Inclusive Schools Week is an annual event sponsored by the Inclusive Schools Network (ISN) at Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), which is held each year during the first week in December. Since its inception in 2001, Inclusive Schools Week has celebrated the progress that schools have made in providing a supportive and quality education to an increasingly diverse student population, including students who are marginalized due to disability, gender, socio-economic status, cultural heritage, language preference and other factors. The Week also provides an important opportunity for educators, students and parents to discuss what else needs to be done in order to ensure that their schools continue to improve their ability to successfully educate all children.
This issue is near and dear to my heart for several reasons:
- My teaching background is in special education. I taught for 10 years as a high school special education inclusion teacher and proudly spearheaded work at the secondary level in team teaching and supporting regular education teachers who were willing to open their classrooms to all types of learners. As a new teacher I learned quickly that being able to work with any kind of student is a gift and a talent, not just a label related to certification. Many many teachers provide incredible inclusionary clasrooms without ever being asked. They are a blessing each and every day to their students!
- I married a special education teacher. He has a wonderful sense of humor and never lets students quit on themselves. He sees parents for who they are and goes out of his way to communicate with them and help them help their student see their disability as an opportunity rather than any sort of roadblock. Plus he was a wonderful partner in 2 national special education grants we were able to bring to our school - thank you Beacons of Excellence and R.I.S.E.R.!
- I am a parent of a son with a learning disability. A wonderful young man of 14, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia in 1st grade much to the chagrin of his teachers. His father, my husband, and I both advocated for his testing and placement despite the fact that the teachers said they NEVER place a 1st grader in special education for reading difficulties. I tried so hard to not be "one of those parents" but in the end - it was the best decision for him and for our family. He now is in a full inclusionary schedule as an 8th grader making honor roll grades. Yes, sometimes it IS important to place first graders in a program with an IEP!
So you can choose to celebrate quietly and just hug a student you struggle to teach or offer to stay after and tutor them, or better yet, help them to help themselves as they apply for colleges.
You can choose to do a little learning and develop disability awareness yourself. Have you seen the kinds of resources each of the following has to offer?
Or... consider celebrating in a big way. Find out what is happening with Inclusive Schools Week 2009 and get involved!