I love the first few weeks of school. I like all of the getting-to-know-you activities, the fresh new classrooms and the novelty of starting over. I know many teachers share my excitement.
I know others, however, who have more than a little anxiety this time of year. Fall can be a tough time of year in inclusive schools. You may be getting to know students with complex learning needs and working hard to figure out the right combination of supports for them. In some cases, you may also be working through new collaborative relationships with colleagues.
One way to deal with these challenges is to focus energy on what is working well. This is especially true on a day when you experience a setback. Stop a moment and celebrate victories big and small. Did you have a learner work well with a peer partner today? Did a student use sign language without prompting this week? Did your collaborative partner plan a masterful differentiated lesson? If you answered “yes” or even “maybe” to these questions, you have reason to raise a glass!
Honoring the good stuff is a strategy for moving forward, recognizing your strengths and polishing your positive practices. To that end, I am sharing a wonderful email I got from a visionary teacher a few weeks ago. It made me beam. I have her permission to share it:
I am working on implementing an inclusive model with a boy, Mike, who was in a mostly self-contained program up until right now. The parent has a long history with the district and my assignment as caseload manager came out of a mediation agreement. There was all sorts of worry and concern by the regular education teacher because of the mediation and because the district just does not include kids like Mike in general education classes full time.
Anyway, this was our first week school and we have learned a lot about Mike. He is able to do sooooo much and things are going really well! He has his moments, but with such a drastic change in placement, I’m surprised it hasn’t been more difficult for him. He likes to be involved, do what the kids are doing and interact with his best friend, Grant (a typical 6th grade boy, who happens to be a true friend of Mike’s).
Today, I went down to check with the teacher to see how things are going and she stepped out in the hall and said, “I have to tell you about this kid.” I got a little nervous. She [started talking about ] all of the things Mike did well that morning, how he participated and how much she was impressed by him and the other kids around him.
She ended with, “He belongs here. He belongs in MY CLASS!” I GOT GOOOOOOOSE bumps…and a little teary! This teacher has been up and down with nerves and for her to see him first and foremost as a 6th grade student and not a “special education student”…it was quite emotional for me. Change is good! Progress is good!
What a great way to end our first week! I knew I had to share this with you, because I have had my own nervous feelings about this situation. However, I was so much more prepared after your trainings last year! And you are right…WE LOVE THIS KID!!!
Gosh, after that email, I love him too…and his teachers.
What about you? Have you experienced a success story lately? What is going well in your inclusive school? Identify some good news and share it with a colleague, parent, administrator, family member or school board member.