Our school division is really digging in around the inclusion issue. There is work actively being done to look at how we can move our division towards being more inclusive for all students.
I believe in this. I want it to happen. But I have no idea how one would get from here to there. This doesn't mean I think we can't... it means I think we have a lot of exciting questions and challenges in front of us.
Here are some of my latest thoughts (and many are raw an unformed so if you're looking for answers this isn't the place)...
- We are spending a lot of time looking at and thinking about how we can get to inclusion. Is it worth spending some time on defining what exclusionary practices we currently have in place in our school system? Should we be trying to eliminate them at the same time as we are trying to encourage inclusion? Or is that reducdant because eliminating exclusion and encouraging inclusion are the same thing? I have a thought on the answer but is my answer right... does focusing too much on the negative (exclusion) stagnate a process?
- We are really moving towards the "multidiciplnary team" model. Do these teams only add to the medical model of disability? I'm all for having a lot of input from a lot of different sources but it seems that a student's voice gets smaller and smaller as "the team" gets bigger and bigger. From the outside looking in, I see sll the time and energy that is currently being spent in our division around defining universal sensory strategies in classsrooms so that we ensure we are setting up classrooms to eliminate the sensory issues that will challenge some of our students. I'm excited about this because it ensures our students have better learning environments but are we taking away an opportunity for them to learn how environmental factors affect them and then to give them the skills to create the change needed themselves. How do we help students to recognize theset things themselves so they can carry the skill beyond the classroom?
- How does hte idea of assimilation and the need that so many people have for people to the same fit in to inclusion? Do people see inclusion as a set towards assimilation of all people? Are people so opposed to it because we have to move away from assimilation? And even more overwhelming on this end of it... what role does needing to extract power or control over others play in the whole concept of inclusion and exclusion? If we are looking for control isn't it just easier to get rid of the ones who can't be controled then to redefine what we are aiming for? How do you get to a point of ensuring that every person is an active participate in their schools (and is that the same thing as inclusion)? I just think there is something to ensuring our classrooms and schools are democratic communities that opens up answers around inclusion and how to make it work.
- I currently have a student who is very included in a regular classroom but I'm still taking care of his IPP and plan to do this for the rest of the year. I'm no fan of data as I think it comes back to my belief that tally marks serve to dehumanize people because then you are looking at a behaviour and not the person. How do we balance data nad people? There are times that I think its important to record so this is tough. But one question we might want to look at when we are looking at moving towards inclusion might be realated to weather teachers are more intimatidated by the IPP and data collection then they are by the human that is coming in to their room. Maybe we need to find a way to eliminate the paper work before we can get to the point of the child just being "regualar" in the classroom.
- How many disabilites have we as a society created simply because of the way our schools are set up? Do we have a lot of students who have labels that they would not have if our school systems were more flexible and student centered?
- How do we ensure that this is not about us imposing something on students when this should really be their movement (although because of the structure of our school system they would not at this point feel they have a big enough voice to make it that way)? This should not be a passive experience for our students. We have one student in a self contained classroom in our division who talks openly about wanting to be in a "regular classroom". Do we not have a responsibility to respect her request? We have another student in our division who got upset when it didn't work out in his schedule for him to attend a mainstream class that he was excited about (and could have easily been included in but it didn't work in the timetable. Sometimes students don't have the verbal skills to articulate the same way that we do but their message is still clearly there and we need to listen. How do we get students involved in this process? Are we even considering that at this point?