Maybe this seems a little familiar to you. Maybe you recognize a variation of this phrase. That wouldn’t surprise me. The phrase “presume competence” has been around the education world in relation to disability inclusion for quite some time.
Differentiating learning (or differentiated instruction) is a framework for effective teaching that involves providing different students with different avenues to learning (typically all within the same classroom) so that all students can learn effectively, regardless of differences in ability.
Differentiating exposes all students to a vast array of learning opportunities and experiences. Typically, differentiated instruction makes use of a number of different modalities for acquiring and retaining information such as visual, auditory and kinesthetic activities. Students are able to progress at their own pace via activities that are developmentally appropriate.
None of us can do the work of inclusion ourselves. Even the most trained, most knowledgeable and most experienced among us can set the ball in motion, and might even get it rolling at good clip; but to truly succeed, inclusion requires collaboration.
Teachers need to collaborate with other teachers. They also need to collaborate with paraprofessionals, administrators, parents and students themselves. And while I know this may seem obvious to many, it is quite frankly one of the most frequently acknowledged but not put into action issues around inclusion. There is a reason why it landed at number 2 in Ten Inclusion Mistakes Even Good Educators Make. “Many teachers feel that asking for support or assistance is a sign of weakness or lack of competence…Letting go of some of the control and working in collaboration with others is not only acceptable, it is critical for successful inclusion.”
A few years ago my daughter, who was ten at the time, wrote for me. The direction she immediately went was to the way kids treat one another. I shouldn’t be surprised. I reflect often on the power of relationships (in Jewish education, inclusive education, teen education). I’ve written lessons and articles about building trusting relationships and I speak often about the power of relationships to help us build more inclusive communities.
So I wasn’t surprised that my daughter thought about the way kids treat one another as she wrote, “Just because someone’s different does not mean they don’t have the same interests as you. You could make some friends even if they learn differently or act differently. Go ahead, be nice. I dare you!”
Nothing quite like a ten-year-old’s insight, right?