I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.”
One Without the Other is available from:
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!!!!
The 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!
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 to 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.
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
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
Last 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.
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?
Over 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 plan 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.
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:
and HAPPY PLANNING!!!
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!
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, handing 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…
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?”
“I mean, what about the OTHER kids, the smart ones?”
“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:
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
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.
In 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!”
10 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.
The 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?
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.
With 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 interacted 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.
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.”
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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:
– 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…
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.
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.
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.