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17 January 2005: Stories From Full Inclusion (4 of 7)

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. One day, after maybe a week of trying a variety of strategies to end the nose-blowing marathon, I had an idea. During an independent work period, I went to my private supply cabinet and pulled out a brand-new tennis ball.

I privately told Harry that I wanted him to hold the ball while he was doing his work. My rationale was that if he was holding a pencil in one hand, and a tennis ball in the other, then he would have to put down the handkerchief. Maybe it would be enough sensory stimulation to make him forget about blowing his nose.

I was thrilled to discover that it worked! It wasn't perfect or permanent, but as long as Harry was holding the ball, his nose-blowing frequency returned to normal. When he wasn't writing, Harry sometimes rolled the ball back and forth across the desk. Sometimes, he even occupied his hands by tossing the ball straight up into the air and catching it over and over.

18 January 2005: Stories From Full Inclusion (5 of 7)

I know that there are many, many reasonable, effective, caring teachers who wouldn't allow Harry to play with a tennis ball in their classroom. I don't blame them one bit. There are two reasons why I allowed it to continue, and they seem to be fairly effective elements for evaluation of educational practices.

First, was this practice making it harder or easier for Harry to learn? Well, in my observations, it was clearly making his academic life easier. Giving that student something to focus on, other than his compulsive behavior, made it easier for him to focus on the classwork or discussion at hand. His work was getting done, he was participating in positive ways, and his nose blowing had nearly stopped. Is it possible the ball was a focusing force, rather than a distracting force?

Second, was Harry's tennis ball making it harder or easier for the rest of the class to learn? This is the part where I am most proud. Shocking as it may be, no student other than Harry touched the ball during class time. No one tried. More shocking, never once did I hear the words "Harry" "ball" and "not fair" in the same sentence. They understood that it was in everyone's best interest that Harry get what he needed, and they could see that he needed that tennis ball.

19 January 2005: Stories From Full Inclusion (6 of 7)

20 January 2005: Stories From Full Inclusion (7 of 7)

Sincerely, I think the experience of having a full-inclusion classroom was actually more eye-opening to me than it was to most of my students. The truth is, most of them had been in a full-inclusion classroom since kindergarten. They already knew the SH students in our classroom, either from previous classes or from recess.

Although the term "full-inclusion" is debatable in even the best situations, having ability-diversity in my classroom was one more way that I was challenged to differentiate for my students. I was forced to confront my own prejudices and ignorance about issues of special education and disability awareness. For all my reflections, my conclusions were not groundbreaking. I learned, once again, that good teaching is good for all students. I learned that beyond practice, understanding the reasons for and methods of differentiation is good for all students.

21 January 2005: Who's in Charge Here? (1 of 4)

It’s easy for me to admit that I like being in charge, making decisions, and taking responsibility. I think those are generally common traits for teachers. But there’s a fundamental disconnect between this tendency and current educational theory. Even my state, which doesn’t have much right, recognizes that empowering students is fundamental to meaningful and lasting learning. One of my most trusted colleagues says she’s in the business of making others feel like they are in charge. The beautiful thing is, she’s not just talking about her students. Her skill is so developed that her administrators and co-workers feel her support and respect. She’s not deceptive or manipulative. What she is, I think, is wise. What I know is that she’s effective. Her students learn third grade curriculum in two languages. They’re not bilingual kids, but she’s trying to make them that way. They’re not necessarily talented learners, but she’s adding to their skills.

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teaching quote of the day

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.

- Chinese proverb

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