Dr. Paula Kluth - Supporting Inclusion in Challenging Times & Creating Schools for All
Below is a summary of my notes and thoughts based on Dr. Kluth's keynote message on inclusion.
First of all, I immediately liked the live speech-to-text (real-time captions) on the screen. It was a perfect example of inclusion, as well as UDL (universal design learning), as all people could partake in the presentation despite any sound issues.
Right away, Dr. Kluth showed us a video of a younger musician, Feng E, and told us to remember this one thing if nothing else: remember the chorus (of teaching); after all, kids will remember the human interaction, not necessarily the technology and all the little details. Belonging and inclusion are the key. Connection and community--that’s what kids will remember in these challenging times.
In fact, we did a brief but insightful activity where the teacher participants wrote what they remembered most from their high school days. Invariably it wasn't primarily academics, like math and chemistry; instead it was the good times together with friends, lunchtimes, PE, band, clubs, and the like. (Right now I'm listening to Feng E on YouTube and he's older and even more talented. Amazing!)
Five Big Ideas:
1. Keep “doing inclusion” - We are all doing it already, so keep it up. For example, a teacher named Sarah Brady started a virtual lunch table with a few of her students twice a week on Zoom, a form of AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication). Communication devices, systems, strategies and tools that replace or support natural speech are known as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).
2. Focus on inclusion as a process
Figure out how to include all students: Over, under, around or through. Find a way, make a way.
Essentially, what the speaker was saying was do not quit until you've tried every possible avenue, and then try something else. It may take a long time to figure out the specific needs because every child is unique and different. I love when she said that often teachers will say that "it" didn't work. Dr. Kluth would reply, "What is your 'it'?" In other words, you need to keep going until you find that "it" for that particular learner.
She also gave an example of a student who she thought was her match. But then she realized that maybe we can't solve the problem, but we can get to a better problem. In other words, something closer to the finish line, an incremental improvement. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day, and some of your most challenging students are like gladiators, battling with you day in and day out. But eventually, there will be cracks in the armor and you will find a way to work alongside instead of head-to-head.
Keep in mind some of these ideas:
Learners need need supports, not just a space (like the classroom). Teachers and support staff need to try all supports, not just some, including ones that don't even exist! Technology, peer support are some ideas. Also, keep in mind that inclusion means different things for different learners, so keeping that student in the classroom but not being an active participant might be defeating the purpose. If you're stuck, brainstorm with other educators a 20 ways list. Remember, kids aren't elastic so structures need to be.
3. Provide access to academics
Dr. Kluth showed a poignant example of a student as an adult and asked how we would have done things differently had we known her future. A woman named Kailey with Down's syndrome was currently working in the government. We need to presume confidence in learners and then help find it. Kids are very complex or competent, so they deserve rich and meaningful learning opportunities. Let's encourage joyful learning and give lots of entry points for our learners, making adaptations where and when necessary. What's really fascinating is that inclusion seems to improve overall class results.
“Sometimes being realistic isn’t being realistic.” Norman Kunc
WHAT IS POSSIBLE? Don't limit yourself.
4. Focus on all
UDL helps one student but also all. Currently social-emotional learning is bieng used for all students, though previously it was for students with autism. UDL helps bring success on multiple pathways for learners.
5. Let them lead
A rising tide lifts all ships. When we give learners agency, self-determination, self-direction, and self-advocacy, choices, then that is when we will truly see success. Let kids lead!
Daniel H. Lee
This blog will be dedicated to sharing in three areas: happenings in my classroom and school; analysis and distillation of other educators' wealth of knowledge in various texts; insights from other disciplines and areas of expertise that relate and connect with educational practices.