
• foster the participation of all learners in socially valuing relationships with diverse peers and adults.
Where a student, regardless of disability, needs individualized attention and support from their teacher to address difficulties with the curriculum on any given day, it should be for as brief a period of time as possible with an active plan to reintegrate the student back into the regular classroom as soon as possible with appropriate supports for the teacher and student.”
Do teachers have those instructional and other supports? No, not all of them. There is no requirement to have a Special Education course in Alberta to be certified and with the implementation of “inclusive education” this is a GROSS oversight in this process. Special Education is not just for those determined to have special learning needs. The basis of special education is to meet the child where they are at and give them the STRATEGIES to apply to other situations as well as the SKILLS to apply to a variety of situations. EVERY child in Alberta can benefit from this approach.
Every teacher can provide this approach.
There is some onus on the teacher: if you are not getting what you need, find a way to get it.
There is a lot of onus on those in administration: support all those in your community.
AND there is an onus on parents: understand that teachers need some guidance and home support.
Everyone is going to have to put in overtime on this one, so get to it.
Now it can look like, all it inclusion takes is more work. That may sound overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Working together is what inclusion is asking for and we all have comfort zones. If "special education" wasn't an interest or even on the radar as a teacher, you are not alone - I will bet you it wasn't on the parents' radar either until the diagnosis!
At first it seems like more work, but all new routines can be. Parents helping with understanding their children's needs and being honest with the possibilities in the classroom. Teachers helping by just trying suggestions from outside services and parents - it may help more than one student. Administrators - you get to walk the fine line between helping teachers understand parents & students needs and pushing your teachers to try something new - be the voice of reason and balance.
Check out: Alberta Teachers Promoting Inclusion on Facebook!