Once a week at least, I meet with or get an email, or a phone call from a parent- a mother or a father…asking to meet or for a telephonic consultation… And we meet and chat about the possibility of their child with usually quite complex special needs, coming to our school. Because of the sheer number of requests we get we are often as disappointed as the parents that sometimes we cannot accommodate their child at Pinelands North. What I find interesting however, is that as frustrating as these meetings can be there is still a sense of hope for the parents as they walk through the passages of a simple, public school where children with special needs ARE INCLUDED. They need to see what is possible. They need to see a place that has said yes, we will try!
More and more it is becoming apparent that other schools MUST start opening their hearts…then they will open their doors! We don’t need beacons of hope or centres of excellence dotted about….we need waves and waves of schools willing to try, galaxies of great places and spaces where children can learn together.
There are many factors that allow for this sad situation to continue in other schools, this is not a definitive list but these are some of the reasons I have had parents tell me, or even other teachers tell me to explain why inclusion just does not seem possible. I will just list them as the explanations make me angry… Because all we are doing is explaining ways to exclude instead of looking for ways to include.
Lack of leadership
Lack of will
Our premises are not suitable
Standardized test scores
Maintaining the status quo
It is too much work
Curriculum based approach
Being strangled by tradition
I am appealing to you, if you work at a school, if you have a friend in education, if you are married to a principal or in love with someone who works with children….please start the conversation, ask them to investigate the possibility of trying something new and changing one child’s life at a time. It is vital that every child is given the opportunity to be the best person they can be, and if that means we are pushed out of our comfort zones, and are shaken to the core about our beliefs about what education is, then we must do so and now!
The Igbo and Yoruba proverb says, It takes a village to raise a child….I think it takes a child to show us how to raise a village!!!!!!