Are you feeling alone with dreams of inclusion only to be frustrated at every turn?
You are not alone.
When I started this pilgrimage around the blogosphere three years ago I felt very alone. I felt like I was the only one feeling cognitive dissonance. A special education classroom teacher longing for other people who had a passion for inclusive education.
Sounds contradictory right? I went to an inclusive minded teacher preparation program. But when I got my first job in public school I soon realized that our educational system in the United States was not inherently setup for inclusive practices.
So what is one to do? I started searching for resources. But I failed. I couldn’t find very many.
After a few years I decided to start connecting myself to people that thought like me about education. I am happy to say that I’ve found some awesome people. And I think you should meet them.
I asked some inclusive thought leaders from around the world to describe what their dream was for inclusion. Inclusion with the big “I”. Here is what they came up with.
Brenda Lee – In-kloo-zhuhn
I want equity for all. Everyone gets what they need and everyone is treated like a valued human being
Amanda Morin – The Everything Parent’s Guide To Special Education
I want to live in a world in which inclusion is so commonplace and seamless that we no longer see news stories about how inspiring it is that X kid was invited to the prom by the football player (or similar stories).
Beth Foraker – National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion
I want to see a world where access to opportunity and jobs and housing and schooling is just something that is intrinsic in our society, not something we have to work so hard for…and I also want the least “able” person to be considered worthy and valuable so that our society says:”What will it take to have him here? Let’s provide the supports needed.” Instead of the current notion which feels like: “Why would you want to come here? You’re not part of us. You don’t have anything to offer and you’re a burden.” So changing paradigms about disability/ability is huge.
Renée Laporte – Beyond the Crayon
All of the above. If all of the above is achieved then my deepest desire will be achieved – a life lived without fear and oppression. True inclusion means the freedom to choose your life path without fear of discrimination and oppression, to know the doors are opened for you just like they are for everyone else and you can enter the ones you choose, with confidence.
Gayle Hernandez – Creating Inclusive School Communities
Folks, dreams come true… just so you know. In the town where I teach, just outside of Vancouver British Columbia all teachers are trained and expected to teach an inclusive classroom. I don’t know any other model of teaching. To hear stories of exclusion makes my heart sad. Funding has been pulled back so supports are becoming almost non existent, but all children with extra needs are part of our regular classrooms. It is harder and harder to meet all the needs in the classroom, but somehow we do it. Sometimes parents push back (when there are issues of violence, or disruption), but overall the model is accepted.
Carol Quirk – Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education
…where differences are appreciated, celebrated, and treated with respect; where everyone “presumes positive intent” when it comes to judging others…in an inclusive world they would not make negative judgments if they presumed that what appeared different was only that – different…not a “bad/wrong/deficient” attribute or something presumed to be a negative attitude or trait…
Megan Gross – The Inclusion Toolbox
Oh all of the above! As a teacher I want ALL kids to have the supports needed to be an active member of their class…I dream about what would happen if it was just assumed every child was included. We could then harness all of our energy currently devoted to advocacy and use it to create amazing supports instead!
Leah Kelley – 30 Days of Autism
I want the things you are talking about as well – and also – I want us (meaning society – educators – parents, etc) to have a greater understanding of the Social Model of disability. I would love to see this widely accepted because the idea that disability is a natural part of the full range of human experience – would do so much to kick stigma in the teeth… so to speak. I want us to be able to talk about disability and pride and acceptance in general conversations… not like it is radical and cutting edge. I want us (as educators and parents) to inform our practice by looking to the experiences and voices of Autistic people and other people with disabilities – I think this would be transformative…
Jennifer Kurth – Kansas University (Department of Special Education)
I’d agree with all of you smile emoticon As a professional, I focus on including students in K-12 systems with the most extensive support needs. I keep seeing time in setting as a proxy for ‘inclusion,’ which I find defeating and inappropriate. Rather than focusing on mainstreaming kids into classrooms for some part of the day, I’d rather focus on thinking of all students as competent, contributing, valued members of their schools and communities. With this in mind, we can think about the supports all students need as varying in intensity or duration, knowing that of course we all need supports, and that our classrooms and communities are enriched when we have the dedication to support and include all of our members.
Lauri Hunt – Ollibean
I want every person to grow up with same educational and community opportunities and attitudes that were just handed to me just for showing up. I want everyone to live without having their every move pathologized by the people in their lives . I want everyone to grow up without others presuming they know everything about how their brain works, or how much they understand based on antiquated ableist views . I want everyone to grow up with access to everything they need to learn and take part in their communities. I don’t want another person to feel that those in “power” (teachers , caregivers, doctors) believe they are less capable, less worthy , less anything – because their neurology, race , religion , sexual identity- is not the same as the majority in that area.
Renay Marquez – ParaEducate
Collectively, we’re trying to answer the call to continue to promote inclusion and part of that step means finding people who see the benefit of inclusion who may not be parents or relatives of someone with a disability. And depending on the group you are speaking with, “inclusion” does take on different meanings, but the goal is the same. We all live, work, go to school in, take care of, participate in, our communities: church, political, societal, educational, or otherwise. Our communities benefit when we work together. Our communities grow and strengthen when we are together.
…and one more for good measure Nicole Eredics – The Inclusive Class
I dream of an educated society who knows and respects the value of every human. I dream of a society who accepts, supports and appreciates the uniqueness of one another. I dream of a society where there is no need to use the word, “inclusion”.
What is your dream for inclusion? Which of these dreams of inclusion resonate with you? Will you join us and help us make inclusion a reality?
Photo Credit: Björn Lindell/Flickr