Shelley Moore

fullsizerender-15Based in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada, Shelley Moore consults locally, provincially and beyond. Her presentations include school, district and provincial professional development days throughout British Columbia, as well as various leading conferences throughout North America, including CEC, CSSE, AERA, IRA and NCTE. Her interactive presentations are constructed based on contexts of specific schools and communities and integrate theory and effective practices of inclusion, special education & curriculum. She completed an undergraduate degree in Special Education at the University of Alberta, her masters at Simon Fraser University, and is currently a SSHRC funded PhD scholar at the University of British Columbia.

26402_pm_one_without_cover-v3_hrAlong with her best selling book, One Without the Other: Stories of unity through diversity and inclusion, Shelley is award winning SSHRC research storyteller and a TEDx speaker highlighting her work in presuming competence.

To get to more about Shelley’s research, check out her graduate profile here.

For booking information please contact her directly at shelleymoore79@gmail.com.

 

One Without the Other

13434873_10157578761040131_1372935628471608044_nI am THRILLED to announce the release of my first book, “One Without the Other.” The first batch has been shipped and arrived this weekend. I was so excited I opened it right on the street! I also made sure to give my mom the first autograph 🙂

This has been a big year of writing and editing and editing and editing and finally the day has come! My first book release celebration with be in Prince George on Thursday evening, with another planned in Vancouver in the fall.13432223_10157578762625131_5427126051749118841_n
As an introduction, I have included the introduction! Below is a section of the text to get a sneak peak of the new book. For more information on how to order, there will be links below.

Introduction

I was teaching a course last summer at the University of British Columbia called “Conceptual Foundations of Inclusive Education.” Thirty or so practicing teachers from various subject areas, knowledge expertise, and experience levels from across British Columbia joined me for three weeks of deconstruction, inquiry, and reflection, creating an engaging community of learners. The course was in July, and on this particular day, it was my birthday. We started the class with some cupcakes and hung up “Happy Birthday” bunting across the whiteboard, before diving into our explorations and understanding of the concept driving learning systems all over the world – inclusive education.

I showed a slide to my students with four bubbles. Their job was to label the bubbles with the appropriate terms (inclusion, integration, exclusion, and segregation) based on their own experience and prior knowledge of the concepts.

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After some discussion, it was agreed that Bubble C in fact represented inclusion. This is the common consensus arrived at in many groups that I have worked with, both in pre and in-service professional development settings.

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After further discussion, however, a student commented, “Shelley, I don’t think that this diagram is inclusion either.” This caught me off guard.

“Of course this is inclusion!” I thought. I have shown this slide to hundreds if not thousands of people! What could she possibly mean?

She further explained, “Look what you have shown us. I see a bubble with a whole bunch of green dots. And then, there are a scattered handful of other coloured dots.”

“Yeah,” I said, “and…”

“Well, in my definition of inclusion, there is no other.

I stood there speechless, because she was absolutely right. The diagram I was presenting was not one of inclusion; it was an example of the traditional model of education. The model where our goal is to produce more of the same – lingering evidence of the factory model of education where we needed to produce and replicate people to meet the demand of the workforce during the industrial revolution (Robinson, 2009; Zhao, 2009). A model where our job as educators (and especially special educators) was to identify students who aren’t green and fix them. Send the red kids to the red teacher, the blue kids to the blue teacher and the yellow kids to the yellow teacher. This model of education is a deficit, medical model, and I was showing the class a perfect example of how it was still plaguing us today. But more and more kids are coming to us not green! Not only is this model less effective, but also we are running out of funding, supports and students to allow this model to continue. Some have met this shift in paradigm with panic – others are seeing it as an opportunity. An overdue shift to starting to match our goals of education to the goals and expectations needed to meet the current demands of our society –which does no longer want people to comply. This is especially true now, as more and more occupations involving compliance and replication, are being replaced by machines (Zhao, 2009).

Educational reforms are happening on a global scale, including British Columbia and other provinces in Canada, where the Ministries of Education are completely restructuring their curriculum, being designed and written by teachers for teachers, with the emphasis on moving away from classrooms of green students (BC Ministry of Education 2015). We are no longer living in the industrial revolution; this is the 21st century — where we need to value the strengths rather than deficits in learning. Rather than finding out why students aren’t green, our job is now to find out what their colour is. What do they bring? What can they contribute because of their diverse and unique expertise? For decades we have been trying to take this “colour” out of our of students, taking the special out of special education, the autistic out of autism, the language out of cultures, and especially, the indigenous out of First Nations, Metis and Inuit children. This is not teaching to diversity. This is not inclusive. Teaching to diversity and inclusion is where we value the characteristics that ARE diverse, and not try and homogenize them.

The class continued to discuss what the conceptual diagram of inclusion could be, and together we decided that the only way to ensure there was no “other” was not to make us all green, but instead to make as all “an other” (see figure 3).

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When looking at inclusion this way, it also helped us realize that this is no longer a idea specific to special education. There is a distinct gap between the silos of special education and curriculum (Pugach & Warger, 2001; Thomas & Loxley, 2007), but if we look at inclusion as a concept of teaching to the diversity of all, rather than just a special education initiative, we can bridge this gap. We are diverse, all of us. We all have strengths, we all have stretches, and we all need to get better at something. The difference in teaching to diversity, however, is that we don’t start with our deficits; we start with our strengths, and this includes students, teachers, support staff, custodians, bus drivers and parents. My good friend Leyton Schnellert refers to this collective as “the ecology of learning communities.” Inclusive education relies on the diversity of its ecosystem, to not only promote coexistence and tolerance, but to thrive on the learning and interaction of each person in the community

Through this discussion, I also realized that, if we can now extend inclusive education to include every diverse learner, then we also can also start to view inclusion as not something we simply do; instead it becomes something that just is. We cannot escape or avoid the diversity in our world by attempting to homogenize and standardize our classrooms and learners. Homogeneity is a battle that has never been won and never will. Civilizations have collapsed in their attempt to make everyone the same (Morris, 2013). This is no longer our vision of education (thank goodness) and we are long overdue in matching our vision to our practices in classrooms, schools and communities.

It was also on this particular day, that I was inspired to write this book, because it was on this day I realized that, if inclusion and diversity is something that just is, then it is also something we live, something we are, and something we believe in together. And it is through this common goal that we can also be unified: we can be one without being an other.

So please allow me to introduce to you One without the Other.”

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One Without the Other is available from:

Portage & Main

Amazon.ca

Amazon.com

De-Criminalizing Supports!

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Every morning of every day

what supports do you rely on

to help along the way?

We wake up in the morning,

our phones honk, chime or blast our favs

and we struggle to get out of bed

to music, horns and crashing waves

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Thank goodness for many alarm clocks

as some need extra help to get up again

and a dog licking their face 

because there are a few who are tier 3 before 10.

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Our coffee brews with the push of a button

or sometimes on its own,

with programmable toasters and microwaved eggs

as we look at the schedules on our phone.

 

The shirt we picked up from the dry cleaner

is nicely pressed and ready to go,

we even sometimes ask our spouse

if our tie matches our socks… or no?

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We get into our car with a keyless remote

and our seat adjusts to our height,

we program our GPS device

and then chose the guiding voice that’s just right.

We have choices of radio, books or music

to listen to as we drive

or we pick up a friend on the way to work

to chat with as we offer a ride.

 

An app buzzes to tell us to take our meds

as we roll in to park at our job,

and we look at the camera as we back up our car to park,

and lock it with the click of a fob.

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We talk to our colleagues about questions and topics

throughout our day as we work,

we bring and share snacks with those who may have forgot

and are hungry while they do paper work.

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On the weekends we have fun, and hangout with our friends,

we may choose to go to a movie or show.

Or relax at home, order pizza that someone else made,

as we celebrate our life with those we know.

And at the end of those extra hard weeks

or the last few days before spring break,

you might even catch us with a beverage in hand

or a little extra something in our shake.

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We build the life that we want, and seek supports that we need

to get through all our day’s pace,

choice and celebration we find

guide us to our success, and we realize that life is not a race.

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Now, lets change our perspective

to those who are scholars,

students who are very much like us

but just a little bit smaller.

 

Students who, like me

had to sit to their hands

so they wouldn’t count with their fingers

to make sure it was math they could understand.

 

Or those who are only allowed

to show their learning in one way,

rather than offering choice

and whether to go or to stay.

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Using calculators, or spellcheck

are all seen as them cheating,

they aren’t allowed to talk to others

and must be in rows while they’re seating.

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Trying to monitor advantages for some kids but not all

makes us weary,

forgetting we all have a reader and scribe in our pockets

and we all know her as Siri!

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We are running around

getting to everyone we can,

rather than building in supports from the start

helping everyone in the plan.

 

We will never have enough

staffing, funding, or time,

if we continue to retrofit our supports

instead of building it as part of the design.

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But in order to do that

we have to let go of the thinking,

that supports are only for some

and kids don’t need to prove that they are sinking.

 

And teaching instead when they need a support

to regulate their learning and others’

so they can know how to push themselves further

instead of relying on their mothers!

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Look at winter tires for a perfect example,

a support we all use to this day,

between October and March we change our tires over

so that when it’s icy our car does not stray

 

I can guarantee the mechanic would not say,

“WINTER TIRES?! Shhhh someone might hear!

Do you really want someone to know that you have them

Let hope they have plugs in their ears.”

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I can also bet that you wouldn’t hear

a tire shop owner complain,

that getting tires for winter should be something you prove

you really need before you get chains.

The best of all, (and it makes me laugh)

is thinking about winter tire reviving,

imagining if someone said to us, “Forget It!

You’ll lose the skill of bald tire driving!”

It’s ridiculous to think about,

because the opposite is true

it is changing our tires in winter that makes us good drivers,

not trying to just push though!

 

Pushing through winter conditions

even if only for one day,

can you imagine the Coquihalla

if people actually thought this way?

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Now if you see a driver with studs on in June

this might be a conversation upcoming,

or maybe they just moved to Canada and heard rumours

to get ready, because winter is coming!

 

But guess what?! It doesn’t matter!

Because I can definitely tell you,

that no one has been hurt by too many supports

but so many have been harmed with too few

 

Supports for all! This is the key!

let kids not be our education sequel,

where supports weren’t allowed and we weren’t taught to believe

that fair is not always equal.

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I will leave you with one last story to remind you

that support is not a bad thing.

A boy named Zach came up to me in Grade 8

and told me something that zinged.

 

He said, “Ms. Moore, you were my favourite teacher

but I definitely hated your class,

because you made me believe for a second

that I may have been good at math,

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and when Grade 9 arrived

it put me back in my place

and made me remember

that this is all just a race.

A race I’ve never been good at,

a race that I’ve never won,

that school is where I fail

not where I have fun.”

 

Think of your kids now,

what kind of teacher do you want to be

one that supports them to believe in themselves

or make them feel like they cheat and must plea?

 

Plea for their grades, for a pass,

or for their needs to be met.

Who is in control now?

Not the kids I suspect.

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Support them from the start!

With choice, options and many plans,

so when they look over their shoulder

They see a SWEEPER VAN!!!

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Let’s teach kids the skills and

de-criminalize supports they need to prevail!

They will self regulate their learning

and get what they need BEFORE they fail.

 

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This poem was from our first Richmond School District Ignite. 20 slides, 15 seconds each, 5 minutes… SO HARD!!!! And so naturally I thought…What a great opportunity to have a try at Suessonian Verse!

I will post the video here soon!

Storytelling Extravaganza

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Last year I was so honoured to receive a SSHRC scholarship to support my research in inclusive education. The SSHRC award is given to scholars across the country highlighting research that supports innovation and the quality of life of Canadians. This funding has allowed me to work with schools and teachers and students all over this province including my own home district in Richmond, BC. An additional contest for award winners announced this fall was called the “SSHRC Storyteller Award.” Our job was to create a 3 minute video of our research as a STORY!! Is this perfect for me or what!!!!

Unknown.jpegThe even more exciting news is that it was announced today that my video is a top 25 finalist. Me and 24 other scholars across Canada will be highlighted at Congress in Calgary. I chose to share the story of the Outside Pins. If you have seen me present before you know how much I love my bowling metaphor. I have written a blog post about it before and it has been highlighted on the think inclusive website.

Well now I have a video! I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to share. Let me know how you use it if you find it useful, I love to hear the stories of the stories!

 

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Lessons from Daniel

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On January 16, 2016 I was wearing a new outfit, just bought new boots, had a fresh haircut and I was ready for my big day! I had friends and family come from out of town, and the chairs were filled with my people…it was like (and will probably be the closest thing I get to) my WEDDING!!!

January 16 was TEDxLangleyED, where I was invited along with an incredible line up to speak to24468365421_01bf95299c_z innovations in education. It was a day filled with inspiration, laughter, tears and connections. I will rate it as one of the top 3 days of my entire life without a doubt.24523633186_6d7b30c1c2_z

I was joined by the many speakers to share our thoughts and questions including Chris Wejr speaking to the incredible importance of teaching to strengths, Vikram Vij’s powerful metaphor of life as a Sword, and awed by the strength and talent of Amanda Worlmald. Along with the many other amazing speakers, I was also joined by my two bowtie wearing side kicks Jos Chois and Alexander Magnussen, who inspired us with amazing facts and shared stories of struggles and triumphs.

This morning, my video was released. I was so excited to see it because I was so nervous on the day of, I could barely remember what I said. I am pleased to share this with you having complete relief that my hair stayed in place!

Enjoy with hopes that you also learn one of the many lessons that I did from my student Daniel.

AND NOW, for you, my TEDx Talk: Under the Table: The Importance of Presuming Competence

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Other Videos of the day!

Jennifer Lee: My Best friend Max!

Dan Pontefract: How Schools Can Save Companies from Collapsing

Ryan Radford: Harnessing the Power of GEEK in your Classroom

Holly Clark: Are you ready to Disrupt Learning?

Hannah Perkins: When You Grow Up?

Nancy Crawford: Against the Grain: Creating Opportunities for Creativity

Cecelia Reekie: A Journey of Discovery, Truth and Reconciliation

Samantha Ettus: The Secret to Unlocking a Child’s Potential

Hugh MacDonald: Youth in Sport: Keeping Kids in the Game

 

 

Pull out the Pink Shirts

CQVs2VsUYAEkYHU.jpg-largeLast October I was invited, by the lovely Maria LaRose, to present for the Dalai Lama Centre’s Heart Mind Conference complete with a slate of speakers that left me speechless including Kim Schonert-Reichl, Deborah MacNamara, Peter Senge and others. We were brought together to speak to the changing tide of technology and our role as digital citizens, and what emerged was a collection of stories and perspectives that cradled our hearts and challenged our minds.

I get asked all the time, “Why inclusion? Of all the topics you could research, what is it about inclusion that stands out for you?”

The alignment of this question with the conference seemed a perfect match, and so a story emerged of my own experiences as a student, the value of teachers who t/caught me and the importance of the lenses which informs my inclusive rationale driving both my philosophy and practice.il_214x170.657248195_b32w

We are quickly approaching anti-bullying day, and paralleling with this theme of lens and perspective, I invite you to watch with an open mind and heart and ask yourself, How will you find out the story??

….OR if you are just really curious as to what I looked like as a 5 year old, take a peek 🙂

2015 Heart Mind Conference: What’s the story?

Curriculum for ALL

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 6.34.11 PMOver the past year, I have been collaborating with SETBC, a Ministry of Education provincial resource program supporting classrooms throughout the province with technology support, professional development and training for staff and students!

I have also been working with local school districts in finding ways to meet the needs and Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 6.33.30 PMplan for diverse classes using evidence-based frameworks including Universal Design for Learning, Response to Intervention, Inquiry and more. It has been amazing to see how teams have taken these frameworks and made them their own. With SETBC and support from schools, I have been able to make this series online for everyone!

Curriculum for ALL is a self directed online course with individual self-paced modules designed to help schools and collaborative teams plan for and include all students into curricular classes regardless of age, subject, language, experience or cognitive ability.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 6.34.04 PM So if you are wondering about inclusive frameworks and design, but can’t get to a workshop, you can still be a part of the fun! The best part…IT’S FREE!!!! 

So find a friend, or join a team and take a peek. I would love your feedback and anecdotes about how you have used the resources and planning ideas in your school.

Here is the link:

http://www.setbc.org/course/curriculum-for-all/

and HAPPY PLANNING!!!

The Sweeper Van

UntitledSo, yesterday I was fortunate to spend the day co-presenting with two of my colleagues, mentors and friends, Faye Brownlie and Leyton Schnellert. The three of us were invited to be the featured speakers at the BCSSA Spring Forum, which brought together leaders including superintendents, administrators, directors of instruction and teachers from around the province, for a day with a theme of inclusive education. I contemplated writing about my session for you here, but my presentation was captured on camera! SO today, instead of writing, I get to TELL you about a moment in my life that has forever changed my practice and beliefs about teaching. I invite you to watch, share, and hopefully laugh without offence 🙂

May I present to you… The Sweeper Van.

A Gay Danish?

Ok, so this story is about my mom…well not completely, but it starts with her. But before I go further I should tell you a little bit about her.1458539_10154635398550131_1051224502576919098_n

Imagine a 5’2 3/4” tall, cute, nice, 63 year old with great skin. And now add a homemade colourful fluorescent moo-moo with matching crocs and a big smile. My mom (and her twin sister) are ACTUALLY the sweetest creatures that have ever lived. She is always happy except for these 3 things get her mad:

  1. Cable TV and how there is never anything on
  2. She thinks that there should be a grandfather clause that allows people over 60 to still smoke at the beach, and
  3. She can no longer buy fabric at Walmart

She loves lays chips and the colour blue, buying tables, going to the dollar store, quilting and the beach. In fact, you will often find her at the beach with a table, wearing the colour blue eating lays chips and quilting under an umbrella that she bought at the dollar store.

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Anyways, So her and I both live on Davie street, 3 blocks apart. Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 2.29.17 PMShe proudly declares herself as “living in the heart of the village,” and we will often meet at our neighborhood coffee local, Melriches.

One other thing about my mom is that she is very reflective and often bursts out profound one-liners. Like one time she called me up and left a message on my phone that simply said, “Shelley, I’M IN LOVE!” and then I made this face.Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 2.26.43 PM

Only to find out later that she had recently watched a documentary about Leonard Cohen and convinced herself that he was her true soul mate. ANYWAYS…So one afternoon, as we sat at Melriches, and she declared, “you know, we could all learn a lot from the gays.” And then I made this face.

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Before I could respond, however, she continued into a lovely monologue about how happy she is that she lives in a community that values diversity and how everyone is different and that it’s ok! And she’s right, people CAN learn something from people who are gay, and she CAN walk down the street in her fluorescent moo-moos and matching crocs, and the only people who turn their heads to stare, are women (and men) who want to know where they can buy a set.Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 2.46.50 PM

She absolutely meant no disrespect to gay people, (or her daughter) by calling us an adjective, so I used this opportunity as a teachable moment.

“So ma, you know that gay is an adjective right?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I mean that you can’t call people adjectives when we are people, we are nouns!”

“Oh…. Well that’s what I meant.”

Now one more thing you should know is that I inherited a few things from my mother. We are Danish, We both have cute toes Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 2.22.36 PMand apple shaped bodies, and we both manage some mental health issues.

“I know ma, but what if people called you an adjective, like crazy?” (Which we have both extensively experienced in our lifetime)…this one got her.

So we de-constructed this a bit, and discussed different adjectives we had experienced and compared them with each other. What made some terms ok and not others? Some terms were adjectives. Some were nouns. Some were used grammatically correct and others were not.

And some were mean and should never be spoken.

We used the stem, “If we saw each other walking down the street, what would we say?” as our litmus test. We tried everything!

  1. Oh look, there is a gay (no)
  2. Oh look there is a crazy (no)
  3. Oh look there is a Danish (I am not a pastry)
  4. Oh look there is Shelley! (Totally)
  5. Oh look there is Shelley, who is crazy (ummm still no)
  6. Oh look, the Gay Danish! (I don’t even know what this means)
  7. Oh look! There is my mom! (Yup)
  8. Oh look, there is Danish Shelley (sure…at a Viking festival)
  9. Oh look, its BGS!!! (Big Gay Shelley) – (only on the August long weekend please and thank-you)

So we eventually agreed to just call each other  by our names Ma and Shelley. My mom learned her adjective lesson, and we moved on to the next profound reflection.

BUT THEN!!! I started thinking (and we all know what that means) sleepless nights and multi-tasking through meetings. Labels! We all do it. We label and categorize our students all the time, well-meaning or not. Our days as educators are constantly FILLED with words associated with and used to describe kids.

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I remember the days when I was a student and the words used to describe me. I thought about myself as a teacher, a consultant, a speaker and a person and the words I use to describe others.

… And then I started to make a list, and I have been adding to it…for 3 days.

Let me also just mention that the words I have listed have been heard in a variety of contexts including (some more surprising than others)– My UBC class, a special education conference, a collaboration seminar, IEP meetings, a staff room, the pub, coffee with a parent and dinner with colleagues, to mention a few. Regardless of setting, person, time, and/or tension, labels and categories were present, and I am just as guilty as any.

May I present to you… the list.

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 2.36.58 PMLow, modified, bright, illiterate, adapted, gifted, slow, modified, special, low end, waste of space, gay, Deaf, learning disabled, bad, poor, handicapped, Queer, good, problematic, core, vulnerable, grey area, crazy, smart, problem, downs, normal, low and slow, mute, non readers, bottom of the barrel, Chinese, drug users, challenged, teachers pet, high flyers, special ed, behaviour kids, brown, life-skill, brain damaged, Tier 1/2/3’s, resource kids, risk takers, Natives, on the spectrum, Muslim… and lets not forget the acronyms!!!! A’s, H’s, G’s IEP kids, ELL/ESL kids, SPEDS AND of course the ever present – Those are “your” kids (which I realize is not an adjective).

NOW thank goodness I didn’t hear anyone say the R-Word because I may have tripped them.

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 2.38.35 PMI will let you decide which labels were used appropriately or not, but I will point out the discrepancy between positive and negative terms. Which labels were you called? Which would you add? I know you remember them; they are not words we forget.

Why do we do this? Why do we need to group people into categories? Is it more effective, efficient, shorter or easier to remember? Is it what we hear, or all we know? Or maybe we say them to harm. I have been told, that some people say them because they can’t keep up with the political correctness.

But I don’t know. Are these reasons good enough? I mean, would you ever see a person on the street and say, “Oh look, here comes a paraplegic” because it is efficient to say? NO!

Another important question that I ask myself all the time is, if you heard that, would you say something? And to be honest, I didn’t say anything anyone in my 3 days of listening. Why?

We (teachers, people, society) are SO focused on labels and categories. To be fair, however, I understand that sometimes they are helpful. They can define culture, build pride and even help bring to the table difficult and social justice issues. The “idle no more movement” is a perfect example of that. And if we are really being honest, labels and categories are the reason I even have a job! Categories are how schools get funding (although that’s not a lot presently!!)

Is there a point, however, where in our label obsession, we forget the person we are labeling? And additionally, how do the Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 2.51.25 PMlabels we place on others affect the people we are labeling? In the book “Choice Words” by Peter Johnston, he reminds us that the language we use creates us and defines the world we live in. The words we use also make a difference to how people see themselves and how they exist in our world. Words are powerful!

This issue has seriously got me thinking about how I use words my in my world. My friend Leyton also reminded me of an excellent point (as he often does) He gently asked me, “How many remarkable people in the world do not fit into ANY category, or into traditional systems and labels. Like you?!”

SO, with the help of colleagues, a few articles and my mom, here is some criteria and guiding ideas to assist you in the use of words.

  1. Everyone can read, write and communicate – expand your definition – try and argue this with me!! (examples: non-readers/writers, non verbal, etc.)
  1. We no longer use these words: mute, mentally handicapped, illiterate, brain damaged, the R-Word or any statements that starts with “they suffer from…”

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  1. There are some groups that use labels to define their culture (for example Deaf, Queer, Danish, Muslim, Canucks, and Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 2.45.02 PMsome people with Autism.) If this is you, slap a capital letter on the word, put it on a shirt and wear it with pride because you were born that way baby!
  1. Say the following labels only if you want to get tripped by me. (Bottom of the barrel, low and slow, waste of space etc.) Just. don’t.
  1. PLEASE!!!!! Regardless of adjective or noun… Avoid “a/an or the”, followed by label and a period (For example, An Autistic. A Gay. The bright kids. The Queer. A gay daughter).
  1. And lastly, If your choice of words are not ones that you would say to a student or their mother’s face directly – complete the following procedure:
  1. Write it on a piece of paper
  2. Stick your gum in it
  3. Burn it
  4. Sweep up the ashes
  5. Put the ashes in a glass of diet coke
  6. Add Mentos to the glass

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As an alternative, try these:

  • There is a movement called person-first language that I encourage everyone to explore and reflect on. I have linked some articles below to help you do this. It is actually really easy, you do exactly what it says, use the person first (for example, a student with a disability, Joan who is Danish, Shelley who is gay, a kid who needs support, A student who has a learning disability, a teacher who needs a vacation).Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 2.34.59 PM
  • If you, by accident, use person-first language to someone who prefers the capital letter non–person first tshirt version – I PROMISE they will be less offended than the alternative situation. Referring to people first will never be politically incorrect – it’s safe.
  • If the above option doesn’t work for you, you could just try calling them kids, students or people.Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 2.36.40 PM
  • If the above two options don’t work for you, you can always call them Shelley, Kate, Leyton, Carole, Gillian, Faye or (insert name here).

Here is the bottom line because I have discovered that people like them. After my reflections and readings and discussion, I have come to this conclusion:

The only label that we should use before a students name is ‘ours,’ except for my mom, because she is mine.

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OH! And…. Sign the R-Word pledge. So I don’t trip you.

Person First Resources

People First Language: Dignity, Not Semantics

Showing Respect by Being Direct

Person-First Language

The Significance of Semantics

A Composition.

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Here we are again. Stuck in between the two historical and political silos: the government vs. the BCTF. I’ve been stocking up on Kraft dinner and hotdogs and watching this saga unfold for months. I agree with all things teacher, but there is one point, at the forefront of this debate, that I have been waiting for someone else to address … and frankly I’m tired of waiting.

The class size and composition battle has been ongoing. Personally, I don’t even know why teachers are negotiating this…you don’t see doctors striking for the rights of patients??? Regardless, there is ample  research supporting the teachers’ demands of lowering class size and I have no (nor want to have an) argument to counter this. Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.46.28 AM

The other one though, ‘composition,’ leaves not only a bad taste in my mouth, but makes me wants to convince both the BCTF (along with every teacher in every school district) and Christy Clark (and EVERYONE in the ministry) to take a Shelley Moore seminar about the actual implications of the word.

I have tried daily to (unsuccessfully) convince myself not read twitter; and/or Facebook; and/or the news; and/or (and especially) the comments and government propaganda. All I see are graphs, opinions, false statistics and creative M n M visual metaphors describing the horrors of this strike, including class composition narratives.

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The true horrors, however, are what fill my screen: Tweets screaming the atrocities of having “7 special needs students in a class…..SEVEN!!!!!!!!!” A website devoted to collecting the compilation ratios of teachers classes and graphs with the increasing population of students with special needs and English language learners in classes, displayed like these kids are a spreading disease with no cure. Another, BC teacher supported blog, carries a headline, “BCTF says class composition the worst it’s ever been in the province!” An additional Vancity Buzz article actually ranting about the disruption of special needs students in classrooms. And my favourite, a parent tweeting, who wants their kid in a class with special needs kids anyway?

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The kicker, a Vancouver Sun interactive resource, where parents can go in and find the exact composition atrocities of their own child’s class online.

Ok everyone, enough is enough.

photo 4For some reason, class composition, has become synonymous with impossible teaching arrangements and a pessimism toward individuals with special needs that is rooted in the conviction that these students are incapable, and worse, a burden, to other students and teachers in public classrooms. Before these negotiations, the word composition did not just refer to ratios of diversity and ability.

In writing and art, the word ‘composition’ is used to describe “the plan, placement or arrangement of the elements of work.” In music, it is “creating and arranging an original piece of music.” In the digital world, composition refers to “the practice of digitally piecing together a video.” All of these have one thing in common – planning and arranging pieces together to create a whole. Another common theme? In every definition, compositions are original creations.

For too long, we have been aiming to teach homogenous groups of students who, as Ken Robinson so eloquently described, “have only one thing in common…their age.” I guarantee that more than just my music, writing, and digital composing friends agree that … “all the same” is not enough; it’s undesirable. With these homogenous standards, it is not just students with special needs who don’t fit the mold. More and more students (including me) struggle to find success in a teaching career that focuses on deficit rather than ability.

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The educational shift towards inclusion has attempted to counter this attack, by embracing diversity and creating classrooms that are not just geared towards the status quo. THIS is what we all should be fighting for (student, teachers, governments, parents, and tax payers). A shift in education to embrace all… not just some. Somehow though, this value shift has been left for the teacher’s to carry alone. It is because of this that inclusion (and composition) has become a contaminated practice, rather than a philosophy that binds us, and brings us, together.

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My lovely hairdresser, Missy, cut and coloured my hair yesterday (in exchange for an IOU) and in our chair/mirror discussion, she described her choir and their (sold out!) performance this summer. My ears perked when I heard her casually mention, “we have so many tenors this year!”

bc-class-compositionWhat didn’t follow, were these statements:
– “The tenor population has increased so drastically because we are so much better at identifying them”
– “Ugh, this choir year is IMPOSSIBLE, these 7 tenors are taking up SO much extra time”
– “We found an app that alters a tenor’s voice so we can fit them into our choir now…kind of”
– “We needed to compose a whole new piece for them! I don’t have time for that, so we found a piece that was similar that they can sing quietly at the same time.”
– “The tenors should probably just be in their own choir, they require a different set of skills that I am not specialized to compose.”

Or my most favourite:
– “We already have three tenors, sorry.”

AND, you will definitely never find a circle graph of current choir composition on Google images used as a strategic and political scare tactic.

The difficulty with these statements, more than just the obvious “oh, those poor tenors,” is that a composer would NEVER say this! Choirs NEED tenors! A choir filled with only sopranos would sound like shrill elevator music on repeat. I love you sopranos, but I feel like you appreciate the compliments of some tenor love as much as I like to turn up the bass in my car when I listen to Beyoncé.

Beyonce

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What Missy continued to describe (pay attention to this part) was how the choir, responded to having a lot of tenors. This choir commissioned a piece to suit their chorus. In the choir world, a piece is commissioned with the chorus’ strengths in mind. So, for example, if a choir has a strong bass section, the piece chosen highlights lower notes. Alternatively, if a soprano section of a choir is smaller, or developing, the piece won’t include an extraordinary amount of high notes. In other words, the structure of the chorus is manipulated to respond to the COMPOSITION of the group. Missy’s choir created an original piece so that the tenors (and everyone in the mix) could feel “included and have a contribution.” They didn’t make the tenors change their voices, they didn’t make them sing a different piece, they didn’t turn them away… those tenors were as a part of that choir as anyone else. There unique presence, however, informed them to the piece that was created for them for them. The composition utilized their strengths, for the benefit of all. At the end of the day, this choir performed an AMAZING piece (did I mention it was sold out) AND I bet not one person in the audience knew that there was an above average tenor population. The goal was met. Objective achieved!

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Strength based teaching is not a new phenomenon, and there are many frameworks that can support the spectrums of language, culture, gender and every other unique identity marker you can imagine…including cognitive ability. These supports are effective in both challenging AND creating access for everyone, and I encourage you to read other entries on this blog if your curious.

There are teachers all over this province trying to create learning opportunities for all their students because of this diversity, not in spite of it. This is inclusion. These classrooms, however, are having a harder and harder time. There is an expired expectation that teachers simply teach, to a homogenous group, in isolation. How hard can it be right???? There are many difficulties with this longstanding image of classrooms, especially classrooms trying to move towards a place of inclusion and access for all. Inclusion cannot happen alone.

Inclusion needs time for collaboration to create a plan that can highlight all abilities.

Inclusion needs assistants and specialists to provide multiple pathways for success.

Inclusion needs resources and funding supports to make a plan acknowledging alternate ways of knowing and understanding the world.

Inclusion needs time and space for teachers to grow and change their professional practice to respond to the changing structures of their classes.

Inclusion needs a government that supports the efforts of teachers, who are caring for and facilitating the growth of the next generation of our society that will require the skills and experiences of learning from, and with, diversity in all its forms.

These are not teacher ‘benefits;’ they are the blueprints of inclusive education. Let us not lose track of what we are fighting for. There is a bigger picture to these negotiations.

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There is one more factor for inclusion to be successful. And I argue, the MOST important one! Inclusion NEEDS a diverse composition. Without this, we are simply cookie cutter assembly line workers. Without this, teachers cannot be the creative composer. This is our career, this is our skill, and regardless of how many massages or fertility treatments we require per calendar year, we are skillFULL composers.

Lets look to our teachers as composers. Let us all consider them the skilled professionals that they are, collaborating together and delicately weaving the diverse abilities, interests, and characteristics of our students into creative, original and carefully planned arrangements. Professionals that need support to exist. From everyone…even you.

For all of you who scrolled to the bottom to find the answer, here it is.

Instead of fighting for class size and composition, how about we fight for class size and SUPPORT for class composition. BOOM. That was easy.