Growing Inclusion In Schools Despite COVID19

inclusion in education Aug 13, 2021
Inclusion in Education
The new school year is just starting and already uncertainty fills the air. In a time when we are attempting to recover and move forward from the COVID19 crisis, the Delta variant is on the rise. We are all facing decisions and daily crises that take up time we need to spend with the children in our schools. There are so many things to think about, that we often lose our perspective of why we are here in the first place; the children.  How can we take this year and not only meet our academic goals but help everyone in our schools maintain their sanity and well-being?
 
Make Inclusion A Priority
We all know how important our school lunch programs are. Food and proper nutrition are essential. We can all agree if you don’t have food to eat you cannot survive let only learn to read. Just as essential to our children’s well-being is inclusion. Inclusion and building a sense of belonging is as critical as the food they eat and air they breathe, but are we making inclusion the priority it must be for our children? In the present COVID19 environment where uncertainty is the only thing that seems to be constant, helping children to feel they have a place they are safe and belong is critical.
 
Inclusion Is NOT A Program; It Is Who YOU Are
I often get emails and calls about how to bring inclusion programs into schools. Administrators and teachers want to have assemblies and sensitivity programs brought in. These programs are no doubt helpful and they increase awareness, but they won’t make your school more inclusive. There is one thing that money can’t buy and programs cannot give that your children desperately need in your school; your time and attention. Inclusion is about devoting yourself toward making children feel seen, heard, and valued. If this became the culture in our daily lives, think of how inclusion would become a way of life. All of this sounds great, but how do you do this practically when you have 300-1400 children in your school and your time and attention is already consumed?
 
Become Obsessed With Inclusion:
When you are entering a classroom or hallway, don’t become consumed in your own thoughts; look to reach out and include everyone you can! Always be looking to see who you can make feel seen, heard and valued and become obsessed about it. I go to a school each year to do sensitivity trainings. Every year I see this principal greeting children as they enter the school in the morning. He knows every child’s name and something personal about each of them. He is in the lunchroom daily playing music, dancing, playing games and visiting with the children at the tables. At the end of the day he is also out telling the children goodbye. I always see him watching the children and their faces and postures. If he sees a child slumping over or sad he goes right over, kneels down, looks right into their eyes, and gives them his time and attention
 
This principal is obsessed with inclusion even if it means it has to be done virtually. His life exemplifies it and his school reflects it. In the book, “High Performing Habits” the author Brendon Burchard says,” There are two types of people. One walks in into a room and announces, “Here I am!” The other walks in and says. “Oh there you are!”  Which one are you? Become obsessed about inclusion!
 
Creating A Ripple Effect:
In the same way a picture is worth a thousand words, so is a role model.  In 20 years that I have been in and out of schools coaching , consulting, and training people about inclusion, there is nothing more valuable. I was helping to coach soccer and we were cleaning up the cones from the field. Without being asked, one of the players ran over and helped a child with disabilities to be included in the process. She patiently pointed at each cone and repeated instructions one by one. She was a pro at inclusion but had no official training. The child with disabilities was much more responsive to another child than he would have been to me or his mother.
 
The entire season, the coaches and mentors had worked with the team to include everyone despite their ability level. It was clear this child listened. This time it was not the coaches but a player who acted independently and created even more of a ripple effect. As Mother Teresa once said, “ I alone cannot change the world, but I can throw a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” How are you becoming that role model that is creating greater inclusion and the ripple impact in your school?
 
Some people have begun to accept that with COVID19, inclusion is on hold. We have all of our protocols of social distancing, wearing masks, and never knowing when one or all of us will be quarantined. Inclusion has definitely become more challenging in some respects with the virus. In the comments below share some of your challenges as a parent, teacher, or administrator with inclusion during these uncertain times. Please also share positive things you have done to bridge the gap for inclusion.
We will spend the next few weeks talking about inclusion in schools. We will work together and share ideas on how to build inclusion that can help keep our children engaged and feeling included during these difficult and very uncertain times.

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