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12 January 2005: Stories From Full Inclusion (1 of 7)

It's been nearly thirty years now since the law was passed creating "full inclusion" edcuation in my state.

The basic philosophy behind the law is that students considered handicapped in any way have a right to be treated as equal members of a school community. In my own educational experience, these children were often sequestered to a corner of the campus and rarely integrated into the school community. As a teacher, however, I got to see a different approach--I think the current laws use the term "least restrictive environment." This means that any student who has the ability to sit and learn in a classroom with students of all abilitiy levels should have that opportunity.

So, when I found out that I was going to have a full inclusion classroom, I was a bit intimidated. I'd had very little training in strategies for special needs students, and almost no personal experience with handicapped children.

What I did have, though, was an overwhelming love for diversity in my classroom. I was so excited about the prospect of students having one more level on which we could affirm each other's identities. When that year started, I had three students categorized as Severely Handicapped (SH) in my classroom, among the myriad of other ability, race, language, class, and gender groups. As expected, these students brought insight, community and laughter with them.

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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