Inclusion makes me think of the quote said by Eleanor Roosevelt, “do one thing every day that scares you.” Because lets face it, inclusion can be scary. You are asking another teacher if you can bring your wild card to their nicely organized room with their 20-25 students who raise their hands to speak and don’t scream periodically. You are adding a challenge to your day as a special education teacher and a lot of work goes into the 30 minutes a day you want this one student to mainstream. So why fight for mainstreaming so much? How do I even attempt this idea? Is it worth it?
First off, being included has always been important to me. Since I was in kindergarten, I always tried to include everyone. The “weirder” you were, the more I wanted to help you feel accepted. Why? Because I (as I am sure everyone) knows what it feels like to not be included.
All children go through this at some point in their young lives, but they usually have a voice to communicate with to say their feelings are hurt. But my students are still finding their voice, and instead of saying “hey, can I play too?” they usually hit to communicate their frustration. I fight for their right to be included in their community. But this takes work.
To make inclusion successful you have to plan, go with the flow, and support everyone appropriately. Lets break it down:
1. Plan: You need to plan a good time with the teacher, your paras, and your schedule for your student to mainstream. Talk with the teacher about an increment of time that works in both of your schedules and when paras aren’t on their breaks.
2. Go with the flow: As much as you do plan, students can be wild and you need to roll with the punches. Always bring a token board, positive reinforcements, and a positive attitude when in a new setting. It’s hard to get all of the classroom’s work modified before heading over there daily, becoming a professional on “on-the-spot modification” is key. Bring a highlighter to write the answers for them to copy, help the read key words in the text, or prompt more if necessary.
3. Support: As the teacher who isn’t usually in the classroom while students are mainstreaming, support can be the most important. Don’t ask a teacher to mainstream and then not send the appropriate support for your student. Check in with the GE teacher about how your student is doing, be there for questions and concerns, and thank them.
I don’t know any human being who doesn’t appreciate being included in their community, why would my students be any different? It’s also important to focus on what you want the goal to be while mainstreaming. Maybe you want to focus more on the social impact this will have on your student or practicing listening to directions given by other adults. Whatever the goal may be, it’s important for everyone to be on the same page.
When you start the conversation on how to prepare everyone on the team for mainstreaming/inclusion people may be hesitant and scared, but the outcomes can be so rewarding that you will forget it was ever scary to begin with.
So, why do I fight for inclusion?
Because my students deserve to bel apart of their community.
As we all do, no matter how scary it is.