Inclusive culture in schools transforms communities | Heidi Heissenbuttel | TEDxMileHigh

Inclusive culture in schools transforms communities | Heidi Heissenbuttel | TEDxMileHigh

Translator: Kirstie Neo
Reviewer: Ilze Garda Imagine. Imagine that schools recruit children who have the most different
thoughts and behaviors. Imagine that children
who learn differently are considered children
with special rights. Imagine that educators have
all the tools and strategies they need to meet all the needs
of the learners in their classroom. Imagine that families are viewed as equal partners
in their child’s education. Imagine that there is a true convergence
of all abilities in classrooms that promote and change
the way we think about the world. This is the vision
and hope of inclusive culture. This comes from my years
of professional experience, but also comes from my experience
as a granddaughter, as a sister, as a wife and as a mother, and it is those relationships
that have made me most passionate about the impact of inclusive education. The roots of our educational system actually begin
with the Industrial Revolution. With the best of intents,
we ask our education system to promote learners who will be
competitive in the next century. We ask that they have high academic achievement
and competitive test scores. But sometimes, it is these attitudes and expectations
that are actually counterproductive to the demands
of the 21st century workforce. Consider our classrooms today. We expect that students have the capacity
for universally accepted behaviors – the ability to sit still,
the ability to listen to the teacher, the ability to focus and attend. And we assume that all students have the capacity,
neurological and physiological, for those behaviors. And when a child is not meeting
academic expectations, what do we do? We provide more study time,
less recess, more tutoring, fewer after-school activities,
all in the name of academic achievement. And what happens when a child
doesn’t have those behaviors? When they’re fidgeting,
when they can’t sit still, when they’re nudging a child next to them? Do you know what grade level
has the highest expulsion rate? Pre-school. Just when children are learning
to separate from their parents and be in a setting
that promotes socialization. This often leads to a sense,
or a lack of a sense, of belonging. And we all know
what belonging is correlated with. It’s correlated
with intellectual achievement, and it’s correlated
with our sense of health. Isolation, loneliness,
low social stature, all contribute to our ability
to participate in the classroom. Does this feeling, or lack of feeling,
of belonging and connectedness affect what we see in schools today
with bullying and exclusion? What then is the effect
of the standardized system on educators? Educators are more pressured than ever to show that their children
can make the grade. They are judged by their children’s
performance on standardized tests, and they are judged by the performance of the schools
and their academic ratings. Educators are more isolated
and lonely than ever before. So for children with disabilities, that sense of isolation and separation
has been there throughout history. Institutionalization was a long-accepted
strategy until 25 or so years ago. It wasn’t
until Brown vs. Board of Education was passed by the Supreme Court in 1954 that the racial segregation ruling
paved the way for de facto segregation of children with disabilities
from their peers. It took another 20 years for Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act of 1974 to be passed. That was what finally gave
children with disabilities, aged 5 to 21, the educational entitlement to be
educated in same schools as their peers. Yet still, many of the children
labeled with special education are in segregated settings,
or what we call ‘pulled out’, where they are pulled out
from the regular classroom and given specialized assistance. 42% of children
with special education needs are learning-disabled. By that very definition, they have average
or above-average intelligence, and yet, they are still pulled out
of the regular classroom on a regular basis in many settings. For children with disabilities,
that sense of segregation, they suffer more than others. Children with disabilities are
twice as likely as their same-aged peers to be suspended or expelled. Yet, just one suspension in 9th grade
increases the likelihood that that child will drop out of school
eventually, and/or serve jail time. That is why suspensions
and expulsions are often cited as the school-to-prison pipeline. So we have the disability rights movement. People with disabilities
throughout history are the most marginalized
in all of our society. Think about what we’ve taught, how we referred
to people with disabilities: deviant, sick, crazy, special, retarded. It’s taking a different way of viewing
people with disabilities in a strength-based way,
to not blame the child for her disability. And families are also often judged for taxing an overburdened
education system, for bringing their school’s
test scores down. So now, consider inclusive education. Perhaps we could imagine a school where all the sports are played
by children in wheelchairs, where the mathematician moves to think,
where the scholars are non-verbal, where everyone belongs
and everyone participates. There are some models now
for inclusive education across the globe that are paving the way,
and the outcomes are startling. The academic outcomes
for all the children are increased by looking at inclusive education. There is a recent movement
in the past 10 years called neurodiversity. It means that we look
at the human diversity that is inherent in the classrooms,
and we celebrate it in our education. Dr. William Henderson is a principal, well-renowned in the Boston
public school system who started the Henderson School
as an inclusive model. He quotes three effective practices
that make a difference in the effectiveness
of inclusive education. They are culture, curriculum,
and collaboration. Start with culture – all learners belong. In fact, the environment is enhanced by having all people of all abilities
within that classroom. Consider the person
with an anxiety disorder who has the sensitivity
to help and tutor another child. Consider the child
who is a visual-spatial learner who can create PowerPoints
for another child. Consider that classrooms can be places
where there are rich environments to be taught social
and emotional confidence. And conflicts can be avoided by the time
the children move to the playground. Curricular approaches. In addition to neurodiversity,
we have what is called universal design. That is a set of principles
that helps educators design curriculum for the highest of learners,
as well as the lowest of learners. The result is that it’s good
for all the learners in between as well. Jonathan Mooney
is an expert in neurodiversity, and himself, a self-advocate with attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. He has developed a program
called Project Eye-to-Eye, which is a mentoring program, and there is a component of it here
at the University of Denver. He talks about using arts as a way of leveling
the playing field for all children. And what else do children learn? They learn abstract reasoning,
they learn logical thought, they learn creativity. He also talks about technology. Technology, despite all the advances,
is still so underutilized in our education system
for kids with disabilities. iPads, note takers,
audio books are all tools that help make meaningful content
to children who learn differently. And last but not least,
collaborative teaming. Let’s take away the isolation
that educators feel, and partner them with a specialist who can help them with the children
in the classroom tap all those abilities. Look at speech language pathologists, occupational therapists,
art therapists, counselors; all of these people enrich the experience and take away the isolation
of the regular educator. Believe it or not,
the cost can be the same. Those same resources and moneys that go to support
pull-out-systems and supports can be reallocated and redistributed
into the regular classroom. So there is not an increased cost to the tax payer,
the educator, the administrator. So imagine the 21st century
in a school community where all of the following
learn, belong, and thrive: Helen Keller, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Nikki Giovanni, my grandfather, your daughter,
my co-worker, your neighbor, me and you. Disability has inspired
many great things in our culture. People who learn differently have created
some of the very things we use everyday. We’ve learned to move differently. Think about the Americans with
Disabilities Act and wheelchair ramps. We’ve learned to create. Think about the impact of artists
such as Vincent van Gogh. We’ve learned to invent. Alexander Graham Bell
invented the telephone when he was trying to create a device
to help his parents who were deaf. We’ve learned to communicate. The typewriter was invented
to help the visually impaired. In fact, what we’ve learned to do better
is to interact with one another. So in inclusive communities,
we suspend judgment, we advocate. We learn that living and being
in community together creates better outcomes for all of us. When we are all in inclusive cultures,
we create ways in which people belong. We create roles that everyone honors, we create a room for everybody
to show and demonstrate their strengths. When we are in inclusive communities,
we teach socio-emotional skills, so that we not only have
higher intelligence, we have higher emotional intelligence. We also create ways
where families’ cultures are honored, and all families learn together
in community. We bring it together, we converge people, like at TED, with different ideas
and different thoughts to make a richer community. By creating inclusive schools
where all ideas are honored, and all abilities are valued
and cherished, we transform the way the world could be. It could be a better place. In fact, and imagine,
that we change the world. Thank you. (Applause)

4 thoughts on “Inclusive culture in schools transforms communities | Heidi Heissenbuttel | TEDxMileHigh

  1. Cultural propaganda at it's finest. Differentiation is how unique skills are formed not by classing everyone as a single equivalent group many of the points here are not connected phenomena but different problems with different solutions not a uniform actuality.

  2. Special education is needed. And in the past decades through many laws it is being enforced. But often at the expense of every other child. Inclusion at all costs is costing a lot. With these new demands comes no new funding. So funding is removed from the general population and teachers are left underpaid under funded over crowded and forced to deal with a subset of students who's abilities are not withing the parameters of a regular classroom setting. This is negatively impacting every other student, while a special needs students may have 50,000 a year in aids and special interventions, due to new laws, this is taking from the education of every other child. The children can even further suffer when a child is shoehorned in by demand, but has daily outbursts of obscenities, violence, aggression, that is harmful to everyone in the class, but they can be reprimanded or put into a special setting because of THEIR RIGHTS. What about the rights of all the children? The forced integration also lowers test scores even further reducing the funding a school receives. People say "your discriminating. Seperate but equal is not ok". And on and on. My question is this. At what point do the needs and rights of our majority of children (even disabled ones who are fully capable of being in a classroom setting) get to be considered? It's not only the general education students suffering, many of the parents and voices advocating forced integration are worried about emphasizing their child having a "normal" experience in school, over them actually getting a decent, tailored, and strong education in a special education program with peers who are ging through the same things. We need to demand change. Seperate funding for increased disability laws, for one. We also need to end inclusion at all costs, because the costs are too high for all involved. Both special needs and general education students deserve to have a good education, instead we are lowering the quality of that education all around in favor of "equity". Basically "everyone must suffer because I don't want to admit my child is actually a detriment to the education of those around them."

  3. When administrators are almost as numerous as teachers but paid much more that's money not getting to the class. When I worked in the public schools the lazy, undisciplined kids whose parent never showed up for parent-teacher conferences were put in creative art classes for 3 hours a day. They don't get jobs.

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