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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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.

What about the “OTHER” kids?

Last week I wrote a post about bowling as a metaphor for inclusion. You can read it here if you haven’t already. The most common question I received after this post however, was around what this actually looks like in real life. “Yes this sounds great Shelley, but what the heck does it mean in my classroom?”

I am taking a course for my PhD program right now and our assignment this week was to write a field note from the lens of self/other. I was reminded of a little guy I met last year on a technology consultation. In the midst of professional unrest in the province, this story shone though as a mighty example of what exactly I mean when I say, we need to teach to the pins who are the hardest to hit.

May I introduce you to Ali, a definite outside pin!

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All I wanted to do was make a bank deposit, but then I saw her look at my name tag.

“So…You are a teacher?” Her eyes bolted upwards towards me from the counter, but somehow strangely keeping her head in one position. On a typical day, the above mentioned question would be one of respect and admiration rather than today’s syllable inflection emphasizing instead an inference of question and judgement.

We were striking. In fact earlier that week I too had been waving at cars, trucks and bicycles, Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.36.19 AMhanding out pamphlets with words advertising support for “our kids.” For about 80 % of those vehicles driving by us, honouring honks were awarded, but I could tell immediately that on this particular day, with this particular bank teller, she was not a part of that majority.

“So, tell me, what do you think about this inclusion thing?” she said, as she typed in my bank card number.

Ok seriously?! On a slow day at the bank, I would have what? …3 minutes tops of possible conversation time with this person, let alone the hours I would actually need to answer this question with the rationale and justice it deserves.

I had a choice to make. I could say something like, “uh, well actually, I do work for the school board, but I’m not a teacher….I’m in …. payroll.” collect my things and walk away…

OR

I could stand with my integrity in tact and answer with a deep breathe and full sentence knowing that my words could very well just be heard, but not listened to. Before I knew it though, I realized my voice did not matter in that moment, as she continued her thought out loud.

“I just…well, I just can’t help but wonder what will happen with MY kids when they get to school. I mean why should my kids suffer because those special ed kids need extra help all the time. Don’t they just hold everyone else back?”

“..ummmm…”

“I mean, what about the OTHER kids, the smart ones?”

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“UUUhhhhh” I was speechless. It was my turn to stare. I could hear the clearing of throats behind me in line and so I did what any diplomatic strategist would…turn my response into a form of a question…

“So how old are your children now?”

“1 and 3”

“Well lets just hope all this striking stuff blows over by then!”

I was relieved that I was able to by-pass that blow without crying or screaming or pulling out the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act conveniently located in the right pocket of my bag. Walking out of the bank, however, I couldn’t help but wonder:

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.36.44 AMWhy does she think that? 

Where do her assumptions come from?

What did her life experiences show her that gave her such a narrow perception of ability and diversity?

Then again, maybe she just was a mom who wanted what was best for her kids. I did, however, know one thing for sure. She neither meant to offend me, my profession, nor my philosophy .. she really just believed it.

Of course this snowballed into sleepless nights filled with questions involving, well who ELSE believes this? and unfortunately for me…many people. This women marked a moment in my inquirous montage; a moment when the battle set forth before me was confirmed. I am not fighting with people who don’t care, or with people whose philosophy differs from my own… I am fighting with people, who simple just don’t know any different. I am fighting with the history and

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dynasty of traditional segregative special education practices predating the memories of people who existed before my time. This is all they know. This is what they believe because no one has challenged them to think or experience anything differently.

What about the other kids? Was I the one being naive in truly believing that everyone actually benefited from inclusion?

The following week I was asked to consult on a case involving a student in grade 4. I was invited to discuss assistive technology possibilities for a student whom I had not yet met. All I knew was that he had multiple disabilities, was non verbal and had little vision. But I also knew as I walked into this meeting, that this little guy was loved, as I was eagerly greeted by his 11 person team of every professional acronym that has ever existed.

His name is Ali. Him and his family had recently arrived to Canada. Fleeing civil war, they were clear refugees escaping oppression and discrimination already, despite the added present disabilities. I was curious as to his story. How did he get here?

When I arrived, Ali was asleep. The team was immediately concerned, as usually he was alert and excited. The family’s interpreter was asked to call home to check in and make sure everything was A-OK. As we waited (and Ali snored) my colleague to my right, passed me his file.

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.38.03 AMIn respect to privacy, I will limit details, but allow you the reader to infer. Ali’s disabilities were from bullet wounds received in utero. Somehow, however, both Ali and his mother survived. Ali, unable to walk, see or talk because of his injuries and without medical services available …his mother strapped this boy to her body, and she carried him. For five years, she carried him, wrapped right around her. She carried him out. Out of war. Out of turmoil. Literally heart to heart.

Upon arrival to Canada, Ali was quickly greeted with a wheel chair to carry him now… but for the first year mom followed closely behind his new mechanical, metal and cold new form of transportation. I could see colleagues of my past quickly jumping on this… “she can’t come to school and follow him around.. he needs to learn his independence!”

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.38.35 AM10 minutes after the interpreter phone call, mom arrived. Ali’s back was to the door. In she walked elegant and modest in her traditional hijab and without saying a single word, Ali’s eyes opened and his head turned. The interpreter informed us of Ali’s predicted trouble sleeping and continued to explain other factors of his lethargy to the team. I, however, tuned out after 10 seconds, as I was enthralled by the interaction unfolding before me.

Ali’s mother sat beside him amongst the jargon and professional babble. She put her mouth to his ear and whispered his name over and over, adding a gentle coo and cluck of her tongue. His lips split to a smile, his hands squeezed hers. His blinking blind eyes turning towards her voice. This was the extent of their “verbal communication” as we practitioners would refer.

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.38.49 AMThe connection I had just witnessed between a mother and child, was one that crossed language, ability, time and place. This connection that I had witnessed in 2 minutes was a deeper connection that I had ever felt in my own 34 years of life. In this situation I was not the able bodied.

These 2 individuals connected on a level not of disability, but on a level to which everyone in the world strives to achieve. Ali and his mother were the exemplar. They were the able. They were the people to which we seek to understand, duplicate and aspire towards.

I could walk down the street right now and find 10 people who would questions Ali’s life. As a person with such multiple disabilities, what could he possibly offer to this world? To what costs and resources are being used to support him benefiting in society. A typical person on the street might assume that these additional costs for special needs children in education are not recuperated. (Mayer, 2009). I wish I could have videoed this moment of connection and shown people. I would ask them to watch it and then simply ask…. who taught you how to do this?

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Ali’s teacher had welcomed him early. She had heard he was arriving and was proactive in contacting additional resources and supports available in the district. A general education teacher, with a background in art education, her attitude was not limited and her philosophy sound in coming to work with the simple objective of teaching those for which were in front of her.

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.39.19 AMWith an upcoming unit about adjectives and descriptive words in writing, this teacher spent an evening collecting recycled materials, gadgets and crafty supplies. She piled them on the table and connecting to the book, “That’s Not My Dinosaur” by Fiona Watt, designed an activity where every student in the class was to create a page of the book. Using the supplies available, these students had to use texture to connect to descriptive words, and by the end, collectively, this class made a parallel book to the published.This book, however, was filled with rich texture and materials, perfect for any student, but especially perfect for a student with a vision impairment.

The students worked hard, carefully incorporating mini lessons co taught with the district vision resource teacher about contrasting colours and black backgrounds. The learning experience was authentic, rich and genuine for every student in the room.

Upon completion, Ali sat with his classmates. The book was read out loud one page at a time. The class watched as Ali Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.39.29 AMinteracted with and felt each page made just for him by his peers. Savouring every detail, listening to the words read and turning every page slowly. All eyes locked on Ali, ears open, hands still, all watching and learning.

I have been to many a classroom and myself taught lessons around adjectives which was not only less effective but boring. A simple task worksheet to be checked off on a thursday afternoon as we complete one standard and move to the next. Not only was Ali’s teacher embedding her lessons in an authentic learning experience, but knowingly or not, this teacher had also mastered an example of Universal Design. An activity built for one, but taught for many. A perfect framework to support the diverse, extending well beyond the walls of education and into architecture, medicine and the world.

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I would love to bring Ali to the bank. I would love to introduce him to the bank teller as “the boy who taught us.” A boy with great purpose in this world. A boy who enriches the lives of his peers, his teachers his team and my self. I would show her how we are the lucky ones, and so would be her children. Children so lucky to be in a class, where students of all backgrounds, experiences and abilities learn from each other.

At the end of the day, and many days beyond, I still catch myself wondering, how one of those 14 bullets not hit something vital to survival. I know for sure that Ali has me reflecting on this and many things, but most of all, he has taught me how we can learn from each other. That we all have strengths and that we all have stretches, but despite of this we are all in fact.. here. Here to learn if we chose to reflect beyond what we think we already know about ourselves and more importantly what we think we know about “the other.”

Inclusion: It’s Critical

I ask groups of teachers all the time, “Why Inclusion? Why are we doing this? Why are we bending over backwards, spending money, striving to make this happen in our schools? Why? What’s the point?”

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Answers range from: “because it’s the real world” to “because it’s the right thing to do…” and they aren’t wrong. But they are missing something…critical.

Here is a story. A story about bowling. Most of us have been bowling. Balls, pins, stinky shoes, glowing, garlic fries… bowling.

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When we go bowling, we throw the ball down the aisle. We try to knock down as many pins as we can. We contort our body and limbs into strange positions after we throw the ball because we think it will help. Sometimes we get gutter balls and that feels bad and sometimes we sometimes we get a strike… and that feels good! We aim down the middle, at those little arrows on the floor, and once we release the ball… all we can do is hope as we peer anxiously down the alley.

We listen to the sounds with trembling anticipation, of pins falling, and hope to avoid what usually happens to me when I throw the ball down the middle… the split.

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The 7-10 split is the most difficult shot in bowling. When the only pins left are on either side of the aisle. Even though we have another ball, the chances of knocking down both pins, is rare. In fact, in the last 50 years of televised professional bowling, a 7-10 split has only been hit 3 times.

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Sometimes we have great games, sometimes we have crappy games. If we practice, and get coached, we will get better, bowling takes skill. But even after the skill development, coaching and practice, a perfect game…even for professional bowlers, if very difficult.

My brother and I joined a league once. I liked to ignore all the coaching and whip the ball down the aisle as hard as I could. My brother, on the other hand, slowly lined up his legs on the line. He pulled back the ball between his knees and catapulted the ball down the aisle…so slowly I thought it would come to a full and complete stop. But somehow… he knocked down more pins than me. And more pins than most kids his age, as he bowled with 2 hands and fluorescent pants all the way to a provincial bronze medal one year. Little bugger. If anyone knows me at all, you would know how nuts this drove me. He still hangs his medal up in his house when I come over.

The point of this story is not that fluorescent pants will help us succeed in life, it is instead, about teaching. My question to you however, and I encourage you to really think about it is, how is bowling…like teaching?

Here are some answers I have collected over time:

–       The teacher is the ball, the students are the pinsbetween legs

–       Bowling is loud

–       Sometimes my lessons are a strike!

–       Sometimes the ball is so off the mark, I don’t even knock down pins in the next aisle

–       Teaching takes balls (seriously…this was an answer once!)

–       A perfect lesson is hard to do

–       Teaching takes skill, and practice

–       We get more than one chance

–       We get to wear radical shoes

–       One teacher flipped my whole metaphor around and said, “well I see the ball as the students, and the pins as teachers”…think about that one!!!

After some discussion, we usually come up with something like…we teach as best we can, and hope to get to as many kids as we can, but the reality is, there are kids left over that we cant get to, even if we want to.

Kind of a depressing metaphor actually.

I thought about this one afternoon. I was cleaning my kitchen and was watching the sports channel. I love sports as background noise. Football calls, cheering crowds, skates on ice, car commercials, crashing bowling pins. And then I saw it.

I stopped and watched. Professional Bowling. So fast, great outfits, serious faces…and one more thing! I noticed, not a single one of them threw the ball down the middle. I jumped on the computer and did some bowling research! This are the types of things that keep me awake at night…

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Let me just tell you, there is not a professional bowler, even my brother, who throws the ball down the middle. Professional bowlers throw the ball down the aisle with a curve. The ball spins so close to the edge of aisle, we think it almost defies laws of physics. At the last second, however, it curves and… STRIKE! These bowlers aren’t aiming down the middle; they are aiming for the RIGHT POCKET. (Note to the reader. I only know this because there was actually a professional bowler in one of my sessions once who told me this) For us non professional bowlers, aiming for the right pocket is… aiming for the pins on the outside of the lane.

Professional bowlers do not aim for the head pin. They do not aim for the middle. They aim for the pins that are the hardest to hit. The probability of pins getting knocked over is higher, if they aim for the pins on the edges, because these pins help the others… fall down. If those outside pins weren’t there, it would be harder to get a strike.

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Now…. Just think about this!!!!

We teachers are taught to teach, grade 4 math, and grade 10 science. We are taught to teach to the middle and simplify or water down content for those students who are having difficulty. Pairing up students who need more support with  students who need more challenge, is the limit of many teachers’ differentiation and accommodation strategies. We often teach how we were taught, and in my case, I went to school during times of streaming and segregation of special needs students who were never educated with me. Classrooms have changed…for the better I think…but our education system hasn’t. We need to teach to diversity rather than to a group of students whom (Ken Robinson said it best) all they have in common is their date of birth.

What if we totally changed how we plan, teach and assess? What if we started to look at our classes and students as different communities, different communities that we also teach differently…even if they are taking the same course. Offering students varying amounts of support…not because of their special needs category or label, but just because they need it.

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What if when we teach our students, we think not about our status quo middle of the pack or the head pin (which is shrinking I might add) and instead, on Monday morning, we look at our kids we think,

“Who are my kids that are the hardest to get? What do I need to do so that THEY get it?”

Yes, because they have a right to learn. Yes, because learning within diversity is the real world, but yes, also because these kids have contributions to make. Whether they have special needs, or didnt eat breakfast that morning. Are English language learners, or have a hard time getting to school on time. These kids who are the hardest to get to, have so much that we can all learn from, and if we get them… we can get everyone.  This symbiotic learning environment is important for inclusion to work and be sustained. Inclusion, especially in high school, is often limited to physical and social contexts. In order for inclusion to be effective and efficient for teachers and students however, we need to extend this idea to not only physical and social communities. Inclusion also means contributing to academic communities. It is critical. It is critical, not just for students with special needs; it is critical for every one of us. And this my friends, I would even argue to say, is the ultimate in life skills.

Selamat Datang!!

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I know I am not alone in flocking to local restaurants serving Malaysian cuisine. Here on the west coast we are spoiled… and currently am awaiting my party at The Banana Leaf.

Upon opening their menu, I could help my eye to be drawn to their welcome page shown above.

What a welcome! I mean it probably helps that I’m starving, love coconut rice and am about to give them money.

As I turn the pages, however, I notice something else too. The menu pages are filled with tasting menus and a fusion of combinations neither labeling nor categorizing, but instead showing how these different cultures have influenced their dishes… constructing something new.

Imagine if this is how we viewed diversity in schools. Imagine if, instead of compartmentalizing students into special needs categories, income brackets, behavioural tendencies and ESL levels, we looked to these instead as lenses or influences. Influences that are honoured, and bring everyone together within the community to create and construct something new.

It would no longer be “my kids” and “your kids” or “those kids” and “these kids” … But our kids. This is us.

This is diversity. Where everyone comes from strength. Where everyone can contribute. Where the goal is learning from each other… not tolerating each other. A fusion of experience and knowledge, creating something new.

Perhaps a school like that could have a welcome page too, and perhaps it could sound a little something like this…

Welcome to your school! We are happy to have you here and hope to share with you the finest learning opportunities that this world has to offer! Known as the crossroads of culture, ability and experience, diversity is what makes our school so great. So may we suggest some construction of learning, where every student grows as soon as they are ready, and sharing is among the community. Learning is our goal and so allow us to transport you from what you know to what you can know, in the warm heart of your classroom.

Let’s strive for this. And until then, I’m going to eat some coconut rice.

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