Are we fostering healthy self-esteem in children and adolescents today?
The next couple posts are an inside look into a chapter from my upcoming book, “Breaking Chains: Encouraging an Attitude of Perseverance and Inclusion,” which is about building healthy support systems. With the school year just around the corner, I wanted to take the time to thank and encourage all of the educational assistants, teachers, and administrators who pour their lives and knowledge into our young people.
Today, I am writing a post about how an inclusive academic environment helps build self-esteem. Now a couple notes before we begin. This post is meant to be an overview of the topic of academic inclusion. I literally could spend hours talking about academic inclusion, but I am just going to highlight some of the key things that I feel are important.
Although this post is aimed at education professionals, it can be applied to anyone who has children, grandchildren or cares for children.
Now, let’s dive in. If we work with kids, all of us have a responsibility. Our responsibility is to help guide them through their academic and social development. This is extremely important, especially if we are working with kids with disabilities. We have the power to make a huge impact on what they think about themselves and what they can accomplish.
I want us to ask ourselves, “Are we doing our best to cultivate an inclusive environment or are we just skating by?”
In recent years, universities have begun studying the impact of an inclusive environment on children’s success. All of the results have found that there are many benefits to an inclusive based model. However, despite all of the statistics, there is one alarming fact. The fact is in the US we have 56% of our kids with disabilities in segregated classrooms. They are not getting any interaction with mainstream peers or mainstream teachers.
In my opinion, this is a mistake as we may be holding them back from reaching their full potential.
Let’s take a minute and look at what is involved with an inclusive model.
We need to figure out a way to motivate kids with disabilities, as well as mainstream kids. How do we do this?
In a study by Muller, Katz, and Dance, they state that motivation is closely linked to a student’s perceptions of a teacher’s expectations. This means that if the teacher held them to a higher expectation, they were more motivated to achieve. If we have an inclusive model, it will help us hold all kids to a higher standard.
From my experience, I have learned in order to have an effective inclusion model, we need to have collaboration between kids, Special ED teachers, mainstream teachers, and parents. It is like the old saying, “it takes a village to raise a child.” In this case, that is exactly what it takes. We need people working together and discussing how to make kids successful. Through people working together, we can create a plan for them to succeed.
For the past couple years, I have been consulting with a 4th/5th-grade teacher in the Portland Public School District. I believe that she and her colleagues have done a really nice job of including kids and helping them succeed. Last year, she had 4 kids who were life skills students, 3 of which were heavy minute students, in her classroom. She gave them an assignment to create a report about a state in the form of a book. It had to include drawings and information about what the state is known for, such as animals, landmarks, and history. To help the students with disabilities, she and her team printed off a template. (See images below.) She also let them copy a sentence from the resources they read. Those were the only accommodations. After completing this assignment, they presented their State report in front of the class, their Special ED teacher, and the mainstream teacher. This presentation included spelling the name of their state, which is no easy task in some cases. It just shows what kids can do when you hold them to higher standards.
Another reason for an inclusion model is that it builds self-esteem and academic performance of mainstream kids. In a recent Vanderbilt study, mainstream kids that were in an inclusive classroom environment scored 15 grade points higher than their peers who were not in a class with kids who had disabilities. This shows that mainstream kids also benefit from an inclusive environment, as it increases their academic performance. This is due to the fact that they have a desire to understand the content so that they can help their friends with disabilities grasp the concept.
Adaptive Technology, what is it’s role in the classroom? I just want to go on record, I love adaptive/assistive technology! It has helped me throughout school and into my career. In fact, I still use a version of Co:Writer when I type, just to make it easier. I just want to pose a question for us to think about as it relates to technology. Are we using technology as a tool or are we using is as the primary source of teaching?
There is a fine line between giving a kid an iPad to help them grasp a concept in class and giving a kid an iPad and hoping the iPad will teach them. In my opinion, technology is a great tool, but it can never replace that one-on-one interaction with the teacher and other students. There is a lot of benefits when is comes to technology. However, I will save that for a later post.
In conclusion, I just want to pose the question, “Are we doing the best we can to cultivate an environment where kids are included and being provided the opportunity to learn alongside their mainstream peers?”
In the coming weeks, we will be looking at how this impacts social development and the impact of extracurricular activities on self-esteem.
If you are interested this topic or if you are an inclusive teacher, shoot me an email and tell me what you are doing this year to create an inclusive environment. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
As a reminder, please subscribe to my YouTube channel, like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and go to blakeshelley.comand sign up for my mailing list. As a bonus for signing up, I will send you an excellent Ted Talk related to this subject.
I am excited that you have chosen to come on this journey with me of Encouraging an Attitude of Perseverance and Inclusion.