Spring Break of Learning 2019 #2 thinking about #advocon2019 and will confess – inclusion ain’t always easy
I was thrilled to be selected to present my inclusion mindset at #advocon2019. In the fall I was honoured to talk about my approach to supporting mental wellness in school as a keynote in Vernon. I like that people are talking about mental wellness and other factors that lead to behaviours that raise up questions about exclusion and inclusion.
But I’ll confess: an inclusion mindset ain’t always easy.
I recall shaking my head when I overheard a superintendent comment that three students may be sent to him for a drug offence and there will likely be three different consequences. I now know that nothing is black and white.
I recall thinking that a clear set of rules and progressive discipline make sense. I now know that even then, differentiation matters.
I confess to using suspensions. But mindfully if:
A) there is a need for time and space – I learned this at a school that when I joined it we averaged “a number” of suspensions each day – but when my principal and I departed we were less than 1/week; many suspensions were “for the day” and often included me being sworn at and fingered and threatened….until the next day when I’d get a happy “Hi Mr Landy” as I checked in to see how today was going –> the time and space is often for the kids as much as the adults
B) being at home will authentically make a difference and be a learning experience. This does not happen much. So most “suspensions” are time with me or another adult who has a good relationship so that we can help identify the problem and seek ways to address it that are more positive. Learn from what was done. That is the purpose of school after all.
So not many have ever gone home unless we needed time. I don’t even like part-day models but have had to use them when directed by a superior. I understand why these can be liked: the end of the day can be exhausting for some. Especially if they don’t eat well (sometimes due to medication sometimes to “not gonna”) and get hangry (hungry and angry due to frustrations real or perceived). Of course half a day of work is easier than a full day – just like a workout, you can skip legs day….but then there isn’t improvement…
As @thedanielsobel shared recently:
Exclusions feel right sometimes. I’ve heard “they/me/someone needs a break” and I’ve heard, “x can’t make it if y isn’t here” <– and sometimes the support is away and there can be pressure because things won’t be the same or as predictable as usual. Which is fine, as long as there is a plan or a discussion: I’ve had students that have struggled when a TTOC (substitute teacher) was away and the parents decided they would keep their child home. I’ve made the decision to keep my child home because when they are even a little bit ill, it is that much harder to self regulate. But these are always family decisions – not unilateral decisions. I am always happy to “see how a day goes” when usual supports aren’t available – but my classroom has longtime. Been the place that welcomes “those kids”.
I’ll share that once upon a time my family did respite care. But when we went to an orientation session, I got the question/statements teachers often dread: Landy…”the” Mr Landy? Always a loaded question, but they shared that my name came up at a ministry meeting because I had two of their most complex cases in my class – and I said, oh two of the toughest X year olds? No, they shared, two of the toughest of any ages…. made me feel good because the year had felt a little “bumpy”. I also took in a boy who, was not much liked by the year-before-me-teacher as she explained his complexities at year-end-class-placement meetings; when the VP asked what I thought, I said “sounds like a kid with some leadership potential” – and since he has been captain at most levels of hockey he co to use to play at…. feels good to look past the “bumpy bits”.
My dad experienced “predetermined expectations” based on his postal code. I was raised in a community with an “interesting” history. But I saw how he went out of his way to connect with all learners, and especially with those who felt (sometimes justifiably) alienated from the education system. It was a powerful learning experience for me and has helped me as I continue my own journey in education. Finding places for those “square pegs” to fit in “round holes” (as my son was explained to me when uninvited from a traditional school) has always been important to me – and my son gives me great insights into how I can help like minded learners not experience the same as he did.
But again it’s complex: forming relationships with learners who either won’t or can’t easily form new relationships. And it’s not about “fixing” someone – @gcouros has a good blog about how no one wants to be “fixed” https://buff.ly/2zpM796
But it is about belonging and being valued. And kids do what they see…
So what do they learn if we exclude someone? Even if they “deserve” it. That there are things you can do that will mean you aren’t included….wanted….
I’ll again confess to excluding kids from recess and even some free activities, but it is always replaced with something (usually involving movement) as a replacement activity. When safety is at risk, we will focus on that. Not being consequenced with timeouts to “think about it” – because all I cared about during those detentions was distracting myself until the time was up…probably inspired this:
So what do we do? Well, that is what I will be sharing about at #advocon2019. I’ve got some tools and some rules that help guide my inclusionist nature. I’m not always popular because my first rule (spoiler warning) is that “those kids” need to be at school every. damn. day. but being in school does not necessarily mean in “a” classroom – it’s more complex than that😜
True Inclusion has never been “easy” but it has always….ALWAYS…been worth it!