Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Inclusion and the Valuable Lessons Taught to Both Students and Teachers

Samantha is in an inclusive setting at school.  She is in a classroom full of her typically-developing peers, learning from the same curriculum, assisted by an aide who helps to keep her on task and modifies the work or instructions when needed.  And while this is nothing to do with the point of this post, I just want to add that I have absolutely no doubt that inclusion is not for everyone.  People can fight all they want for it, but if the child would thrive better in a more self-contained classroom setting, then why not do what's BEST for the child??  I would, and I know others who learned that through trial and error, and I applaud them for making the right decision for their child in the end, despite the criticism they were sure to receive from other parents, too high on their soapboxes to see what's right. 

Okay, off my own soapbox, back to my original message... 

In her inclusive environment, I have no doubt that not only is Samantha learning from her "typical" peers, and her teacher, but her peers and her teacher are also learning from her.  Just by her mere existence in their daily lives, I believe that she teaches valuable lessons:  Acceptance.  Tolerance.  Empathy.  Persistence.  Patience.  Unconditional love and friendship.  Individuality. 

I like to think they will carry these lessons with them for the rest of their lives.  They're important, and will assist them in their interpersonal relationships with others, in their endeavors to be good people, in their ability to care.

Teachers learn how to teach to each child's unique learning style.  They learn how to become more well-rounded educators, with experiences to share with other students-to-come who may also have differences.  Samantha's 1st grade teacher constantly strives to enhance her own education by attending conferences during her free time or reading books that explain the learning differences of different kids. 

The International Down Syndrome Coalition (IDSC) recently created a poster out of Samantha's experiences with her teacher last year.  I was so excited to help out at the IDSC table at the NDSC conference in Denver last weekend, with this poster hanging behind me, sharing my girl and our message with everyone.  One woman purchased 18 of these posters to give to the new teachers in the school in which she works.  I've been sitting on this for ages, desperate to share it with everyone, waiting until it was posted on their site, and now I, too, can show the world.  This photo says it all, shows the mutual love and respect that Sammi and her teacher have for each other.  Not only have they had the experience of the teacher/student relationship, but they are also friends.  And that is the most valuable takeaway of all.


This poster can be purchased from IDSC if you would like a copy, and is also on their FB wall if you would like to share the message.  :-)

22 comments:

Anne and Whitney: Up, Down and All Around said...

this is so awesome :) LOVE this picture of Sammi with her teacher AND the message!!!

Jenny said...

Love the poster, it's perfect!!!

Tamara said...

Great picture. This is the teacher who won an award, right? I think your point about inclusion not being for every student is true - although I think it *could* be for almost every student if teachers and administrators wanted it to be. I also think it doesn't have to be for every moment. Students can benefit from inclusive situations some years and non-inclusive others; some time out of the classroom and some time included. We just need to constantly think about the individual student. And we need to stay off our soapboxes and encourage and support other parents' decisions.

I also agree wholeheartedly that all students benefit from having students with disabilities in their classroom. I think we all benefit because of diversity, and this is just another form of diversity. Shawen's very best teacher ever went to school with a boy with Down syndrome. I think it gave her insights other teachers just didn't have.

Sara Davis said...

This is so amazing. Thank you for sharing. So many others can learn from Samantha and her experience. Thank you for letting the world know that even though you are different we all share the same goals. God bless you and I look forward to following your story.

Sara Davis said...

You have an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing. Each child has the same goals. Sharing this with my friends, I know I have a lot of friends with Down Children. This will be an inspiration to them as well. Thank you and God Bless You. Love and Hugs for Samantha

Anna Theurer said...

What an inspiring story and lovely poster! Sammi is changing perceptions of all around her :-) I live her teacher!

Jody said...

What an amazing story! My son Levi is almost two. I love reading about stories that make me feel excited for my son and going to school.
I'm truly scared about it because I hear all the terrible experiences.
God bless,
Jody

Jody said...

What an amazing story! My Levi is two and this gives me a lot of hope for the school days. Always hearing the other side where parents are constantly fighting the school for inclusion.
God bless,
Jody

Lisa said...

I completely agree - you are so right. Inclusion may not work for everyone because it relies on the right mix of a prepared, understanding teacher, school administration willing to make it work and a child who wants to be included. We can't force any of those things, if any piece of the pie is missing then it will not be as successful. Each child and school is different and the teacher makes or breaks the process so it is so important to be flexible and be willing to open to new ideas.

Lisa Morguess said...

Wonderful post, Becca. I need to write about a recent conversation I had with someone regarding this very topic, and I'm going to link back to this post. Thanks for writing this.

Stephanie said...

I love the poster and I'm so glad you can share it with all of us. I agree that inclusion can work when the whole team works together for the best interests of the child. I'm so happy that it seems to be working for Sammi. She is no doubt a delight!

I'm not sure if full gen. ed. inclusion is what's right for Owen in the future as he seems to thrive in small settings right now. But who knows? I'd be willing to give it a shot if I knew that everyone else on his team was going to work hard for him. I like what you said about making sure the best interests of the child are met--not a parent's soapbox!

P said...

I bought several and plan to buy more. I love the poster and thank you for this post

Becky said...

Have you ever heard Michael Remus speak or heard of him? He spoke at our local Down syndrome annual meeting a couple years ago, and he believes inclusion works for all...hands down. After listening to him, I am convinced if the school system does it right it can work for so many more than what is happening right now. He was so motivating, so inspiring, and has proven it can happen. This post was perfect. That poster is so beautiful and speaks mountains to the world. Keep up good work advocating and showing the world why our kids deserve not only inclusion in school...but this leads to inclusion in the life as they turn into adults. That, at the end of the day, to me, to what it is about...acceptance and a fair shot like everyone else.

Becca said...

I *think* I have heard of Michael Remus, but don't know anything about him... And, to clarify my statement about kids not necessarily thriving in an inclusive environment, I mean that some kids need more of a quiet environment, more one-on-one for them to be able to really thrive in academics. I am sure an inclusive setting would certainly still work for non-academic subjects. Samantha tunes out during Math without being pulled aside into a small group. I'd prefer for her to have a pull-out for Math, but staffing doesn't really allow for it, so I'm still happy with a small group within the classroom, or, perhaps, out in the hall. Whatever it takes for her to understand the concepts... :-) Thank you to everyone who has commented here - I love hearing your insight!

Becca said...

To "P" - that's AWESOME! Love it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your insights & a snipet of the story behind this photos! I agree that the inclusion path is not for all and isn't easy but worth it.

I am always saddened to see people ( especially in our community that is striving for acceptance) judging others often very harshly for their choices. We need to support one another and strive for educational and social goals in a variety of means of achieving optimal results.

Teachers include therapists, principals, other students, parents and our own family. Once we all understand those shifting roles better we will appreciate posters like yours even more.

Thank you ever so much for sharing and immortalizing your experiences with IDSC and LOVE IDSC and their amazing work. I thanked someone at the conference and she was on the committee to help produce these amazing posters! I have others I want made too LOVE yours though.

P said...

It takes a village my friend. I am fortified and inspired by all of you. Thank you Lisa for sharing this post & blog!!

Anonymous said...

I've seen enough and have drank the inclusion kool aid. With the help of experts in the field we can profoundly expand the inclusion seen towards essentially 100%. Keep learning and sharing and supporting our teachers!

Anonymous said...

In twenty five years of special education classes and teachers we have never had a good teacher or class for our children. I am a big advocate for cameras in the classrooms. My children have been injured, neglected and abused by the public school system....one of my sons died as a direct result of neglect and abuse from a teacher....I would rather see efforts put into praises familes and pushing for a national law requiring cameras in the classroom.

Vicki said...

Wonderful post! Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing. I like hearing others' experiences because like some other commenters, I too believe that inclusion could work for so many more if schools would simply be given the tools and resources to do it properly. And a mix of inclusion and pull-out seems like a great solution for so many.

Keep up the great work!

Jen Currier said...

You are absolutely RIGHT! The teachers and typically developing students benefit equally, if not more than the kids with special needs, IMHO!! (And most "inclusion" isn't real inclusion anyway- it's only kids who can keep up with the curriculum, which is different than real inclusion- but that's another discussion.)My older son, who is typically developing, is in a charter school that is a full inclusion school: 80% typically developing to 20% special needs. I have seen the most amazing things since he's attended there (he's going into 1st grade this year). These typically developing kids don't see "weird" or "different" or "delayed"- they see an individual, with strengths and weaknesses. They see a friend who might make them laugh and like the same music they do. That's what is so heartwarming- it's not at all about taking pity on someone else- it's learning that every person is unique. I'm thankful that my older son will not only have the experience with his younger brother, but that he will be surrounded by classmates that create the new "normal". :)

Becca said...

Oh, I am so sorry to hear this. That is so tragic. I like to think that most teachers are in their profession because they love teaching and love helping the children in their care, and that the ones who don't care, are neglectful and abusive are the rare *exception.* I wonder what area you are in... And I hope that the teachers you've had experience with have been prosecuted and punished. So sad... Samantha's school has cameras in the classrooms, I think. (I vaguely remember being told that...) And if hers does then *all* the schools in our district likely do.