Tomorrow Is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion

Inclusion Is What We Do

Inclusion Is What We DoBy Chris Chivers

This post was originally published at Chris Chivers (Thinks).

Inclusion can sometimes be seen as an add-on to “normal” teaching activity.  It is possible to argue that inclusion, far from being an add-on, is an integral part of practice, explicit in the detail of the standards for teachers. Teachers will go to work each day to secure the best opportunities for each and every child in their class. Inclusion occurs in the best of teaching experiences.

Inclusion is not something that is done to people. It is an aspect of ethos, a principle and, as such, exists or it doesn’t. An inclusive environment is one where people matter, their needs and aspirations are not only known but are also supported. Therefore it is a college of individuals which cares for each other, the collegiate approach. Inclusion is an ethos based on love and care, with the opposite extreme leading to exclusion and a child being ostracised. An inclusive ethos should allow individuals to express themselves and, at times, to articulate different opinions. Openness and articulacy can support the resolution of issues more easily. Inclusive organisations often support discussion and resolution through mediation and allowing advocacy for vulnerable members.

All school staff are the eyes and ears of the organisation. In this approach, early identification of concerns, such as behaviour change, physical hurt and absence can lead to early intervention, by the most suitable means, sometimes external to the school. School staff have a responsibility to keep children safe. Intervention can be testing for the adult, but to ignore warning signs puts everyone at risk.

Every child is unique, demonstrably so, educationally, physically, emotionally, socially, though heritage and life experience.  It is possible to perceive thirty different needs in a class of thirty children. That puts a strain on a teacher’s organisational abilities and their ability to engage with each individual. However, differentially challenging activities can lead to deeper engagement
with small groups and individuals, where whole class teaching cannot.

Differentiation has been a significant challenge to teachers, as it implies the need to plan for several layers of ability within groups. Some schools organise in sets or streams, but it is arguable that even in sets there is a continuum of ability, even if it is narrowed. One only has to ask the simple question, “What’s the point in being bright in this classroom?” to see that some may not be sufficiently challenged. Challenge implies expectation, where the teacher has analysed the child’s needs and can see what that the next learning step is. Expectation can lead to aspiration, with targets being set slightly higher, but with support. Teachers need to be aware that task completion does not automatically mean success in learning, but the combination of learning processes with positive outcomes is energising to both the child and the teacher. We all want the “light-bulb moment”.

Inclusion should imply personalised approaches to learning and teaching, with individualised challenges for children to enable them to become engaged learners and active producers,
rather than consumers.

Assessment, analysis and reflection are embedded within practice, supporting individual and institutional progress.

The mantra for each school and each individual within a school should be,

“Inclusion is what we do.”

Chris ChiversWho is Chris Chivers? Forty years of experience in education, as teacher, manager, lecturer, consultant, assessor, adviser. An experienced, visionary, headteacher with over 15 years’ responsibility for the strategic leadership, direction and operational management of a school. Experience of evaluating organisational performance in order to identify key priorities for continuous improvement and raising organisational standards. Highly experienced people manager, committed to high standards of professionalism, continuous professional development and equality of opportunity. Follow him on Twitter @chrischivers or on his blog.

7 New School Year Resolutions I Plan On Keeping

7 New School Year Resolutions I Plan On Keeping

Just like the beginning of a new calendar year, the first week of school is a time for reflection on how we can improve our teaching practice as well as ourselves as human beings. This year I am sharing with you seven resolutions that I will try my best to keep as the school year moves along. I am not saying I’ll be perfect at all of them but my intention is to give it my best shot. I plan to…

1. Have a good attitude



One thing that will drive you completely mad is when you work with someone with a bad attitude. It is almost impossible to come back from negativity day in and day out. The thing about being negative is that it almost requires no effort! It is much harder and much more rewarding to be positive, especially in some teaching environments. Hopefully, I can practice what I preach and keep my eternal optimist flame burning. I owe it to my students and their families. I owe it to myself.

2. Not care what people say about me behind my back

Listen Carefully How People Talk About Other People


When you work at a school it is inevitable. People talk about you. Sometimes it is flattering, but many times the subject of the gossip it is not portrayed in a favorable light. Think about the last time you were among a group of people gossiping. It probably seemed harmless at the time but just imagine if they were talking about you. Since I am vocal about my convictions of inclusion, I know that not everyone agrees with me. I know people talk about me when I am not there, but I also know that this cannot concern me because I cannot control how they feel.  The only thing I can do is stay true to what I have gleaned over the last eleven years and part of that is to try to always be respectful of the people you work with.

3. Weave As Many Firefly References Into Daily Conversation As Possible



Who said all of my resolutions had to be serious ones? My wife and I FINALLY saw the complete season of Firefly (including the movie Serenity). Needless to say (for those who are familiar with the series) we could not get enough of Mal and his perfectly imperfect crew. I am determined to respond with “shiny” to anyone who asks me how things are going in my classroom.

4. Make Some New Friends

Did We Just Become Best Friends?


Being a special education teacher, it is easy to stick to my own and not assimilate into the general population of teachers. My vision for education includes one where special and general education teachers collaborate and learn from each other. This is only going to happen if I make an effort to work with some people who don’t normally venture into my classroom.

5. Get More Sleep



Even as I am writing this, I am keenly aware that I should probably be sleeping. Maybe I should have put “drink more coffee”. Perhaps I have the Thatcher gene.

6. Work Smarter Not Harder

Work Smarter Not Harder


One of my favorite mottoes is to “work smarter not harder”. It is so tempting to try and reinvent the wheel when planning lessons or coming up with teaching strategies. Asking your colleagues for their input and developing a strong professional learning community are big keys to making it a reality. Have you joined Twitter yet? #spedchat #iechat

7. Don’t Blink (or Pay Attention To The Details)



Another shameless scf-fi reference. Though I have confidence there will not be any stone angels attacking me anytime this year…it reminds me that I can get to focused on the big picture to realize what is going on around me. As an inclusion advocate, I am in this thing for the long haul. Which means I need to slow down and take care of what is in front of me.

Thanks for indulging me. I hope that each of these resolutions, no matter how serious or silly they are will enable me to have a truly awesome shiny year. Whether you are a parent or educator, I wish you all the best.

How are you preparing for the new school year? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Ask Cheryl: Helpful Ideas For Back To School Transitions

transitions - picture of blurry sc

Cheryl Jorgensen is one of the premier experts on inclusive education. She has a feature on her website called “Ask Cheryl”, where she answers questions that have been emailed to her. She has given me permission to re-post these Q & A’s on our site as a series. You can find the original “Ask Cheryl” page on her website. The best way to contact her is by email:

October 2012

Dear Cheryl,

Although we’ve been back at school for over a month now, one of my students is having a very difficult time adjusting to this new grade. It seems like we are back to “square one” and we are all getting very discouraged. He is hiding in the bathroom, refusing to do his work, lashing out several times a day, and we are at a loss. Help!

Sincerely, A High School Guidance Counselor


Dear Guidance Counselor,

I can really empathize with you and although I don’t know your student I do know there are lots of possibilities for what the source of the problem is – not feeling well, sensory overload, frustration because the work is difficult, and so forth. I do have two ideas and related strategies that you might consider. Your team will need to discuss them, maybe gather some data, and decide which (if either!) of these ideas might make sense. I’d recommend that you pick a couple of strategies at first –preferably those that have the highest team agreement rather than an idea that one or two people like but the rest of the team aren’t really committed to.

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships!

I would put lots of energy during the next few weeks into the development of your student’s social relationships. I know that you know how important it is for all students to feel welcomed and secure on the social front. Otherwise all the positive behavior support plans and curriculum modifications in the world won’t help at all, right? First, make sure that there aren’t any things standing in the way of your student feeling like a welcomed member of the school and his classes. · Does he ride the regular school bus? Is he enrolled in general education classes? Is his seat in each classroom right alongside his classmates’? If he is supported by a paraprofessional, does she give your student lots and lots of space…to get to the next class, to choose where to sit at lunch time, to hang out with other students of his own choosing?

Second, find out what your student’s interests are and then support him to join an extracurricular activity that matches those interests. If you aren’t sure what might really get him excited, pick an activity that lots of his classmates are members of as a place to start. Have a chat with the advisor of that club or activity, describe your student in a holistic way (e.g., shy, keen on computers, loves music, uses a communication device, can be stubborn, likes being “just one of the guys”), and then figure out how the other students in the club can provide any supports that the student needs, before thinking about whether he needs an adult to attend the activity too.

Third, after doing numbers 1 and 2, if social relationships are not happening and your student seems as unhappy as ever, he may need you to take some very intentional steps to help create “community” for him. I worked with a student some years ago who sounds an awful lot like your student. We asked a bunch of students if they would like to come together with Brandon to help figure out what was standing in the way of him really being part of the social fabric of the school. We got an energetic student teacher to advise the group, and they used a wonderful book called “Seeing the Charade” by Tashie, Shapiro-Barnard, and Rossetti to guide them. It’s my experience that the group really does require an adult facilitator. They could do “getting to know you” activities, activities exploring various aspects of diversity (“How are we alike? How are we different?”), and help figure out what seems to be standing in the way. Brandon’s group told us that his paraprofessional was a big barrier to his having natural interactions with his classmates. Your student’s group could also plan out of school activities for the weekends. It is important NOT to frame this as “we are recruiting people to be Brandon’s buddies” but rather “Brandon would like to invite students to join this group because he and other students we know are interested in how to build better connections and friendships based on shared interests for all students in your school.”

Functional Behavioral Assessment and Positive Behavior Support Plan

If the strategies described above just aren’t paying off in your student having an easier time of it, maybe it’s time to conduct (or to update) a functional behavioral assessment (FBA). IDEA does not require FBAs but encourages schools to do them when students have challenging behavior that hasn’t responded to the school-wide pro-social behavior supports that are implemented with all students. Here is a link to the requirements of the law and a pretty comprehensive guide for how to do one.

The nice thing about the principles behind FBAs and Positive Behavior Support plans is that they don’t place the problem solely within the student (i.e., “He’s just doing it on purpose”) but rather acknowledge the interplay between the complexities within each one of us, the environment, and the difficulties that so many of our most vulnerable children have at school. This is a wonderful article about people with challenging behavior. It won’t give you the 1-2-3 steps to do, but may help you and the team keep the big picture in mind.

So, to sum up…be sure that your student is experiencing a welcoming school environment, support him to join some student activities, consider intentional community facilitation, and then consider doing a comprehensive FBA to delve more deeply into the factors that might be at play in your student’s difficulties with school.

Good luck!


Dr. Jorgensen is an inclusive education consultant in private practice, after being a Project Director with the Institute on Disability (IOD) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), and assistant research professor in UNH’s Education Department from 1985 until 2011.

Photo Credit:  LHG Creative Photography


Think Inclusive Podcast #007: Who Cares About Kelsey? with Dan Habib

Recording from my living room in beautiful Marietta, GA…you are listening to the Think Inclusive Podcast Episode (007). I am your host Tim Villegas. Today I will be speaking with Dan Habib about his new film Who Cares About Kelsey? **You may be familiar with Dan because of his previous groundbreaking documentary about his son “Including Samuel”** The film will be broadcast on public television beginning the weekend of September 28th. In addition to the film there are 11 mini-films available to watch on the website: that support the message of inclusion and positive behavior support. Dan and I talk about Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, the importance of leadership in systems change and the all important question…who we think is going to win the World Series? So without further ado…Let’s get to the podcast…Thanks for listening.

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