Monday, October 7, 2019

What New Teachers Need to Know About Inclusive Classrooms

The more I talk to schools and families about inclusion, the more I realize that one of the biggest barriers to inclusion is the lack of training in teacher education programs. Through no fault of their own, new teachers know very little about inclusion. They are not given the knowledge, skill set, or resources to teach in inclusive classrooms. I would love to be in a situation where I could teach and prepare new teachers for inclusive classrooms but I'm not quite there yet. So, in the meantime, here are a few things that I want new teachers to know about inclusive classrooms.....

You aren’t alone! 

One of the best things about inclusive teaching is that you are not expected to work alone nor, “do it all”! Inclusive teaching is always a collaborative effort and requires the input and support of a school-based team. The team generally comprises of the classroom teacher, special education teacher, the student’s family, an administrator, learning specialists, and community support workers. Together, you will plan and deliver services to the student with disabilities in your classroom. Need help modifying a lesson? Want to know how to improve your student’s pencil grip? Looking for books that will help teach social skills? No worries, your team has you covered! Plus, don't forget to check out ALL these resources for inclusion online! 

A "general education" classroom doesn't exist.

Todd Rose, a developmental psychologist at Harvard University reminds us in his book, The End of Average, that there are no two brains are alike. Human beings develop and learn at different rates and in different ways. With that said, you may think you have a class of students who all learn at the same pace and in the same way but….the reality is that you don’t. You have a group of students with a wide range of ability levels that you need to reach and teach. You have students from a wide variety of backgrounds who read at different levels, calculate math at different speeds, would rather draw than write, or prefer physical education over music. Like a recent article on The Inclusive Class states, adjusting and adapting work for different learning levels and interests is already a part of what you do every day. So, providing a "general education" to a very diverse group of students just simply can't happen anyway! 

Good teaching is actually inclusive teaching.

The truth is that good teaching is actually inclusive teaching. Good teachers value student diversity and focus on a student’s strengths rather than deficits. They use this approach to engage students in learning, provide positive educational experiences, and set expectations. Good teachers use highly effective teaching strategies, have a strong classroom management skills, are responsive and reflective in their teaching practice, and provide supports for their students in a meanginful manner. Additionally, good teachers use research-based methods such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to give students many ways to connect and succeed with curriculum. So, chances are, if you are already doing most of the above then you are already an inclusive teacher!

Your students will benefit in more ways than you think.

Numerous studies over a 30+ year span have demonstrated the benefits of inclusion for students with and without disabilities. Math and literacy rates improve when students are placed in an inclusive classroom. As well, there are improved outcomes for students with disabilities in the areas of employment and independent living after high school. Inclusive classrooms also give students so many opportunities to not only learn academics but develop their social and emotional intelligence. Students practice pro-social skills such as acceptance, patience, and empathy on a daily basis. A  2015 study on the social and emotional growth and development of students with disabilities in an inclusive setting found that inclusion yielded positive results. For more research on the benefits of inclusion, check out this article on Inclusion Evolution.

If you have experience with inclusion, what would you want a new teacher to know? Please comment below!

1 comment:

  1. I would want new teachers to promote collaboration in the classroom.