Effective Educator-Driven Change

Inclusion came to be a mainstay in my school system about 25 years ago.  The concept of including all children in the regular education program most of the time was relatively new. It was a different model than the pull-out model of servicing children with diagnosed learning disabilities of the past.

It didn't take much to convince me that inclusion was a step in the right direction, and I jumped on board.  A masterful teacher leader in my school, who also favored inclusion, saw the need for systematic supports to make this change happen.  She gathered all the teachers in a room and said, "If this is going to work, we need support."  Then teachers created a long list of supports that would make inclusion work.  The support list included the following items:
  • Training
  • Time for teachers, teaching assistants, parents and counselors to meet on a regular basis to plan for, and make inclusion work.
  • A transition meeting in the spring between the current year's teachers, next year's teachers and the parents to create a smooth transition.
I delivered the list of ten or more supports to the assistant superintendent at the time.  He retorted strongly that it was the the most demanding list he had ever received.  I left the meeting discouraged only to find out several days later that every request we made was granted.  25 years later most of those supports are still in place in our school and inclusion continues to be a vital part of our system.

25 years ago our union was strong, teachers were bold and children took center stage in our school.  There were fewer mandates and less paperwork, but vision led our work with strength.  It wasn't perfect though, and many of the tools and systems we have in place now such as RTI, tech integration and PLCs are efforts that hold promise for better work. However, this story of old points out important lessons for future change.  Effective change requires vision, communication, collaboration, training and support.  

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