Before I get too far into this week’s actual blog, we had a wonderful opportunity this week to go off and inspire some future teachers at a major university this week about Inclusion. We were there at UCDavis with Nicole Eredics from The Inclusive Class (Yes, the same person who wrote us a blog in October!) and Beth Foraker of National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion. While Nicole and Beth did most of the talking, sometimes it’s interesting to observe, especially since the observation is the key skill of any paraeducator. While I sat back and observed, I had time to start writing a note, a note I wish I had shared with many of the wonderful student teachers I have made contact with over the years (nearly 20!) in both general education and special education.
But focusing on the general education teachers, is of primary importance not only to raise the expectation to want inclusion in any given campus, but to let the general education teacher know that there will not just be this moment of swimming without help as they start teaching, and especially if they are participating in inclusion.
Dear Student Teacher,
I honestly can’t see all of you right now. I know and respect the amount of energy you have in being here, so maybe I should actually explain a few things. Teaching, at least at the level you’re focusing on completing right now, this is an Olympic Swimming Pool. There may be a diving board at one end, and maybe cameras checking if you really did touch the wall, but this is it. It has definite size, shape, and while large, it is possible to cross to the other side.
Your engagement in the topic of inclusion is critical. You may not have been aware that you may have been doing it a few times already. You may not have been attempting to do ‘something different’. Wanting this, doesn’t help just one student, or a short line of students, it helps all the students. We’ve talked a lot about community and the microcosm of community that are reflected in our schools. We’ve talked a lot about how this is following a law that was written well before the years most of you were born.
Inclusion is simple and complex. It is slightly more than opening the door, but it is not a second less than providing everything you can possibly provide to every student.
I also am all too aware that in your first two years of employment, once you wander away from the institutions, are weighing heavily on your shoulders. That you shall not have time to rock boats and enforce change as we have given it to you. But that doesn’t mean you cannot provide change. It does not prevent you from forging a relationship with a special education teacher that comes to your campus nor the students who may wander past your door, sometimes lost in a sea of other students. Being a willing partner for when the moment is right, or even for that student who no one else thought was “going to do anything”, makes that difference.
There is a lot to learn. And when you’ve learned that, you’ll find for a specific student, you’ll need to learn more. And I hope you remember right now, today, because for two hours, you looked at this reminder of inclusion. It’s not some shiny unattainable ideal. It’s just a part of this Olympic sized swimming pool. And if you remember today, even a little bit, even tomorrow, you’ll find that maybe someone else will be ready to see you practice inclusion because it is the way communities have been working for a while.
Only two more weeks before we sign off for this academic year! Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.