Tag Archives: inclusion

stories for discussing individual differences, diversity, inclusion, friendship

Celebrating individuals in your classroom using stories – Readilearn

While a classroom is filled with a group of unique individuals, it can be easy sometimes to get caught up in treating them as one, with one set of needs, expectations and rules. Everybody do this, everybody do that—a bit like Simon Says but not always as much fun.

It is useful to pause sometimes and celebrate the uniqueness of individuals in your class.

International Children’s Book Day and Hans Christian Andersen‘s birthday on 2 April provide excellent excuses for reading and celebrating children’s literature, as if we needed any. We can also find stories that help us celebrate individuality.

The Ugly Duckling Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen was a prolific writer of fairy tales, many of which are well-known and have been made into movies. One of my favourite films as a child was about Hans Christian Anderson with Danny Kaye in the lead role. I was particularly touched by the story of The Ugly Duckling which Andersen told to a sad young boy whom no one would play with. You can watch the scene here.

The story is a great starting point for discussing individual differences,

Continue reading: #readilearn: Celebrating individuals in your classroom using stories – Readilearn

More than all the stars in the sky

When I read the challenge by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a love story, I knew immediately that I would share some of my favourite picture books about love.

Love books

Of course these are about the love between parent and child, rather than romantic love, and it is from these I have drawn my inspiration. Finding a love angle that I was happy with was the first challenge and, as usual, telling a tale in 99 words was even more so. (I think I need some lessons about telling more in less.) This is my response. I’d love to know what you think.

More than all the stars in the sky

Child waited on the step, counting stars.

Soon the clatter of dishes ceased. Feet padded out.

Child snuggled into warm enveloping arms. The ritual began.

They picked out stars and constellations.

“And Venus,” said Child. “Tell me about the love planet!”

“Well,” began Parent. “Long ago there were two people who loved each other …”

“More than all the stars in the sky,” interjected Child.

“That they wanted a child to love too …”

“So you got me!” said Child.

“Yes.” Parent scooped up the child. “And just as there’ll always be stars …”

”We’ll always love each other!”

 

Now for the books, each of which is a delight to share with young children, for reading aloud at bedtime, or any time.

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Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney (Northern Ireland) and illustrated by Anita Jeram (Northern Ireland) is a beautiful tale of the love between Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare. As they try to find a way of describing their love for each other, they find that love is not easy to measure. From this beautiful story comes the classic line “I love you to the moon … and back!”

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Love You Forever by Robert Munsch (Canada) and illustrated by Anthony Lewis (U.K.) tells of a mother’s love that lasts a lifetime, a love that is returned by a son and passed on to the next generation through the words of a beautiful song:

“I’ll love you forever.

I’ll like you for always.

As long as I’m living

My baby you’ll be.”

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Hey, I Love You by Ian Whybrow (U.K.) and illustrated by Rosie Reeve (U.K.) is about two mice, Small and Big. Before Big goes out to get supper Small shows that he knows what to do to stay safe when Big is away. Unfortunately they forgot to say their special words and Small doesn’t follow the instructions. Fortunately Small was able to catch up to Big without incident. Attention must be paid to the illustrations to see just how lucky that was!

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I Love You With All My Heart by Noris Kern is about Polo the Polar Bear who wants to find out the meaning of his mother loving him with all her heart. He asks the other animals how their mothers love them and finally discovers how his mother loves him and that he loves her with all his heart too. (A possible concern with this book is the mix of Arctic and Antarctic animals.)

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Koala Lou by Mem Fox (Australia) and illustrated by Pamela Lofts (Australia) tells of Koala Lou who is loved by everybody, especially her mother. Every day her mother would say, “Koala Lou, I DO love you!” But after other koala siblings arrive, Mother Koala doesn’t have time to give Koala Lou the attention she craves. Koala Lou comes up with a plan to hear those special words again.

Koala Lou leads beautifully into my next post which will showcase some books by Mem Fox. I hope you will join me for those.

One last thought:

I wonder what image of the Child, Parent and Family you formed from reading my flash. (I omitted some clues about other family members in the 99 word reduction.) I’d be pleased if you would share your thoughts about this.

You see, I attempted to be inclusive by avoiding specifics about things such as gender, family composition, culture and location. I wondered whether a story could be written so that each reader could interpret it to fit their own situation. Illustration could be difficult, but perhaps worth considering. This attempt to be inclusive was very different from my first thoughts to be specific to Australia, through stars observed, for example, and had nothing to do with my thoughts or opinions of the picture books shared.

However, looking back at the five books with these thoughts in mind, I notice that the relationships portrayed are:

Guess How Much I Love You – father and son

Love You Forever –mother and son

Hey, I Love You – father and son

I Love You With All My Heart – mother and son

Koala Lou – mother and daughter

What do you think? Is it worthwhile to attempt a story of the love between parent and child with an inclusive element, or is it enough that such a variety of books is already available? Do you have any other favourites, or suggestions, on this topic?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

 

How inclusive are you?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Benefits of inclusion.

In that post I linked to this TEDx talk by Dan Habib, Disabling Segregation.

In the talk, Dan advocates for the inclusion of students with differences in mainstream schools. He explains that there are benefits for typical children as well as for children with disabilities.

The benefits include:

  • better communication skills
  • higher academic achievements
  • wider social networks, and
  • fewer behaviour problems.

He also says that typical children learn to be more patient, caring, compassionate and loving.

He decries the fact that although these benefits are known most children with differences still spend most of their day segregated.

In that post I also referred to article on The Cool Cat Teacher’s blog in which Gary Dietz, author of Dads of Disability, shared 5 practical lessons for elementary classroom inclusion.

His suggestions are:

  1. ‘Meet the student “where the student lives” (where they need to be, at their level of development)
  2. Presume competence
  3. Be creative in your use of ‘adaptive’ technology
  4. Listen to parents and help them listen to the child
  5. Give “overlooked” children the same chance to shine as the superstars.

The post received many wonderful comments, including some by Gary, which continued the discussion. It is worth having a peek back to see what people were thinking if you are interested.

Because your response to that post was so positive, I thought I would share with you some others that I have come across since publishing it.

On her blog, teacher versus mum, an Adelaide teacher wrote a post called When inclusivity becomes exclusion. In the article TeacherMumWife questions whether it is the attitude of teachers towards students with disabilities that impedes the progress of inclusivity.

TeacherMumWife describes a situation at a school in her local area as one promoting exclusion, rather than inclusion, through its lack of preparedness. She describes the aggressive and fear-inducing behaviour of one child and condemns the attitude of parents and teachers who question whether the school is the best place for the child. She asks, “isn’t it about time teacher attitudes got a kick up the bum, and teacher training programs and systemic funding be modified to reflect this need in our classrooms?

respect

I personally favour the idea of inclusion and believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and given a fair go. However in a situation such as that described by TeacherMumWife, a situation that many teachers are faced with on a regular basis, I have to admit teacher guilt in also questioning whether the regular classroom is the best place for the child.

A child with aggressive and disruptive behaviours, who injures teachers and classmates and who disrupts the learning of other students, in my opinion, is not giving others a fair go. I do not think accepting them into the classroom is equitable. If a child with special needs is placed into a classroom that is unable to provide for those needs, then it is not any more satisfactory for that child than it is for any other participants in the classroom.

There is already a great deal of pressure upon classroom teachers. The expectation that a general classroom teacher should be able to cater for a great diversity of special needs in addition to the range of diverse abilities and needs in a group of twenty-five to thirty or more students is, I believe, unrealistic in most current educational systems and environments. Qualifications to teach special education requires additional years of study. Teacher training, here is Queensland anyway, is already four years. How many years will it take to prepare teachers to cater for all needs that may present themselves at the classroom door?

People_16_Teacher_Blackboard

I agree with TeacherMumWife that more training is required so that teachers may develop a greater understanding of differences, and develop a genuine empathy for parents of and students with those differences. Additionally education must receive more funding to provide trained teachers and support personnel to work with students with special needs, and enable them to be more integrated into a situation which caters to their needs as much as to the needs of others.

 

A commenter on the blog agrees, saying, “The teachers involved in any class environment, have a right and expectation not to be placed in a situation they are not trained for or feel threatened by the situation they find themselves in.” He describes the progress of his ASD daughter from early primary to high school years.

Blake Wiggs, an instructional coach shared an article called Rethinking tolerance: Ensuring all students belong on Edutopia. He explains an exercise conducted with his students that highlights a similar situation to that noted by Dan Habib in his TEDx talk: that people form friendships with those who are similar to themselves and that perceptions of those who are different may be influenced by stereotypical thoughts. Blake’s article did not address disability specifically but the activity and attitudes are relevant just the same. He noted three necessary ingredients for creating a more tolerant environment, including:

  1. Create a culture of acceptance
  2. Address feelings of isolation
  3. Foster meaningful relationships

 

I think Jamie Davis Smith would agree with those. In her post, I’m so sorry my daughter’s disability is such an inconvenience for you shared on HuffPost Parents, Jamie expresses a parent’s frustration at the lack of consideration shown to those with disabilities. However she is not talking about school inclusion, but acceptance and inclusion in society.

Linda Petersen has a many positive suggestions on her Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Staying Sane Blog. Linda shares stories of her lifetime living with people with disabilities. In her recent post she says,

Every child is a joy! Imagine yourself in the mother of a disabled child’s shoes. Have empathy for that mom. Join in her admiration of her child, and maybe you will also internalize the concept that “God don’t make junk!

 

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

 

Benefits of inclusion

Recently I listened to a compelling TEDx talk by Dan Habib. You can listen to it here:

Dan opens his talk by asking the audience some questions about their school days:

Did kids with and without disabilities study together and learn together?

Did they have a best friend who had a disability?

Did they have a boyfriend or girlfriend that had a significant disability?

Very few of the approximate one hundred in the audience answered in the affirmative.

Then Habib asked the audience to consider and answer the following question:

Did you feel some fear or nervousness when you were a kid about talking to a kid with a disability?

The majority of the audience affirmed they did.

Had I been in the audience, my responses would have been similar.

When I was a kid, there were no children with disabilities in my classes. Children with disabilities were hidden away as an embarrassment and were segregated into what where called ‘opportunity schools’.

Thinking back, my impression is that people with disabilities were not visible in the community and their needs were not catered for. They were not expected to have any participation in society. Often they were targets of taunts and laughter, but mostly ignored and avoided.

However, when I was a kid discrimination wasn’t restricted to people with disabilities. It was a time in which racial discrimination and segregation was more prevalent; before the emergence of women’s rights and children’s rights.

Sometimes when we see how far humanity still has to go towards equality, tolerance and compassion it is hard to see how far we have come. But looking back on the changes that have occurred in just my life time, the progress is obvious, if still insufficient.

Even into my college years I had little contact with people with disabilities and my teacher training made no mention (that I can remember) of catering for students with disabilities, who were still segregated into what became called ‘special’ schools. I don’t recall catering for individual differences being high on the agenda back then.

I worked as a remedial teacher for a few years, supporting students who were achieving below the expected level, of reading mainly. These children were generally of average intelligence but experiencing a learning difficulty. Children falling below average on an intelligence test would still be shunted away to special schools.

I cannot recall the inclusion of any students with intellectual or physical disabilities at any school at which I taught prior to the 1990s when integration and mainstreaming was introduced. Dan Habib says in his talk that, as he was growing up, ‘disability was just a blip on the radar screen’ as well. Maybe this experience was similar to yours?

When Dan came to accept that his son Samuel had a disability and that he would have that disability for life, he realized that they had to create a vision for Samuel, and let ‘Samuel create a vision for himself“.

Part of this was the need for a sense of belonging: to the neighbourhood, the community and the local school. It was this that got Dan thinking about inclusion. Dan goes on to describe the ways in which Samuel was included in the school and the community, and the benefits, for both Samuel and others.

He urges everyone to advocate for inclusive education as the benefits include better communication skills, higher academic achievements, wider social networks and fewer behaviour problems. He decries the fact that, despite the benefits, most kids with disabilities still spend their day segregated.

He explains that the benefits are just as valuable for typical kids who achieve higher academically while learning to be patient, caring, compassionate, and loving. In my more recent years of teaching, I got to see these benefits of inclusion first hand. Not only did the children learn, so did I.

I didn’t just chance upon this TEDx talk. It was included in a great guest post by Gary Dietz on The Cool Cat Teacher’s blog. The post introduced a book, written by Gary, about dads of kids with disabilities and proposed 5 practical lessons for elementary classroom inclusion. The book Dads with Disabilities is described as inspiring and ‘a must read for any teacher working with special needs kids’.

The five suggestions (which I think are based on respect and are applicable for all students) are:

  1. ‘Meet the student “where the student lives” (where they need to be, at their level of development)
  2. Presume competence
  3. Be creative in your use of ‘adaptive’ technology (e.g. use of video and Skype or Facetime)
  4. Listen to parents and help them listen to the child
  5. Give “overlooked” children the same chance to shine as the superstars

 

Vicki Davis is the Cool Cat Teacher. Her blog is consistently among the top 50 education blogs worldwide. Her byline is “A real teacher helping teachers be really excellent”. I agree that she is and recommend her blog to you.

Update from Gary Dietz (12/08/2014):

“The book ‘Dads of Disability’ is now a FREE loan if you subscribe to Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited. And if not, it is on sales as an ebook for $4.99. Look it up on Amazon. (Of course the paperback is still available!)”

 

How do you view inclusion? What is your experience?

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.