Last Friday evening in our faculty’s lecture theatre I hosted a public screening of the award-winning documentary, Including Samuel. A healthy and somewhat surprising turnout of about 150 parents, siblings, teachers, support workers, therapists, administrators, faculty, and interested (one assumes so, otherwise why would they show up on a dreary, wet January evening) citizens sat and listened and watched and reflected on inclusion for two hours. The audience was silenced and leaned in while four parents passionately shared their dreams and fears and experiences raising a child who has special needs: the joys as well as the heartaches. This evening was about parents and families and what we as educators and citizens of diverse society can learn from them (from us, really).
Earlier in the afternoon during the faculty meeting, while holding up the poster to remind my colleagues of the event, the thought occurred to me suddenly and really quite inexplicably that I am likely seen as representing special education. And why wouldn’t I be? Just like literacy, and art, and philosophy, and math, and science, and … I am special education. And so I can see how some of my colleagues may not perceive or understand how this film and this topic of inclusion would be of relevance or of interest to them! But unlike subject expertise, special education concerns the participation and learning of children and youth who learn differently. And so it concerns every subject.
More than that, inclusion is about belonging. Is that not common to each of us? No matter what circumstance? No matter what culture or language? No matter what gender or age? No matter what belief? or ability? or sexual orientation?
No matter what difference?
And many of us are parents, so whether we are raising or know a child with special needs or not, our own children have likely experienced what it means to include – or exclude as the case may be.
So, inclusion affects us all. It’s not a subject matter or a program or an approach. It’s an attitude.
How do you teach an attitude?