Creating an environment that encourages inclusion students to feel welcome and confident in a general education classroom.

by Jemelleh Coes

Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

Introduction

I feel very strongly that teachers should include students with disabilities in the general education classroom.

An inclusive classroom environment is critical for building confidence, self-esteem, and a permanent sense of normalcy for students with disabilities. They get the same attention as other students, don’t feel secluded, and don’t feel uncomfortable when answering questions.

There are many things that teachers can do to make sure that they are creating that inclusive environment:

-Ensure that you understand the range and complexity of disability types.

-Understand the unique needs of each student.

-Apply the human elements that students need to feel safe and included i.e. first choice in roles during group work.

-Use specific actions such as having students use a specific hand to indicate whether they know the answer to a question.

Understanding the individual disabilities and unique needs of each student, and implementing simple routines that are outside the legal accommodations, helps foster a lasting sense of belonging.

Reflections

What I did well…

I included a few practical strategies that would ensure that students with diverse learning needs were seamlessly included in the general education setting. The opening simulation was a good attention getter for educators who are sometimes apprehensive about accepting the challenges that disability presents.

What I would do more of, better, or differently…

I would do a little more foregrounding in the philosophies discussed. There is a model of disability inclusion that is more concerned with medical aspects while the other models are more concerned with the social aspects. It is important for an educator to understand which practices are best suited for their given context and how their choices should be governed by the intended impact. There was not enough attention given to creating the space for educators to consider the various ways that their practices, beyond the ones discussed in the video, translate to their students. My strategy should include a reflective piece of about, “What message am I sending? What messages are they receiving?”  The strategies while concrete, were few. Classroom experiences can be highly contextual so creating an additional questioning/thinking space for educators to think about their students specifically would be meaningful. I would have also given more resources and models (videos).

I still want to grow this practice by…

I want to better understand the social and academic impact that various types of interactions have on students. I hope to better understand the social cost of practices that are said to be toward the improvement of academics. Are the practices that we traditionally rely on truly helpful in reaching a goal? What is the goal and what are the best practices that get us there? The research on the long-term effects of traditional practices is scarce and the progression that we have seen for students with diverse learning needs is minimal. It is imperative that we generate new ways of thinking about the environment we create for all students.

About Jemelleh Coes

Jemelleh Coes has been in education for 8 years. She specializes in middle grades Language Arts and Reading with a focus in Special Education. In 2...

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