Students in our division will begin their new school year on Tuesday. This past Thursday, we gathered with all the staff in our division to hear David Wells speak on the topic of replacing stress with faith. In one section of his talk, he spoke of children in the Church and the question of what they should be doing in the Church. He went on to share a set of rules that a Church came up with to guide people around appropriate behaviour in the Church. He did this without judgement and spoke to the need for balance in this area. In the middle of this example, he stated, "Then one day you wake up and you got the rules and you have forgotten the reason for the rules."
Although he was referring to the Church in this example, it applies to any institution and even to the entire human race. In the context of education, it seems the reason should link to our purpose and our values. What is the purpose of education? What do we value in education? Do our rules match our reason?
We live in a time where the socialization of education and work is becoming more and more evident and we work in a system that pushes us as educators to measure things that are not at all tied to socialization. In the process, we end up sacrificing the play, exploration and engagement that sits at the heart of social and emotional learning. We create "rules" that are rooted in trying to control the "behaviours" we believe are necessary for learning. Sadly, our limited resources then end up going towards control rather than engagement.
What if we focused our efforts on engaging the disengaged rather than trying to control them? I recently came across the great quote on the blog In-kloo-zhuhn: "To see all individuals as 'at promise' rather than 'at risk' is a fundamental shift that means facilitating rather than fixing, pointing to health rather than dysfunction, turning away from limiting labels and diagnosis to wholeness and well-being." (Source: http://inclusion-brendag.blogspot.ca/2013/08/the-first-two-weeks-savmp.html)
How are we naming our students? Students will become what they are named. Do we make it a priority to protect the dignity and build the character of our students? Would we put different action plans in place if we thought of students as 'at promise' rather than 'at risk'? At promise of what? How do we work with that student and those closest to him/her to move towards that promise? Is this our reason? If it is, does it change our rules?
It all seems to get closer to the heart of what inclusion actually is. It points to a question that should drive our work around creating inclusive schooling: How can we set up our school communities so that part of what we do every day is intentionally find value in each other? "Successful inclusion begins and ends with our capacity for valuing others. We cannot include those we do not value." (Source: http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2013/08/13/how-to-succeed-at-inclusion/)