This week is Inclusive Schools Week and we celebrate what it means to be inclusive through activities, readings, and discussions with our students. But why do we only talk about inclusive practices during this week? Inclusive Schools Week should be EVERY week!
“Inclusive” is a powerful word. Remember that inclusive refers to mixed abilities but also diversity in cultures and backgrounds. How are we ensuring that every single student feels that they are included and wanted in our classrooms? It’s not just about what actions we take. It’s about the feelings and thoughts of our students.
Help students understand: Check out these 5 Ten Minute Warm-Ups for the Inclusive Classroom by inclusiveschools.org These type of activities demonstrate through actions what it means. A ten minute activity could be worth hours of explaining if done right.
Classroom meetings: Meet with your students every day to reflect on goals, progress, and build rapport. Use greetings, sharing, group activities, announcements, and review of goals. These set the tone for your classroom community. Learn more through this video:
Use videos & quotes: Real life examples of children and adults overcoming obstacles have a way of inspiring and demonstrating that anything is possible.
Relationships: Are you trying to form a positive relationship with every one of your students or just the ones that are coming to you? Some of the students who need this the most will be the most difficult ones to build it with. How are you going to show them that you care?
Cooperative learning & projects: Structures that provide time for students to work in a collaborative manner, but also in a way that is purposeful and planned out, will create bonding experiences. This can also backfire if not planned out well with expectations, so be careful. Cooperative learning can be a very powerful tool in having students access the lesson in a way that works for them at their level.
Schoolwide systems: Routines across the school can have a positive impact on students immediately when they enroll. Occoquan Elementary School, led by Principal Hamish Brewer @BrewerHM, in Woodbridge, Virginia, organized all of the students K-5 into tribes that compete based on positive behaviors. When a student enrolls, they spin the wheel in the office that determines their tribe and then are greeted enthusiastically by their peers. These type of outstanding systems pull students into the fold as fast as possible to create a sense of belonging.
Talk about your strengths, not your weaknesses: As a teacher, model this for your students, tell them what you are strong in and how that can affect others in a positive way. Have your students share their strength, but also how they will use that strength to help others.
Practice what you preach: When you meet in your grade level teams, are you including resource teachers like reading, gifted, or ESOL? Are you inviting parents to be part of decisions being made in school? Are you respecting and seeking the input from all of your teammates during the planning process, even if their personalities are much different than yours? Consider how Professional Learning Communities are connected to Inclusive Schools. Can you have one without the other?
Parents: No parent should EVER have to question whether the school wants their child to be there. Non-negotiable. Inclusive schools want all students.
Model with a genuine heart on the behaviors you want from your students. They will know if you are faking. Then accept only their most supportive and kind acts towards their peers. We as educators set the tone. How we set up the environment always makes a positive difference.
Consider how you create an inclusive environment throughout the school year. Remember, just because you ‘do inclusive things’ doesn’t mean that students feel included. Dig deep and go the extra mile for your students and it will make a difference on how they view school!
Thank you to the following amazing educators and leaders who gave ideas through #pwcsedchat about this topic: Amanda Heim @Stings_teacher – Laura Kerbaugh @lskerbaugh – Lyn Marsilio @LynMarsilio – Melissa Miller @mellalin – Jesse Raines @Mr_Raines – Crystal Watt @CrystalMwc