Sep 15

Action on Inclusion

I began writing this article late last week while I was sitting in the airport awaiting my flight after attending the Building Capacity Information Session hosted by Alberta Education. The wait then and up till now has provided me the time to reflect on what I heard or possibly didn’t hear during the day. For the record, I’m in full support of our province’s move to an inclusive system where all students are successful. It parallels our division’s vision that states, “…where students are cherished and achieve their potential.” However, I believe there has to be some significant changes before every student achieves success and every classroom is inclusive.

  1. Eliminate Our Sort & Select System- Even with some of the best teachers in the world and creative methodologies, we still have in many ways a factory model. Our top students are encouraged to go to university, the next level to college and then the trades and finally into the  world of work. And to be really honest, we spend most of our time highlighting university which is where only a small percentage of our graduates go!  If we want all students to be successful, shouldn’t we also be focusing on the passions of the individual student. Isn’t it a great feeling to wake up every morning and love going to work!!!
  2. Change the Understanding of Our Schools- I’m tired of the rhetoric, “If it was good enough for me, its good enough for them.” Quite frankly, it isn’t good enough. Never before have schools been required to teach all children to a high level. High school graduation is not enough to secure a decent living in today’s society. Most jobs in the future will require some sort of post secondary training. This message needs to be communicated clearly to our communities so that we can develop trust, support, understanding and finally permission to change.
  3. Believe in the True Uniqueness of our Students- As educators we believe this intrinsically. But, every child still has to finish the same curriculum in the same ten month period. And by the way, it is critical that we continue with the same calendar we’ve had for… how many years? Right? Time cannot be the constant it must be the variable and learning must be the constant.
  4. Curriculum refinement- We have for too long engaged in a curriculum that is a mile wide and an inch thick. We require a robust curriculum that engages students, stimulates their minds and tweaks their interests. I’m hopeful that Alberta Education’s Action on Curriculum focuses on what is best for K-12 and not on satisfying post secondary requirements. Our curriculums need to focus on the competencies of the 21st century.
  5. From my students to our students- We know that teacher collaboration is a required not optional activity. The days of “just leave me alone in my classroom” are passe. But our students in an inclusive system also means collaboration with outside agencies and professionals.  This collaboration must be modelled by all from government right through to the classroom.

Action on Inclusion needs to be transformational. It can’t be just a little tweak but an entire movement. And for an entire movement it needs to come from both the heart and head of all stakeholders… with support!

4 comments

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    • Don Flaig on September 20, 2011 at 10:01 AM
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    I like the ideas about curriculum. It makes me think of “slow schooling” whereby the students have more time to think in depth and have the time to absord. things.

    • Keray Henke on September 21, 2011 at 11:56 AM
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    Action on Inclusion is part of Education’s Action Agenda (http://www.education.alberta.ca/media/6432073/actionagenda.pdf) and must be considered as part of a broader transformation of the education system.Transforming a complex system, such as education, requires leadership, effective planning and commitment to goals and strategies. All education stakeholders, including Alberta Education, need to model behaviours that demonstrate a commitment to change. I am encouraged to see the considerable thought you, and your school division, have undertaken as part of this transformation of the education system.

    I look forward to learning with you as we continue this journey with other school authorities and our collective partners.

  1. I appreciate reading your tweets everyday and I am glad to hear you support full inclusion.
    I have sat in on every Setting The Direction consultation and Inspiring Education. There is still an enormous 2 tiered mentality towards special and regular education and keeping Action on Inclusion a separate discussion from Inspiring Education is further hindering, in my opinion, the concept of a truly inclusive education system.

    May I possibly pick your brain a bit about how your district works to ensure students with severe disabilities are receiving the best educational experience that they can?
    I sit on the severe inclusive funding committee with my district and we are looking at other districts to see how they allocate their funds in order to create a funding model that works better than our current one (that doesn’t work at all). I am mainly looking at areas that your district focuses on to make inclusion work.
    Where does the emphasis lay? Professional development? Increased support staff? Increased teaching staff?

    I would love to hear some of the ways your district works for our most vulnerable children so as to continually share the light to others.

    Thank you and God Bless,
    Renee Laporte

    1. Renee,
      First of all, thanks for your comments. I think all divisions are struggling with meeting the needs of each and every child. For too long we have sorted students based on their weaknesses instead of programming around their strengths and unique gifts. I’ve come a long way in my own thinking and beliefs but still have miles to go. I think we all have to rethink our beliefs about all students.

      I think action on inclusion has to move forward both within the inspiring education mandate and outside. My fear of it moving only within is that it will get lost or be minimized. Education in Alberta, as good as it is overall, requires a complete overhaul. This will require both isolated and collaborative action agenda focus. As the Deputy Minister commented, it is a complex system that will require multiple strategies to transform.

      I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you more about our division’s journey. Although very proud of our system, we still have a long journey before we meet the needs of each and every child.

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