May 19, 2016

The inclusive classroom – what does this mean? Our faculty participated in a training last week dedicated to learning about the inclusive classroom and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The trainer, a longtime educator, was informative and passionate about inclusive classrooms – and happy to hear how Harbor has been ahead of the curve in terms of welcoming children with different learning styles. While I was glad to see how much our small classrooms and dedicated teachers benefit each of our unique children, I left the meeting feeling unsettled. My feeling of discomfort was because I realized how much more we could do, as a school and community, to continue valuing learning differences.

The inclusive classroom benefits everybody in the community. The children, who are inherently non-judgmental and welcoming, learn to accept and celebrate differences. Actually, “learn” is not entirely accurate. Really, it is that they continue to accept and celebrate differences. They enter our classrooms loving everybody. Our job as a school, and as a community, is to foster and nurture this fundamental predilection toward kindness.

To watch a young child cover her ears when the noise is too loud is an unremarkable occurrence in an early childhood setting. To witness her classmates pat her on the back as if to say, “You’re okay. I’m here for you.” is heart-warming. I often say to the children, “We are all working on something,” be it reading, or speaking up, or keeping our hands to ourselves…and that is ok. We support each other.

Our teachers and I will continue having deep conversations about inclusive classrooms – strategies, supports, teachable moments. We are cultivating an amazing group of children – children who, as our school pledge describes, work hard, are kind, and are mindful.

Harbor School