Parent Tips for Inclusive Classrooms
"There are many ways to define and sustain an inclusive culture where all students feel that they are accepted and supported as an essential part of the classroom and school community, and where all [adults] share the responsibility for making that happen."
-Sara Stone, Co-Director of Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn, NY
As a continuation of our series on Inclusion, we would like to offer a few tips as fall gets into gear to get ready for the school year with inclusion in mind.
To do this, we have prepared a glimpse in to the mind of Maureen “Mo” Serrao Cole, the managing director of a media firm and mom of a 5th and 3rd grader in Austin, TX. She’s currently a Parent-Teacher Organization officer and previous room mom with over 5 years of experience working alongside teachers in inclusive classrooms.
Do you think all students can benefit from being in an inclusion classroom? If yes, how so?
“Absolutely. Having children with any number of learning challenges can not only teach kids, at a base level, that we're all in this together but also brings the idea of kids with challenges to the norm. In other words, everyone together means kids without these challenges become very used to evolving in the same ecosystem as children with disabilities. This helps both sets of kids with their comfort levels in being around people who are different than they are and that inclusion and understanding will extend into adulthood. That's an extremely beneficial byproduct of inclusion in my opinion.”
Are there any helpful conversations you can suggest to have with your child around inclusion? Have you had any with your own children that have made a big impact?
“Yes and yes. Just talking through the specific challenge (in detail) without making a big deal out of it or creating a kind of forced sympathy. Explain certain behaviors so that they can fully understand why a child might be acting a certain way (not a choice in most cases). Just the facts. Kids are capable of getting this--don't underestimate them.”
“Talk to the teachers. I really didn't have to take much into consideration [beyond the recommendations of the teachers]. However, if there had been a child with a mobility issue, for example, I would certainly have taken that into consideration and made sure that any destination was ADA compliant and that the activity was appropriate for all students. It's really not that hard to plan for when you think about it.”
T2G note: Kudos to Mo for using People-First language, meaning she described the behavior not the person. (“a child with a mobility issue”)
Any other tips for room moms or parents of students in an inclusion classroom?
“Be conscientious but there's absolutely no reason to make a big deal out of this. Kids with learning or physical challenges are included so that they can experience a regular classroom. By going overboard to accommodate (within reason of course) you can potentially take that experience away.”
Essentially, Inclusion is many things but it is at its greatest a classroom culture. Whether you are a teacher, room parent, parent of a child with a disability or any combination of the three, you can be the one to get the conversation started and ensure that everyone in the class has access to a successful classroom experience with their peers.
At Teaching2gether we believe that professional collaboration is the key to successful inclusive education.
When educators work well together, students with special needs flourish alongside their typically developing peers. At Teaching2gether we are committed to delivering exceptional professional development as a means to achieve these goals. We offer consulting services, on-site and virtual coaching, webinars, and interactive workshops to support all stakeholders working to provide access to a quality educational experience for students of all abilities.
When developing our services for teachers, administrators, technologists or parents we draw on both current, research-based practices and our combined backgrounds as inclusive educators and consultants in New York City and Texas. Previous clients and employers include Community Roots Charter School (NYC), PBS Kids, BrainPOP.com, G&R Learning, and Region 13 Education Service Center in Texas.