Updated: Jun 22
On March 23, 2021, in cooperation with the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the nonprofit Roots of Inclusion, Dr. Carol Quirk presented “Building a Culture of Inclusion and Belonging.”
Carol Quirk (00:00:00):
We moved from mindset to systemic change. And then I’ll move that to focus on school basis and what an inclusive school looks like. And the last part I’ll address some barriers Several of you have provided questions and I’ve tried to intersperse answers of those questions throughout. But in the end of it, we’ll talk about some of the barriers and opportunities because sometimes the same thing is that some barriers are also opportunities. So let’s begin.
Carol Quirk (00:00:33):
What is inclusion? What do we mean by it? So inclusive education begins in the school house, but there are many other communities in a neighborhood. So when we think about inclusion as a thing, it has to happen somewhere or in some space, either a physical space, a virtual space, or some kind of a defining space. These are all in a neighborhood, the kinds of physical places: a home, a work environment, recreation. I know that we’re doing a lot of this all virtually now, but there are these communities within which we may participate.
Carol Quirk (00:01:14):
So we’re going to focus on the schoolhouse. The state education director for special education in Georgia posed this question in a meeting I was in just about a month ago and what she said really struck me because she said she wanted all of her administrators to ask the question as if they were students. Is this school for me? Because often we’re thinking about, are students ready? Are students able to go into a classroom? Can students go into a school? Are students able to participate in instruction at a certain grade level when their performance level is far below that? What we should be asking: is this school built for me, not, am I ready to be in that school? Do I have a sense of belonging? And we’re thinking about in the every day engagements within the school building extracurricular activities, socially and academically, do I have a sense that I belong here? When we’re thinking about access to social and academic activities, we’re thinking about our participation. So do we feel like we’re a valued member valued for what’s unique about us as well as what we share together, and then are we actually participating like our peers do who don’t have disabilities? Are we valued and brought into those engagements.
Carol Quirk (00:02:43):
This picture on the right are students in a cafeteria, it looks like middle school, probably high school. Any of you who are educators especially in secondary schools where you have a special program for students with more extensive support needs and they spend most of their day together in a classroom. When they go into the lunch room, are they sitting in a table along the side of the wall? Do they enter early? Do they leave early? Is their schedule and engagement socially like their peers? How much do peers engage with them in those environments? So, you know, we might say, well, in the cafeteria, they are included, they’re there at the same time as everybody else, but are they really included? Are they valued as members in the same way that other kids are valued? And are they participating in the same way with the same opportunities or are they sitting with adults with less social engagement?
Carol Quirk (00:03:49):
When we’re thinking about being included, we’re thinking about the level of comfort that students have engaged in instruction. The content of which at grade level may not be at their level of performance. They need adaptations for that, but is there a sense of comfort that they will learn and be able to participate? Are the materials modified and provided to them in a way that they can engage with peers? Which means that the lessons need to be designed with a sense of universal design for learning, differentiating based on the actual students, that you have their interests and talents, and then further adapted for students who have IEPs as they’re needed to address the unique needs of their disability. And is that okay? Is that an expected thing to happen?
Carol Quirk (00:04:40):
Now when we’re thinking about building a school for all learners, this is a quote that I found that I think is particularly important: “planning for the successful inclusion of diverse learners and meeting the needs of our students with learning differences requires thoughtful something between general education teachers and specialists.” So what does it require? We have children in a classroom, diverse learning needs. We may have students with an intellectual disability. We may have two students with autism. We may have one student with a significant behavioral challenges based on trauma i