Walking into a class and ignoring differences between students is not the perfect world.
The perfect world is walking into a class where you can see all sorts of differences, yet everyone is interacting with each other and having fun. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s magic.
I am an elementary education major and this past semester I was placed in a second grade classroom where I was able to teach once a week. The first day I walked into the classroom I could feel the magic in the air. The class was full of diverse students – along with the typical students, there were students who were gifted and students with learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, and autism. But the students didn’t talk about their different abilities and they didn’t talk about how they were different from each other. But there was definitely a lot of talking. The students were constantly talking about what they were learning and what was going on in their lives. They weren’t judging each other for their differences or asking questions about why they acted differently.
They were just being kids.
But beyond being kids, they were true friends. All of the students had a strong bond that will hopefully last for years to come.
I remember walking around during one class while the students worked on a graphing assignment. When I walked past the student with autism, who I helped frequently, I realized that he didn’t need my help that day. His classmate sitting next to him was talking him through the steps of the assignment. He wasn’t told to do this; he wasn’t put next to this student to lend him help when needed; he wasn’t helping him because he felt sorry for him; he was simply helping out his friend. Abracadabra.
But we need to realize that this magic doesn’t just happen…it takes a magician – the teacher – to put it all together and make the audience – the students – believe in the magic.
Because of their teacher, these students were allowed to see the magic of inclusion in the classroom. But this magic wasn’t just a trick – it was real.
That was inclusion at its best.