Choosing an Inclusive School: Benefits for Typically Developing Children

“Why Rise? Because appreciation of human difference is a core value for our family. At Rise, our children have the opportunity to develop empathetic hearts and an open minds right from the start.

This is the foundation of all education. “

-Quote from the mother of two typically developing children at The Rise School of Austin. 

Spring is here, meaning many families are making decisions about schools-especially preschools and child care- for the coming school year. Here in Austin, Texas, we do not have universal preschool, so many families pay high tuition costs for private schools and day cares. There are many choices, but only a few inclusive schools. One school that offers a fully inclusive program is The Rise School of Austin.

Many families with children who are developmentally delayed are clearly drawn to inclusive preschool environments. The option of being able to send your children with and without delays to the same school is attractive (you can see the story of Rise here), and many inclusive schools, such as Rise, will often roll therapy costs in to the tuition. Therapies are also often play and classroom based, meaning children will practice skills needed to be successful in Kindergarten.

But what about families with typically developing children? When given so many options for preschool, why might a family without ties to special needs choose a school designed to meet the needs of children who have developmental delays? The numbers seem to say a lot. At Rise, you can find:

  • a 3:1 student to teacher ratio
  • a teacher with a Master’s degree in every room
  • all teachers are first-aid certified and collect at least 54 hours of professional development each year
  • therapy enriched classroom environments and lesson plans
  • a campus that includes three playgrounds and a sensory gym
  • classrooms equipped with the latest technology, including interactive whiteboards

Additionally, the social and emotional benefits and 21st-century skills children learn

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Learning together at The Rise School of Austin.

in an inclusive school, from empathy to communication skills, are invaluable. The staff at Rise cultivate a daily practice of inclusion, meaning that they believe all people learn differently, that we are all unique, and that everyone’s education should be special. An inclusive school does away with the idea that one child’s education needs to be more special than another, rather, an inclusive school reinforces the idea that all children deserve the best and most personal education among their peers and friends.

The bottom line is that with an inclusive school has benefits for every child. You can also consider finding an inclusive school using the SWIFT network of schools.

 

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Time to vote for us for SXSWedu 2016!

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It’s that time of the year, folks! Time to vote for your favorite professionals to present at next spring’s SXSWedu conference in our hometown of Austin, TX! We know it seems far away but they (and we) plan early. We’ve submitted a proposal for a panel discussion titled: We Need to Talk: Building Inclusive Communities, in which we will:

  • Unpack the idea of inclusion, weigh the effects and outcomes, retrace the history, and honor diverse definitions existing for many groups of people.
  • Explore how inclusion, access, and social justice connect, and discuss how inclusion can empower and lead to better outcomes for all students.
  • Define inclusive practices from varying perspectives and share ideas for best practices when building inclusive communities for all learners.

This time we’ve brought together a power-packed team of educators, including representatives from BridgingApps, Understood.org, AbleGamers, and the incredibly inclusive Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn, NY. We can’t wait to hear what they have to say on this topic.

It takes only a moment to complete the sign-in process and then you can search for the title of our session (We Need to Talk: Building Inclusive Communities) or the name of our company (Teaching2gether, of course) and then VOTE FOR US! Then sign up for SXSWedu 2016 and we will see you there!

Supporting Students With Tools and Technology

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Click for the Prezi, a brief narrated presentation with practical examples of adaptive materials and assistive technology. (Be sure to watch in full-screen mode to get the best view!)

When employing Marilyn Friend’s co-teaching models in inclusive classrooms, we often encourage small-group models like Parallel and Station Teaching, as it’s easiest to reach all learners in smaller groups. Also, many teachers find it difficult to know what to do during a One-Teach/One Support model. As we’ve mentioned in our post on the 6 co-teaching models, One-Teach/One Support often looks more like One-Teach/One Police, as the supporting teacher tends to focus on redirecting students and managing behavior rather than implementing accommodations. Also, a second adult voice is not always the best solution for students with special needs to focus on the content at hand.

So how can we be most useful to students when one teacher is leading the lesson and the other is supporting? Well, that’s when Assistive Technology (sometimes called Adaptive Materials) comes into play. These tools provide clear and direct information to support students in reaching their goals as independently as possible. Therefore, the supporting teacher can introduce the tools to students or manage them during lessons, while the other teacher leads the instruction. Eventually, the supporting teacher can step away from the student as they take ownership and use the tools on their own.

Adaptive Materials or Assistive Technology are the best way to step back, fade support, and encourage independence for students. Click on the Prezi above to view a short presentation about a range of practical tools and how you can use them in your classroom!

Guest Post on LRNGO

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We met David Brake, the founder of Houston-Based LRNGO, when he attended our workshop at SXSW Interactive 2015. LRNGO is an exciting platform that allows learners of any age and skill range to take classes led by experts and peers through 1:1 video chat. Below is an excerpt from our guest blog post. Click here to read the whole thing!

Howard Gardner’s Theory

Multiple Intelligences +

3 Related Tips for Online

Learning

Many learning scenarios follow a typical pattern: teacher gives information, learner gets information, teacher tests information, repeat. In fact, the term “pedagogy,” commonly known as teaching techniques and principles, originates from the Greek paid (child) and agogus (leader of.) [1]

However, many teachers today also know that this dispensary style of teaching and learning doesn’t work for everyone, and many classrooms (traditional or nontraditional) offer opportunities for students to learn actively and apply new material and skills rather than passively receiving information. Many of those teachers and learners have found themselves at home on LRNGO.

Yet online educators must keep in mind that, above all else, teaching is a profession dealing with people: that is, individuals who who have different strengths and challenges. And as our society becomes more inclusive of various manifestations of diversity, teachers must honor and prepare for learning diversity online as well. Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor of Education at Harvard University, developed a theory of multiple intelligences in 1983. This theory still serves as a touchstone today for any teacher wanting to embrace learning diversity, and any learner seeking autonomy in the learning process…

[1] International Women Online Journal of Distance Educationhttp://www.wojde.org/FileUpload/bs295854/File/04_22.pdf

Find the rest of the post here.

SXSW was a Success- Here’s our Best Feedback

We had a blast collaborating with our friends from Whizzimo, Bridging Apps, Locomotive Labs and BeeVisual and catching up with our friends at Brainpop and EdTech Action at this year’s SXSW Edu and Interactive Conferences. We are also thrilled with the new friends we made who are doing amazing things in the field (Click below and see for yourself!):

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Yet here is the best feedback we got, and we are honored to share it with you:

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I was sitting at a table in The Austin Convention Center with school principals, teachers, parents, and app developers all eager to experience what it was like to have a learning disability.  They wanted to understand how it affected the kids in their classrooms and what it was like for them.  Hundreds of adults were about to participate in a classroom experience by using props to simulate different learning disabilities.

The air smelled of blue raspberry as wrappers were torn off blow pops and some adults were told to put them in their mouth for the entire classroom experience.  At first, there was laughter as they enjoyed the sugary treat, but that quickly faded and smiles turned into frustration.  The teachers running the session kept telling them that they couldn’t understand what they were saying and kept asking them to speak more clearly.

Others had it worse. Some adults were given blindfolds or glasses with waxy Chapstick smeared over the lenses. The adults with blindfolds were in complete darkness and had to ask others around them what was going on.  They got yelled at for speaking in class.  Many adults were given multiple disabilities.  Ear plugs were put in and their hands were taped together.

The lights dimmed and a disco ball shot flecks of light across the room. One adult had to leave because she said she would have had a seizure if she stayed.  A Brainpop movie about dyslexia was shown as the lesson.  When the movie was finished, teachers handed out pens and a quiz.  The blind student just sat there.  The people with their hands taped together could be heard whispering, “This is stupid. How am I supposed to write?” The teacher yelled at them for their attitude.

When the lesson was over the leaders of the session asked the participants how it felt.  Many talked about how mean they thought the teacher was.  One guy with a blindfold on said, “I may as well not even been here.”  Then one of the teachers went over to a lady they had sent in the corner before the lesson began.  They had told her to go in the corner and put headphones on while she played with an iPad. They tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to take off her headphones. Next, they asked her how she felt.  She said she felt invisible. It was a complete role reversal.

While the presentation of assorted educational products went on, I was thinking to myself this is the best way of explaining what it’s like to have a learning challenge I have ever seen. It had the perfect scenario along with the perfect negative reinforcement (the yelling teacher), and had the proper tools to represent the disabilities. My only wish is that all my past teachers could have this same experience, not just the bad ones, but all of them.  It’s important for them all to experience that having a disability in the classroom is a real problem and not just some made up thing, something you can fake having, or that you’re just not trying hard enough. This experience made my trip. I am glad I went just for this experience and I hope more educators go through an experience like this so they can see what it’s like to be me.

-Matt Walker, 15

Matt is the inspiration behind one of our favorite apps ever, made by one of our favorite developers ever: BeeVisual’s Choiceworks

Missed the conference? Great information and collaboration will continue to flow from the following threads and chats:

#EdTechBridge

#LDchat

#appsforall

#edtech4all

#accessapps

New Site!

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We are growing rapidly and changing things around here at T2G! We are excited to announce:

1. Our new website: www.teaching2gethertexas.com.

2. Our new email: info@teaching2gethertexas.com

This site will remain a good old-fashioned blog where we will continue to post what we hope are insightful tips for educators and designers alike.

Happy New Year!

-Hannah and Rachel

Give Peace Corners a Chance in the New Year

Cards suggesting calming activities allow students to make good choices.

After a long winter vacation, many students will come back to school with emotions running high. This could be for several reasons: changes in routine, varying home and school structures and expectations, social pressures and anxieties or excitements from being reunited with friends, ramped-up test prep in the winter, even the cold weather.

As responsive teachers, we want to be able to create an environment that validates these feelings, but we also want to teach our students how to manage these emotions. As adult human beings, we know it is nearly impossible to work through sadness, frustration, fatigue or anxiety. Yet we ask our students to do this all the time, even with positively imploring phrases like, “calm bodies” or “eyes on me” or “hands to yourself” or even “tell me what’s wrong.” Often, these requests are met with the exact opposite action, and then this unpleasant management situation begins to spiral.

Enter the Peace Corner. Peace corner, quiet spot, cozy corner, safe place…call it what you will, many students will benefit from a small little space carved out for them to feel stuff.  Continue reading