Leadership for Inclusive Education

Dr. Thomas Hehir led a session on “Leading for Inclusion.” We examined Leadership for Schools for ALL students, especially around issues of educational access and equity. These are schools where students with different needs (both moderate and severe) are part of the typical program, rather than in a special setting program. Keeler School (as well as the CBE) works through this philosophy, and even though we have two special setting programs, one is completely integrated and the other is a major part of our school and not isolated from the school community. We have a ton of students with different identified needs, as well as social issues and issues arising around poverty and culture.

  • Relationships – Teachers as advisors who know their kids extremely well, where they are not just presenters. We are not mechanics who pull the manual off the shelf… Resiliency Skills are dependent on the establishment of trusting relationships, which is critical to enabling students to rise above adversity (as well needing to face adversity in order to overcome it!)
  • Learning is our goal (not covering) – An educator’s role is not just “covering” the Alberta Program of Studies, and that it is the student’s fault if they have not learned “it.” My personal belief is that at least 80% of our job is in creating conditions for learning and finding ways of motivating and leading kids in their learning.
  • Language, Literacy & Communication – Reading, Writing, Listening & Communicating are the portal to learning and are learned across the disciplines, not just in the English Language Arts class. They are learned and developed by having real things to communicate and think about.
  • Purpose & Engagement in Learning – What do I read? A ton of books on education and leadership, science fiction and fantasy novels, as well as junior novels that we get into the school. Do I read them because my Director or teacher told me to do so? No. No. No. I read them as they will help my work, develop my practice and capacities, and as a way relax. I am writing this blog right now because I want to. It helps me reflect and share. Too many students are expected to do the work because they are told to do so. As educators, it is our responsibility to help students to create and develop their purpose and engagement while at school.

In looking at students with learning disabilities such as Dyslexia, Dr. Hehir intentionally used the term “malpractice” if we are not doing everything we can to:

  1. minimize impact of disability and
  2. maximize their opportunity to participate.

I think that tools such as text to speech, audio recordings, laptops with assistive technologies, collaborative strategies in learning language, etc. are not utilized nearly enough to enable students with disabilities (and all students!) I “read” audio books on the way to and from work each day.

A high achievement high school student had a part time job, exercised, was in sports and extracurricular, and did well in school. She was not keeping up with the huge amount of reading in her English class, so she went and got audio books from the library and listened to them in the car, at the gym, etc. She got some of the top marks in the class around those books.

So… Did she cheat?

How much do I handwrite or print? Almost never. Am I cheating in “writing” this on a laptop? What if I write this blog using speech to text on my iPhone? Did I “cheat” because I dictated this, or am I still utilizing the same thinking and learning processes? Of course I am… In fact, it speeds up my thinking as I don’t have to wait for my pencil or my slow typing speed!

I want each and every student and staff member coming to school as excited about learning as I am today at Harvard!

Work hard, learn tons!
D

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