This past week my learning was further enhanced through two powerful events held in our school division. The first event was our Division-wide Professional Development Day. Dr. Julie Causton-Theoharis an Assistant Professor at the School of Education at Syracuse University provided our opening keynote and held an additional two sessions highlighting inclusive education. Her stories and information made you laugh and cry causing everyone’s personal beliefs on inclusion to be stretched.
The second event was organized in cooperation with the Chinook Austism Society and involved school visits and professional learning opportunities from Beyond The Crayon. The (IN)spired workshops were led by Renee Laporte and her student of 13+ years, Nathan. Renee and Nathan have been working together since he began kindergarten and they are still together as he attends first year university. Our Director of Student Services, Ken Sampson provided an excellent overview in his blog post entitled, “Longing to Belong.” His thoughts should be read by all educators.
Inclusion has made some great progress in education in the last 30 years. But, we still have much to accomplish before we can say that we are truly an inclusive community. When I began teaching high school in 1985, streaming students was the most common practice and congregated programs or non-attendance at schools were the only options. I was fortunate to work with a man by the name of Bill Watson who had immense compassion for the students in his program. But sadly, I recognized them as his students and not mine too!
My learning has certainly changed over the years and I’ve often wrestled with where students need to be “placed” to be most successful. However, I’ve come to realize that if we continue to focus on inclusion as being a place instead of an attitude, we will never fully reach our full potential. When our attitudes shift to our children instead of those children, we will recognize:
- The beauty of diversity
- The belief in uniqueness
- That every child brings strengths
- That every child deserves our best…all the time
A change in our attitudes will cause a change in our practices. Our attitudes will drive a continuum of support for every child as opposed to a default position of segregation. Our attitudes will develop school environments that will change societal views. Our attitudes will bring more than tolerance. They will bring understanding and acceptance. And eventually, we will get to a place described by this quote.
” When someone is truly included, no one will question their presence- only their absence.”- Renee Laporte