I am a special education inclusion teacher. Inclusion means different things to different people. You may remember a time in schools when children with disabilities were schooled in a separate classroom, building, campus, or even not allowed in schools at all. Years ago, many children with disabilities were kept away in institutions or hospitals. Today, “inclusion” is the law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
It states that:
“To the maximum extent appropriate, handicapped children, including those in private and public institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children how are not handicapped, and that special classes, separate schoolings, or other removal of handicapped children from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity or the handicap is such that the education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily” (IDEA).
This law means that schools and classrooms must do everything that they can to include children with disabilities.
Some people, even in schools, believe that children who are different should be given different classes. They do not want “that kid” in their class. They believe that responsibility of the education of those children belongs to someone else. These children are often thought of as a problem. But, I am a special education inclusion teacher.
I define inclusion as an environment that accepts, challenges, and serves all types of learners. This environment is a shared attitude of teachers and students, both typically-abled and differently-abled, that all learners belong and add value to the classroom community.
In 1992, William Great wrote about the value of diversity in schools.
“We will not successfully restructure schools to be effective until we stop seeing diversity in students as a problem. Our challenge is not one of getting “special” students to better adjust to the usual schoolwork, the usual teacher pace, or the usual tests. The challenge of schooling remains what it has been since the modern era began two centuries ago: ensuring that all students receive their entitlement. They have the right to thought-provoking and enabling schoolwork, so that they might use their minds well and discover the joy therein to willingly push themselves farther. They have the right to instruction that obligates the teacher, like the doctor, to change tactics when progress fails to occur. They have the right to assessment that provides students and teachers with insight into real-world standards, useable feedback, the opportunity to self-assess, and the chance to have dialogue with, or even to challenge, the assessor—also a right in a democratic culture. Until such a time, we will have no insight into human potential. Until the challenge is met, schools will continue to reward the lucky or the already-equipped and weed out the poor performers. (pp. xv–xvi)”
This quote used the word “right” several times to emphasize the point that all children have a moral entitlement to a rigorous, dynamic, and meaningful education. This entitlement is a birthright of all children in schools. The thought that “schools reward the lucky or the already equipped and weed out the poor performers” resonated with me. I believe “inclusion” is not so much a special education issue, but a human rights issue. This issue is fundamental to our country’s beliefs that “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” as it states in the Declaration of Independence. Education of children with disabilities should be no different. All children have the right to pursue and be served the highest of quality of education.
Furthermore, as the Declaration states, men are endowed by their Creator. The Creator this refers to is God. I believe His teachings show us the way to inclusion. The Word, written thousands of years ago, can be applied to the issues and problems of our time.
Philippians 2:2-4 gives me an insight into what the attitude of God might be towards inclusion. God says that no person is greater than the other. He commands us to love one another as we love ourselves. He tells us to serve our neighbor. I believe to have a heart for inclusion in schools is to have a heart for Christ. The issue is not about following the law of IDEA. This issue is about doing the right thing, the right thing is to pursue God’s heart for his people.
Philippians 2: 2- 4 says, “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
God urges us to love one another, work together with one mind and one purpose. He wants us to think of others as better than ourselves and to look out for the interests of others. Should we not apply this thinking to schools in regards to typically-abled and differently-abled students?
We should create classrooms and schools that allow all children to work together with one mind and one purpose. We should create classrooms that consider the interests of all learners. We should create inclusion classrooms.
When your heart changes, oh how you will see they beauty of inclusion. You will see children rise to the occasion and become the hands and feet of Christ in your classroom. The children show such love, such patience, and such understanding of each other. This is why I love to work with children; they show me the best in people. They show me the best in Christ.
My classroom contains all types of learners. Students with “disabilities” are seen as diverse thinkers; creative and beautiful members of the classroom community. My learners care for each other, synergize with each other, and serve each other.
Whatever reservations that you have about inclusion, whether in opinion or in practice, rest assured that when you see to do a good thing in His eyes, you will have success. He will “equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.” Hebrews 13:21.
I have heard that God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.
This is true for you teacher.
For you parent.
For you child.
You may think that inclusion will not work because you have no experience or training. You may think that children are far too selfish and mean-spirited to accept children who seem different. You make think your school does not have the resources or the time. The schedule may be impossible, the funding tight.
“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-30.
When you have a heart for inclusion, you will witness the power of a God uses the weak things of the world to shame the wise. The God choses the powerless to shame the powerful. You will see the importance of the children that he world counts out through His eyes.
Matthew 25:40 "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me."
Mother to True (18 months old) Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Foster Mom Isaiah 6:8 "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"