Inclusive Schools Week

This year my school celebrated National Inclusive Schools Week, but in a slightly different way. The opportunity presented itself to have our yearly Heritage Day and Inclusive Schools Week at the same time. The decision, to include Heritage Day in the mix with Inclusive Schools Week, proved to be a challenge but ultimately a good one. While we have typically used this week to promote disability awareness, the focus this year and hopefully for future years will be more on diversity and celebrating our uniqueness as a school. I am fully aware of the pitfalls of having a disability specific or focused awareness week. Even the irony of having “inclusion day” activities makes me chuckle. So, as the Special Services Chair for our PTA, I wanted to make sure that we made this week meaningful for all students.

During the course of the week, students identified and shared character traits, interests and talents, while sharing his or her own family history, thus creating “You’re Unique Week”. Students were asked to think about how they could “make their mark” in this world. Every child took home an index card to create their own “dot” (or mark), in reference to a wonderful book titled “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds. In this story, a teacher helps a child who struggles with perfectionism overcome her insecurity with her artwork. This young girl then goes on to inspire another student who is struggling with this insecurity as well.

Our students honored their uniqueness by celebrating learning styles (students could take a learning style inventory to see if they were more a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner), strengths (students brought in small object to identify with what they thought were they were good at) and heritage (students shared how far back their family history went, throwing in geography lessons with identifying countries of origin) throughout the rest of the week.

Diversity is not Political Correctness

I know that “diversity” can be a politically charged football…so I want to be perfectly clear about what I mean when I talk about diversity. We are all different. We learn differently, we all have strengths in different areas, we all come from different places, and we can all contribute in our unique way. When we understand where each of us is coming from we work better together. This kind of “diversity” should be celebrated and is the main purpose of this week.

Whether it is offensive to other people to use a particular word or phrase is an entirely different conversation. Don’t get me wrong…words matter…ultimately, the words we use display the condition of our heart. But to boil “diversity” down to simply semantics or word choice is silly.

Diversity and inclusion are about giving value to every human being, no matter our differences. In my opinion, this makes us stronger as a school, community and a country.

This post was a “re-mix” of some thoughts I shared with the staff at my school in the run-up to National Inclusive Schools Week. Catherine Batterton (Co-President of Kincaid Elementary School’s PTA) also contributed to this post. For more information about National Inclusive Schools Week visit inclusiveschools.org.

Photo Adapted From: Chris-Håvard Berge