Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Successful Inclusion Classes Do Exist!

Yesterday I used Skype to call Lisa Parisi and Christine Southard in Long Island, NY from my grad class here in SC. My class was learning about inclusion and I wanted them to talk about their class, how it is set up, how they work together, and what kind of projects do they do. It was so exciting to do this!

Luckily I only have 3 students because I couldn’t get my laptop hooked up with the big screen in the classroom and still have the camera and the microphone reach to the students. So I couldn’t set it up that way. Instead I put my laptop on a desk where all three of them could see the screen and put the camera on the three of them with me in the background. That seemed to work.

The call lasted about 30 minutes and my class seemed to be really impressed. They didn’t seem to have any questions about it at the time but maybe after they had time to process the information, we will discuss it this morning. Of course, I was impressed but I always am impressed when I talk to them and I love to hear about their class. I think the reason I’m impressed is because I never really believed that inclusion could work. I know I read about it in textbooks and articles but they always seemed like words on paper. I could not get my mind around any real life situation where it actually worked…until now. This, for me, is almost like finding out that Santa is real and that the Tooth Fairy lives close by!

Of course, I rush home to share this wonderful event with my husband and he is always good about keeping me grounded. Our conversation had me thinking and asking questions. Is this situation a one-of-a-kind situation or can it happen elsewhere? I have not heard of any situation elsewhere where inclusion is successful like this. Sure, I hear some teachers say, “I teach inclusion and it is…okay but….” This is the first time I have heard “We teach inclusion and it works!” Period. End of statement. My husband asked if these were just two exceptionally great teachers who happened to find out that they can work together well? I don’t know.

I think this is possible to do elsewhere if other classrooms use the same kind of set up. Of course, I see the main reason for success is that these teachers leave their egos at the door and work together to do what is in the best interest of their students. They continually work on communication with each other and collaborate on the lessons. Neither teacher says this is “my” classroom and instead they say it is “our” classroom. They even figured out a name for their class that incorporates both of their names (South Paris Collaborative) so the rest of the school gets the same message too. Christine mentioned that this was like a marriage of sorts and they sometimes disagreed with each other but that was okay. The main key seemed to be communication. Too many teachers let their egos get in the way and either clam up or go into “control” mode. That won’t work in an inclusion classroom.

If you know of another inclusion class is actually a success (without the “but”) please let me know. I am really interested.


K4Teacher said...

I really enjoyed hearing from the South Paris Collaboration teachers. These teachers are quite inspiring. They are motivated and willing to work very hard to give their students a chance. I do not know of another inclusion class like this one, but my exposure is limited. I think a classroom like this needs teachers who work well together, but more importantly well trained teachers. When I graduated from college, we were not required to take any classes on special education. (They added a required class the year I graduated.) As a general ed teacher, I would feel very uncomfortable working with students with special needs without a lot of support. I love the idea of inclusion. I would love to see more of it in our schools and would love to be a part of it. However, I feel that general ed teachers need more training to be effective in this area for inclusion to be accepted and successful. I am thankful for the training I am receiving in this area now and hope it will enable me to help more students.

loonyhiker said...

I totally agree with you on the need for more training. I have seen too many of these inclusion classes fail because there was little or no training for both teachers.

CBEST test said...

Idea of inclusion is very usefull. But teacher should be trained otherwise problem will be occured. We really happy to know about inclusion.

Anonymous said...

I just taught for 2 years in a successful inclusion class. I was the content-area teacher, and my partner was the RSP teacher at the school. We taught middle-school pre-algebra, and our kids did fantastically! Every kid improved their test scores, did grade-level (or above!) work, and the parents adored us (for the most part. Some parents wanted us to give their kids a free ride - which wasn't going to happen!)

The key to it was listening to each other, and both of us being willing to compromise. We would take turns with the main lesson and individualizing instruction.

Even at the end of the year, the students would have to ask us which name to put down for their math teacher on the standardized tests - because they considered BOTH of us their teachers.

Sadly, because of budget cuts, I'll be teaching at a different school this year. However, because of our success - we were the pilot program for our school - my partner-teacher will be expanding inclusion to all the RSP/SDC kids for ALL classes next year. (Not just math!)

loonyhiker said...

@Anonymous Thank you so much for sharing your experience! It is so great to hear of an inclusion class that works. I'm sorry you are leaving for another school but I'm sure you will be an asset to your new school.

Anonymous said...

I am teaching Pre-Algebra to 30 students in one classroom with 11 students having an IEP. I have a special education teacher in the classroom, and we're supposed to be co-teaching. The problem is she isn't certified to teach math. There is an enormous gap between my highest achieving student and my lowest. The first week I feel was a disaster. Any suggestions on how you managed your classroom, challenged your higher level students, and helped the low level students who aren't ready for this level of mathematics would be very helpful.

loonyhiker said...

@anonymous I wqould start with the goals and objectives for your lesson. Then list the students and beside each one come up with an activity that would help them meet those goals and objectives. When you see some who can do the same thing, you might be able to put them in small groups. Some may be able to use the computers in order to be independent. Others might enjoy creating an art project. The more you do this kind of thing, the easier it gets.