I once engaged my line manager in a semantic debate about the term ‘inclusion’. I lost the argument. My defeat came not because I was wrong, but because she was blinkered to the point of self-deception, unwilling to concede that there might be better/alternate strategies and inflexible to the point of idiocy.
The best word to describe my previous school’s inclusion policy would be ‘exclusive’. Those in ‘inclusion’ were removed from their classes, their subject teachers and their peers, seconded in an (admittedly well equipped) subterranean classroom and taught by unqualified teaching assistants. These lessons were not the same as the ones their friends were receiving and often consisted of time-filling tasks followed by some ‘reward time’ on a computer when they’d been judged to have ‘done enough’.
My manager (the head of SEN) simply failed to see that, semantically at least, ‘inclusion’ was a misnomer. These kids were not included in the life of the school. They were separated and treated differently, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy and a cycle of unwanted behaviours which saw them unable to ever escape: take a kid with behavioural issues, isolate him for a period and watch what happens when you release him back into circulation. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this bundle of repressed energy is likely to explode – and in damaging ways.
I’m only at the beginning of my teaching journey and still retain an air of idealism: I don’t want pupils removed from my classes unless all other alternatives have been exhausted. It benefits nobody to marginalise and label children as ‘trouble-causers’ or to believe them ‘unteachable’. For me, inclusion means ensuring that every kid in my class feels safe and able to learn. If that’s not the case, I’ll blame myself – not them.
Am I insane? Misguided? Are my experiences typical? Let me know!