Tagged “School Climate”

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Inclusion: A Necessity for Fully Engaged Students

Project UNIFY

The following blog post was written by a unified pair of youth leaders who participate in local and national youth engagement and activation conferences to enhance their communication, leadership, and advocacy skills. These youth continue to collaborate and motivate other youth to become active in our pathway toward social justice for all. The post is republished with permission and was originally featured on the Special Olympics Project UNIFY blog.

Looking at the aspects that create schools where students are able to express their ideas, engage in meaningful leadership opportunities, and develop a collaborative relationship with the staff to address the needs of both students and teachers is challenging, yet important. One word that is indirectly included in each of those aspects is inclusion. Inclusion can be defined in many ways, each catering to a certain situation. However, there are common characteristics that we can define as being inclusive: students of all abilities, religions, genders, and races are offered equitable opportunities for academic, social, and physical growth; students perceive their peers as valued individuals with unique assets to the school community; and everyone is included in the school's student body, regardless of popularity, athletic ability, or academic achievement.

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Klea Scharberg

Before and After a Hurricane

The East Coast is busy preparing for this weekend's hurricane, effects of which are starting to be felt in the Carolinas. With widespread power outages, downed trees, flooding, and evacuations expected, Hurricane Irene has the makings of an economic and social as well as natural disaster. Ready.gov and the NOAA National Hurricane Center offer steps you can take to prepare, resources, and updated storm information.

Sesame Street offers a hurricane tool kit for parents, families, and caregivers to help young children feel safe and cope with their emotions. You'll find videos sharing how Big Bird and other characters prepare for the storm, clean up afterward, deal with being displaced from homes, and work together as a community to support each other.

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ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Designing a Classroom for Inclusive Learning

Nicole Eredics - The Inclusive Classroom

Post submitted by Nicole Eredics, an elementary educator who has spent more than 15 years working in inclusive classrooms. She is an advocate and has led community support groups. She currently hosts The Inclusive Class radio show on the Talking Special Needs Network on Blog Talk Radio (Friday mornings at 9 a.m. ET). Eredics has developed and discovered many valuable resources for parents, teachers, and schools that focus on the inclusion of special needs children in the classroom. More information can be found on her blog The Inclusive Class.

In recent years, there has been considerable thought and research given to how schools can create inclusive learning environments. Dozens of reference books have been written that recommend inclusive practice, strategies, and solutions. As a result, teachers are becoming more skilled at including children with special needs in the general education classroom.

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ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

The Path to Inclusion

In any group of young people, you will find a range of physical, cognitive, social, and emotional skills and abilities. No two students have the same strengths and challenges. Classrooms in an inclusive school may have students with a wider range of skills and abilities than in traditional classrooms, but staff and students respect, support, and build on those diverse needs and strengths.

This benefits not just students with special needs; inclusive learning environments prepare all students for citizenship, employment, and further study where they will need the skills and understanding to interact and collaborate with diverse individuals and groups. By preventing young people from experiencing and participating in an inclusive environment, we fail to prepare them for the reality they will face outside of formal schooling.

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Molly McCloskey

Best Questions: Special Needs

Despite the rumors, school improvement is hard. It's not about a single passionate leader. It's not about "fixing" teachers and teaching or parents and parenting. It's not about poverty. It's not about money. And it's not about standards. It's about all of them. And more.

In this column, I'll take on the real deal of school improvement—for all schools, not just certain kinds. And for all kids. Because it's not about quick fixes or checking off the instant strategy of the moment. It's about saying, "Yes, and..." not "Yes, but..." no matter what our circumstances are. It's about asking ourselves the best questions.

I am a word snob. I confess. I think words are powerful and beautiful and that word choice matters every day. My dad used to hand out buckets of praise at the dinner table when one of us used "SAT vocabulary." And I loved it.

But sometimes it's the simplest words that matter most. Like "each." As in, "each child, in each school, in each community deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged." Too often in education and politics we use a word like "all" and actually mean "some." Or "most." Or "kids like mine." You can't get away with that with a beautiful little word like "each."

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ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

The Truth of Youth

Evan Heller

Post submitted by Evan Heller, a youth advocate and leader for Special Olympics who currently serves on both the National and Massachusetts State Youth Activation Committees. He also participates with Special Olympics as the head coach for a unified soccer team and a unified football team, as well as an assistant coach for bowling and track and field. Additionally, Heller has participated in numerous local and national conferences about youth leadership and activation. This fall he will begin his freshman year of college at University of Massachusetts–Amherst. Listen to Heller discuss inclusive learning environments on the Whole Child Podcast.

The following is a reflection on Heller's recent experience as a facilitator at whole child partner National School Climate Center's 2011 National School Climate Summer Institute, which helps support educators in developing school climates that promote safe, caring, and civil schools.

I was recently invited to help emcee and facilitate the 2011 National School Climate Summer Institute, held at John Jay College in New York City, along with two of my youth peers. Despite the plethora of e-mails I received in the week leading up to the institute, I arrived with little knowledge of what would be coming and even less knowledge of how, as a youth, I would be received by an audience primarily consisting of high-level administrators and educators. At the beginning of the first day of the institute, I was handed a name tag that read, "Evan Heller—Youth Leader." Well, I guess that sums me up?

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Klea Scharberg

School Environments Roundup

What kind of school environments optimize the way students learn, teachers teach, and communities interact? In June and July, we took a look at schools that are conscious of the intersection between physical space and the cognitive, social, and emotional development of students, rather than focusing on one element in isolation. These learning environments facilitate the process of developing students who are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with guests Bob Pearlman, 21st century schools consultant; Kristin Cuilla, director of new school development for New Tech Network; and Luis Torres, principal of P.S. 55 in the Bronx, N.Y.

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ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Shaping Spaces to Facilitate Learning and Development

Winston Churchill was on to something when he said, "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us." How are our schools shaping our students' learning experiences; social, emotional, and cognitive development; behavior; and readiness for college, careers, and citizenship? What do our schools say about our values and views of learning, teaching, children, educators, and the role of the community in schools?

Beyond our school building, the ways we set up classrooms and cafeterias, use school buildings after the bell, create learning opportunities outside the classroom, and display student work in halls and on walls speak volumes about our learning cultures. Educators with limited or no financial resources who are committed to transforming the learning culture can use student input, research, creativity, and ingenuity to guide the re-creation of learning spaces. Although some communities have the luxury of building new schools, many others have had to retain design elements from the first half of the last century. And most of us remember design fads that have come and gone because they weren't effective.

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Molly McCloskey

Best Questions: School Environments

Despite the rumors, school improvement is hard. It's not about a single passionate leader. It's not about "fixing" teachers and teaching or parents and parenting. It's not about poverty. It's not about money. And it's not about standards. It's about all of them. And more.

In this column, I'll take on the real deal of school improvement—for all schools, not just certain kinds. And for all kids. Because it's not about quick fixes or checking off the instant strategy of the moment. It's about saying, "Yes, and...", not "Yes, but..." no matter what our circumstances are. It's about asking ourselves the best questions.

That Maslow guy was pretty smart and I wonder if he was thinking about schools when he developed his hierarchy of needs. Have you ever taken a good look at them? (Those of you who have "healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged" in your minds as a daily mantra may notice some parallels!) He could probably write us a pretty good post for this month's theme on school environments.

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Andrew Miller

Matching Physical Structures to Learning and School Culture

Physical structures should match school cultures and learning modalities, not the other way around. Despite what some might say, physical structures communicate a lot about the learning environment and what to expect. Just like we set up seats for the first day of school to set a tone, the building communicates a tone as well. Throughout my visits, I’ve come across many innovative buildings that really set a tone for safe school culture and innovative learning. It's not about technology and bells and whistles; it's about the layout and ways that the walls talk.

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