Sunday, August 19, 2012

Find Joy in the Journey

Skrtic proposes that schools evolve into problem-solving organizations where the fundamental structure of the classroom is replaced with more flexible structures that are more adhocratic in nature or focused on problem solving – organizations in which educators customize programs for individual students.  For Skrtic, in a problem solving school, disability becomes an opportunity to innovate and improve.  “Regardless of its causes and its extent, student disability is not a liability in a problem-solving organization; it is an asset, an enduring uncertainty, and thus the driving force behind innovation, growth and knowledge.” (Effective Inclusive Schools, 2012, Thomas Hehir and Lauren Katzman)
Summer is quickly coming to an end and it is time to start thinking about another school year.  My job is different this year as the students who are on my case load will begin at their age-appropriate schools this fall.  Rather than being in one classroom in one school, they are going to be in several classrooms at three different schools.  The elementary students that I have now have had general education classroom primary placements for either 2 or 3 years and we are now looking to continue this approach as two of them move on to Junior high.  This will obviously present a whole new set of challenges as they will need to learn to navigate a much larger world then what they now know.  The high school students that I have will be moving full time to our division high school.  With them we are not looking to continue, but rather to begin, and our beginning steps will probably be little ones. 

It would perhaps makes sense at this point to lay out how I see this all evolving... to give a picture of what this might look like at the end.  But the reality is that this has kind of taken on a life of it's own and it is not solely mine to create.  Over the past two years I've become very aware that this is not about planning and executing every step we take.  There are too many factors that will bounce off of each other but, more important, there are too many experts that we have not yet identified.

Last year, I peeked in on the gym class that one of my students was in.  They were playing dodge ball and this was a student who becomes overwhelmed with noise and business.  When we operated from a self-contained approach, he would go and join his grade for gym class but never participate.  He would sit on the side of the room, turn his back to the craziness and "stim" to drown things out.  This past year, his primary placement became that of being with his grade level peers and he was able to be in the classroom during subjects like math and language arts when the classroom is calmer.  He was able to get his sea legs and start to build some relationships with the students around him.

That day when I went in to gym class, I was surprised to see him in the middle of a game of dodge ball!  I stayed to watch for a bit and realized that a group of his peers had brought him in to the game but not only had they brought him in to the game, they were protecting him from being hit by the ball by forming a sort of wall around him while they continued to play the game.  And then I noticed one of them hand him a ball so that he could throw it.

I went back a few days later to see him playing floor hockey.  This time there was not a group around him but as the puck came towards him there was a pause to see if he would hit it.  When he didn't, the game continued.  They were not slowing the pace of the game down but rather just either knowingly or unknowingly giving him enough time that he would be able to hit the puck if he so choose.

We can't write stuff like this in to a plan.  As nice as it would be for us to be able to make an inclusion plan and follow it step by step and see these students included in the end, sometimes not having too defined of a plan is the best plan because it leaves room for people to step in and be part of the plan.

As we sit on the edge of a new year with a whole lot of new adventures ahead, I am excited to see what we can build.

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