A version of this article was originally published on the Kids Included Together (KIT) blog.
I cannot believe that inclusion has been mandated for 35 years! I only have 8 years teaching experience, but in those 8 years, not one seminar or staff meeting or staff development or teacher collaboration topic has even remotely touched the subject of inclusion. WOW!
When thinking about the “biggest” challenges to making inclusion work, I honestly think it boils down to the administration and teaching staff’s attitude toward it. The environment, community, and over all “feeling” the school builds and portrays to its students and families, ultimately comes from within the heart and soul of that school- the people there to educate your child.
All students should be seen as individuals who are unique. No two students are the same. We all bring strengths and weaknesses to the table and we should be held accountable and celebrated for both, disability or not. Often, teachers are grossly undervalued and that plays a part in the way they view their job and in their openness to change. Teachers have the awesome responsibility to shape and mold a child’s educational path. Let’s do our best to make it positive! Let’s look back on the year that stretched you further than you thought you could possibly go, and smile, knowing you did everything in your power, to help your students grow. What a blessing! What a positive role model you can be for the children of the future! A positive attitude is contagious and sets the tone for your classroom.
Just as a teacher’s demeanor sets the classroom tone, a principal’s demeanor sets the school’s tone. Administration has the responsibility of making their school great! Including, accepting, and embracing your student population is key. Doing what you say, and saying what you mean, is a recipe for success. A principal that supports, encourages, and works side by side with his or her teachers, is creating a happy place. Teachers want to know that the work they are doing, taking chances and hopefully reaching every student, will be supported. Even with the amount of challenges a school goes through in a year, if everyone has the “we can do this” attitude, administration, teachers, and parents alike, the school is setting itself up for success. We have the ability to create that environment. We have the ability to make all students who walk onto that campus feel “included”. We need to make sure everyone is “on-board” with inclusion.
By Christie Pagel (3rd grade teacher and inclusion advocate)
Photo Credit: readerwalker