Here at The Noah Robert Project we are asking and searching for what inclusion means to you. Today's guest blogger shares her insight as a Special Education Teacher.
Inclusion: Through a Teacher's Eyes
by: Marina Gallop
When I volunteered to write a post for The Noah Robert Project, I immediately started researching and reading what had been previously posted so that I could understand what was expected. What I was met with was painful experiences of parents that had students in “inclusion” and I was struck with immediate self-doubt on whether to write at all. I’ve been in the “inclusion world” for two years now and ultimately decided that the only voice I could add to the conversation within The Noah Robert Project is that of a teacher that is openly imperfect but extremely passionate in providing love and an inclusive education to all students that enter my classroom.
In the summer of 2017, I was a new college graduate looking for a job at any school in any city that offered a new adventure and somehow, I ended up with an opportunity that I believe is nothing short of a miracle. I had worked with students in Special Education during my internship year so I was open to a similar experience but I was only certified in General Education and in all honesty, had no idea what I had just signed up for when I signed that contract. Luckily, I became surrounded by a campus full of people that see that importance of including students in Special Education in the General Education setting. Our school was the first full-inclusion early-childhood campus in the largest independent school district in the state and I felt the pressure of that responsibility every day and every night.
At the end of my first year, I felt like I had finished a race that I had entered completely blind. The year was the most trying experience of my life but also couldn’t have been a bigger growing experience. I felt almost chemically bonded to my Co-Teacher and Teacher Assistant because we had managed to survive the hard days and the days that we felt we were just not good enough for the students. In the end, our classroom had become one in which students were unable to see a line between General Education and Special Education because all students had been pushed to be better. Of course, students saw the physical differences between each other but after the first couple of weeks, the interest in wheel chairs or louder outbursts had worn off and was just a normal part of the school day.
Over the year, we had the opportunity to witness students develop this pure and sincere compassion for one another, regardless of their similarities and differences. I watched both General Education students and Special Education students observe and learn from each other in different ways, something that is going to grow children into adults that see others as different but are able to accept, care about, and work alongside them anyway.
I would love to say that inclusion is all rainbows and butterflies but as you can read from past posts of The Noah Robert Project, it’s just not. There are times when I struggle with the fact that the Special Education students aren’t getting that one-on-one teaching every minute of the day because my attention is shared with General Education students. I also feel guilty when lessons don’t go as planned or a student gets hurt because of behavior that is still a work in progress. I also feel that there is just no amount of professional development training's that could ever be enough to prepare me completely for the task at hand.
There are many, many things that can cause an inclusion classroom to fail or succeed. Inclusion requires the highest level of teamwork school-wide and within the classroom, an extreme amount of patience, flexibility, a constant desire and drive to be better than the day, week, or month before, and a lot of passion. As I enter my second year of teaching, I am still learning of and trying to prevent all of the things that could cause us to fail our students. Ultimately though, I know that we will have succeeded if we are able to create a blended classroom lead by kindness, curiosity, and a desire to help all students meet their goals.
It is my promise to the parents of those in inclusion, that after reading the posts about the heartbreak of parents and students that were not done justice by inclusion, I will never forgets how important it is that every student be treated as an equal member of my classroom. My only request to parents is that you continue to speak up for your students so that their teachers can continue to learn from you as well. I hope that my scattered, beginning-of-the-year-teacher thoughts are enough to renew some hope that there are people out there that share your vision and hope to see successful inclusion continue to spread.
About the Author:
Marina Gallop is an Inclusion and ESL Pre-Kindergarten teacher from Texas. She graduated from Baylor University in 2017 with a degree in Elementary Education and is excited to finally be fulfilling her dream as an early childhood teacher at a Title 1 school.
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