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Melissa Smithman (260 429 149)

Letter and Manifesto

EDPI 341

August 29, 2014 Dear Parents/Guardians, Welcome to the 2014-2015 school year! As we start the year, there are a couple of things that you should know about me as a teacher. My philosophy of education is based on the central idea of care. I believe that in order for students to learn they must be in an environment in which they feel cared for, which can in turn allow them to care about what they are learning. Part of this idea of creating a caring relationship, is grounded in the principles of inclusive education. My classroom follows the framework of inclusion, which can more specifically be referred to as differentiation, since it is the most human approach to education. In order to effectively apply the principles of differentiation, as the teacher, I need to truly get to know my students as individuals, with their respective interests, abilities and needs. Inclusion is an important part of education because it reflects the ideals that we outline for society. It is counterproductive to teach students about acceptance of differences, all the while excluding students with different needs from the classroom. Thus, my classroom is one that embraces all of our differences, and uses these differences to their best advantage through a lot of collaborative work and multidisciplinary projects. It is important to understand that inclusion is beneficial for all students, and not just students with special needs. We all have different interest and learning styles, so a differentiated classroom structures lessons in such a way so as to provide students with flexible options. These options allow all students to pursue their interests, while still learning the requirements of the curriculum. Hopefully your children will find my classroom an enriching experience, one that challenges them and keeps them motivated to learn. A final key element to my classroom is the importance of keeping open lines of communication. Therefore, I look forward to meeting you in the near future, and encourage you to contact me if you have any questions. For more information on inclusive education, please read the Manifesto enclosed with this letter. Sincerely, Melissa Smithman melissa.smithman@mail.mcgill.ca

Melissa Smithman (260 429 149)

Letter and Manifesto

EDPI 341

Inclusion Manifesto At the heart of inclusion, is the idea that all individuals are different and thus all individuals have different interests, abilities and needs that must be addressed in the classroom. The traditional model of teaching students in one style and administering standardized tests that correspond to that specific learning style is no longer acceptable. Thus a teacher centered approach to the classroom has been replaced with a student-centered approach that aims to offer a program that corresponds to each of the students respectively. Some may confuse this concept with the idea of adapting the curriculum in thirty ways to fit the thirty students in the class. Evidently, this is not the case. Rather than adapt the curriculum, teachers need to change their means of instruction in order to reach a wider audience.

The first step to creating an inclusive classroom is to create an open environment for learning. Students need to feel comfortable in the classroom and should view school as an opportunity for guided exploration and discovery. The classroom is no longer a place where teachers impart knowledge to students, who then regurgitate the information back to the teacher for marks. Instead, the classroom should be seen as a mutual place of learning, where both teacher and students are partners in education. This concept of a partnership is only possible if students are able to connect to the teacher and establish open lines of communication and trust. Teachers need to be constantly observing students and interacting with them, both in and out of the classroom, in order to truly grasp an understanding of their interests, their abilities and their needs.

Once teachers are fully aware of the individual characteristics of their students, and particularly their needs, they can apply differentiation to their instruction by essentially responding to these needs. This response is guided by principles such as respectful tasks, flexible grouping and ongoing assessment and adjustment. Respectful tasks refers to the idea that students, despite their differences, need to grasp common essential skills, but that the approach to acquiring mastery in these skills will vary for each student and these differences need to be respected by the teacher. It is not possible to use a one size fits all method of teaching, so it is perfectly acceptable for students in the classroom to be acquiring the same skills but through

Melissa Smithman (260 429 149)

Letter and Manifesto

EDPI 341

different means. Flexible grouping is very similar to real life situations, in that rarely do people work in total isolation. Differentiated instruction recognizes the benefits of using different groups of people as a way to generate more authentic learning. An inclusive classroom will therefore divide into small group discussions, peer tutoring, group projects, tiered instruction, and other forms of grouping for the benefit of all the students involved. Assessment and adjustments must be ongoing because it is crucial to constantly check how students are doing, in order to make any necessary changes so that they are receiving the best form of instruction for their current needs.

These principles make it possible for students at different levels to learn at their own pace and aptitude without feeling excluded. Depending on the students readiness, interests and learning profile, the teacher can adapt the content of the course, the process of learning or the product/assignment using a wide variety of instructional and management strategies. The use of flexible grouping makes it much easier to implement these strategies, which often incorporate options, so that students can make decisions about topics they wish to explore, how they want to explore them and how they want to demonstrate their learning. The use of options does not imply a free for all, since the options are always to a certain extent guided by the teacher.

The educational psychology behind inclusion is centered on theories of intelligence, motivation, and evidence of learning retention. Theories of intelligence, such as Gardners multiple theories of intelligence outline eight areas of intelligence that students have. This informs differentiation because the content, process and product can be adapted to fit with the students particular area of intelligence. Motivation is also a key part of learning, and by having differentiation focus on the interests of the students, it is much more likely that students will be motivated to learn. Studies on learning retention have revealed that students learn best when taught through interactive means, such as teaching others, hands on learning, and discussions, as opposed to traditional methods of lectures and readings. Inclusion therefore strives to make learning an engaging process, one that allows student to succeed to the best of their abilities by providing a variety of learning opportunities that are directly related to the individual student.

For further information please consult the following documents:

Melissa Smithman (260 429 149)

Letter and Manifesto

EDPI 341

A video explaining respectful tasks, readiness and tiered learning


http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol4/425-video.aspx

Inclusion in Canada
http://inclusiveeducation.ca/ http://www.edu.uwo.ca/inclusive_education/inclusion.asp