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Chapter Two: The Parts We Play In Our School Community


The Parts We Play In Our School Community

There are many factors that contribute to creating inclusive schools. The roles that each member in the school community plays are very important in developing a caring community for all children. As parents, students, teachers, administrators and program assistants we have come to believe that relationships and our actions in supporting inclusion are at the heart of creating a caring school for all children. We recognized that it was necessary to understand the roles we play in sustaining inclusion. Out of this conversation we decided that several ideas were important. We felt that being together did not mean that everyone did or said the same things. We thought that we were stronger in our caring if we could appreciate everyone's differences. We also felt that taking responsibilities for the different roles we best play add to the possibility of an inclusive school.

The following is a beginning list of key ways each member of the school plays in supporting inclusion. The list comes from our "brainstorming" and parents and educators "brainstorming" at a number of conferences on Inclusive Education. We think that you will and can add to these lists.


1.  What Can/Do Administrators (Superintendents, Principals, Special Education Directors) Do To Support Inclusion?

Administrative responsibility for the education of students with developmental disabilities usually rests with the school principal who manages the budget, implements policy, assigns and supervises staff and ensures that standards of service are met. When students with disabilities are included in regular programs, these tasks may need to be adjusted. To ensure that programs are provided with the necessary support services, supervision and administration, the roles and responsibilities of central office personnel and school principals in their relationship with integrated students, must be clarified.

Leaders need to:

  • Demonstrate moral leadership i.e. believe and be committed to the fact that all children belong in schools together.
  • Provide time to meet parents early in the year under the assumption that greater effort at the beginning means less demand later on.
  • Attend to community public relations.
  • Get involved.
  • Educate themselves.
  • Remember it takes time.
  • Understand the change process and talk about it.
  • See all children get a quality education through creating a positive caring and safe environment for all by ensuring that all teachers have a chance to grow and become competent in their jobs.
  • Be a model to parents and teachers by welcoming all children to feel part of the school.
  • See the 'big picture' for all children.
  • Be a learner and participant in the process.
  • Provide continuity from year to year for the student.
  • Encourage teachers and teacher assistants in their day to day work.
  • Provide opportunities for teachers to talk to other teachers, teacher assistants.
  • Provide teachers time to prepare.
  • Allocate funds.
  • Understand teacher time constraints.
  • Help teachers to not feel threatened and encourage them to take risks as they learn to include children with disabilities.
  • Assemble whatever team is necessary to support a child team.
  • Encourage collaboration, team work - provide time for this to occur.
  • Be part of the team; to listen and understand in order to help the school to accommodate for all children.
  • Support professional development in school.
  • Be aware of resources, support.
  • Explore different measures to discuss children abilities and growth.
  • Ensure supports and resources are available to all children in the school.
  • Deal with inclusion as a school wide issue, inclusive school versus the inclusion of one child.

Leadership ultimately rests with the principal, who understands school climate and attitudes of staff towards change, and is in the position to delegate responsibility. The principal's primary role is to determine how to accommodate for inclusion. The task of developing inclusion strategies will be best facilitated when an informed, committed principal has confirmed that inclusive education is in the best interests of the students, the instructional staff, the school and community. A principal's pro-active, committed attitude is vital to overcoming difficulties that may arise during the inclusion process.

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2.  What Can/Do Teachers Do To Support Inclusion?

  • Take ownership for all the children in their class.
  • Be a model and mentor for each other.
  • Open to dialogue.
  • Be willing to ask for help.
  • Be a risk taker and support each other as teachers.
  • Look after oneself.
  • Participate in professional development.
  • Work within team to problem solve.
  • Understand, value parental involvement and knowledge.
  • Involve students in supporting each other.
  • Believe that they do have the ability, technology, strategies already within their abilities.
  • Balance between school and home.
  • Orchestrator who coordinates a flexible, connected, caring, safe environment with boundaries.
  • Leader who demonstrates that all kids belong.
  • Creator of an environment that nurtures open dialogue for all students and families.
  • Models constructive, caring, acceptance, responsive ways to behave with students, teacher assistants, and families.
  • Learner from all other members of the team including the children.
  • Manager of the classroom rules, schedules, educational activities, methods, strategies, and the activities of the teacher assistant.
  • Facilitator who guides students to make choices to solve problems and provides structured opportunities for learning to take place.
  • Instructor who teaches the specific content and curriculum for all students in the classroom.

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3. What Can/Do Teacher Assistants Do To Support Inclusion?

  • Be a classroom assistant working with ALL students some of the time.
  • Assist the teacher in material preparation.
  • Alert the teacher and members of the team to the student's needs (e.g., materials, equipment, programming concerns).
  • Supervise learning activities in partnership with the classroom teacher.
  • Provide help with student work as assigned by the teacher.
  • Apply new teaching strategies from talking and listening to teachers and students.
  • Advocate in partnership with the teacher so that the child with a label has access and opportunity to be a valued part of school life.
  • Show enthusiasm when working with students.
  • Show patience and understanding towards students.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of fostering independence within special needs students.
  • Partner with the teacher to collaborate to build the class community.
  • Model the belief that all children should be included in building relationships.
  • Facilitator who brings children together so that they can build relationships.
  • Communicator who can talk and listen to the child, the teacher, and the family.
  • Creator of an environment that nurtures open dialogue for all students and families.
  • Observer who can describe the details of the day-to-day activities and relationships to the teacher, students and family.
  • Interpreter who can explain behaviors, stories, experiences of children who have difficulty communicating these to their peers and teachers.
  • Listener to the stories of all the students.

4. What Can/Do Students Do To Support Inclusion?

  • Treat others as you would want to be treated.
  • Offer support to each other.
  • Alert the teacher and members of the team to the student's needs (e.g., materials, equipment, programming concerns).
  • Supervise learning activities in partnership with the classroom teacher.
  • Provide help with student work as assigned by the teacher.
  • Apply new teaching strategies from talking and listening to teachers and students.
  • Advocate in partnership with the teacher so that the child with a label has access and opportunity to be a valued part of school life.
  • Show enthusiasm when working with students.
  • Show patience and understanding towards students.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of fostering independence within special needs students.
  • Partner with the teacher to collaborate to build the class community.
  • Model the belief that all children should be included in building relationships.
  • Facilitator who brings children together so that they can build relationships.
  • Communicator who can talk and listen to the child, the teacher, and the family.
  • Creator of an environment that nurtures open dialogue for all students and families.
  • Observer who can describe the details of the day-to-day activities and relationships to the teacher, students and family.
  • Interpreter who can explain behaviors, stories, experiences of children who have difficulty communicating these to their peers and teachers.
  • Listener to the stories of all the students.

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5. What Can/Do Families Do To Support Inclusion?

  • Treat others as you would want to be treated.
  • Offer support to each other.
  • Alert the teacher and members of the team to the student's needs (e.g., materials, equipment, programming concerns).
  • Supervise learning activities in partnership with the classroom teacher.
  • Provide help with student work as assigned by the teacher.
  • Apply new teaching strategies from talking and listening to teachers and students.
  • Advocate in partnership with the teacher so that the child with a label has access and opportunity to be a valued part of school life.
  • Show enthusiasm when working with students.
  • Show patience and understanding towards students.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of fostering independence within special needs students.
  • Partner with the teacher to collaborate to build the class community.
  • Model the belief that all children should be included in building relationships.
  • Facilitator who brings children together so that they can build relationships.
  • Communicator who can talk and listen to the child, the teacher, and the family.
  • Creator of an environment that nurtures open dialogue for all students and families.
  • Observer who can describe the details of the day-to-day activities and relationships to the teacher, students and family.
  • Interpreter who can explain behaviors, stories, experiences of children who have difficulty communicating these to their peers and teachers.
  • Listener to the stories of all the students.

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Building The Team - Another Key To Increase Inclusive Relationships

Inclusion of students with disabilities can not be achieved alone. We know that a team of like-minded people have the power to make many things possible. We know, too, that it will never be free of all conflict. It will always be dynamic, ever changing, ever in process. The multiple perspectives brought together by different people, will not only give energy and vitality to the process, but will back you up when you need release time, new information, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to remind you of the focus of your efforts and someone to give you constructive feedback. A team is built on the principle that each voice is valued and necessary for effective inclusion. But teams are not born, they must be constructed through the relationships that you have with each other. Everyone will have a unique understanding of what constitutes a team and sharing such views will be the foundation of what a team can become.

It has become popular to speak about collaboration. Sharing ideas, co-operating in activities, assisting in one another's growth, changing from the bottom up, and advice giving between fluid, active networks of teachers sharing their own experiences are all descriptors that educational leaders use to describe the concept of collaboration. It is believed that by collaborating, each individual is able to contribute what he or she knows best. Some researchers have reported that students benefit academically when teachers collaborate.

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Ways to Invent the Team

Administrator (principal, assistant principal, or counselor) invites the key people - parents, teacher, teacher assistants, student, peers, specialist to initial meetings to visibly demonstrate commitment and leadership around the needs of particular students.

Families need to be assured that their vision for inclusion and relationships is shared and supported by the team.

Families may want to bring a friend along to debrief after meetings - school personnel have each other to debrief and help focus on individual responsibilities to realize group goals. Parents may need the same opportunity for dialogue.

Every team needs a facilitator who can promote the team building process. We think facilitation means:

  • Calling meetings.
  • Setting agenda.
  • Encouraging participation by all.
  • Summarizing key goals and strategies.
  • Delegating tasks.
  • Following up to offer support and feedback between meetings.
  • Informing team members of agreed upon changes as you go along.

Ideally the facilitator is the teacher. However she may need to be mentored by another member on the team (i.e., counselor, assistant principal, principal). Facilitators initially call the meetings. Then as time goes on any member of the team can call a meeting as they see necessary. Teams need end-of-year meetings to reflect and dream for the next year and implement safeguards by ensuring that all team members know what is happening and what is needed to sustain and maintain continuity from year to year.

The Staff Meeting

Mitchell had been having difficulty with aggressive behavior on the playground. It was getting to the point where he could almost be trusted back on the playground during the lunch break. We decided to give him a chance to function without direct teacher aide supervision. The problem was brought up at the staff meeting and the following plan was developed:

  • Have the teacher assistant on call.
  • The supervising teacher would deal with Mitchell directly.
  • The teacher would call the teacher assistant if Mitchell decided to be defiant and/or run.
  • The teacher assistant would have him take a "time out" and develop a re-entry plan.
  • Mitchell would report to the supervising teacher to solve the problem.
  • Mitchell could then re-enter the classroom and resume playground privileges.

The key ingredients were Mitchell had to learn to be responsible and accountable to all adults in the school and it was the responsibility of the whole staff to help him do this. To date the plan is working very well and behavior is starting to generalize to all school programs.

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It is an Opportunity to Relate

Although Ken had been fully integrated into grade five for almost a year, there were still some staff and students in the school who were not comfortable speaking with him. Ken had poor communication skills which led to behavior problems at times.

The custodians of the school were concerned over Ken closing the fire door in the hall. They came to me (the classroom teacher assistant) to ask me, to ask Ken, to stop closing the door. I asked if they had approached Ken and they said, "No." They did not think he would understand and probably not listen to them.

I later realized they had never tried to talk to him. I had never seen them say "hello" when they met Ken in the hallway. I decided that we needed to deal with this. I took Ken and introduced him to the custodians. I explained in a simple form what the jobs of the custodians were and how important it was that the doors stay open. We then gave Ken the job of watching that the doors were open at all times.

A few days later a custodian came to say how pleased she was that Ken had said hello and smiled as he walked by her. Ken seemed to feel very important to have the job of helping the custodians.

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Last Updated: October 5, 2017     |     Site design by Camryn Boechler