Teaching for over nine years has helped me gain invaluable insights relative to both the promises intrinsic to, and the challenges being faced by educational institutions. In ways more than one, being a teacher – for almost a decade now, if I may state – has accorded me with many opportunities to work for an institution whose goals are as noble as the attainment of human excellence in all fields. It has, however, also made me realize how much work needs to be done in order to cope with the enormity of the demands of continuing learning.
Chief to demands, if I may say, lays in the felt need to articulate and implement a philosophy of school diversity – a philosophy that hopes to tap the learning potentials of students by way of scholastic programs which both (1) promotes inclusivity from within the learning institutions, and (2) exacts involvement from their neighboring communities as well. On the one side of the spectrum, the controlling need to provide students with a perceptively inclusive environment remains to be a continuing challenge to both administrators and educators alike.
At the heart of this endeavor is the admirable desire to create a caring community that embraces all cultures. Herein it is necessary to cite that acceptance is a key ingredient to any inclusive community. For no learning environment which tolerates discriminatory practices or dismisses the telling needs of students for acceptance can ever hope to inspire young people to work for greater causes. There is truly a need for schools to come up with creative strategies so as to create a community which recognizes the supreme importance of incorporating, and thereby respecting, the cultures of the students.
Inclusivity, I have learned, is a painstaking endeavor to commence. But it certainly is not impossible to achieve. For instance, one of the many practices that we have initiated at Santa Rita Union School District is the incorporation of activities – such as game days, movie nights, Bingo games, Parent Support meetings, field trips, among others – which enhance interpersonal relationships not only between and among students, but also with their families of origin. This creates an atmosphere of acceptance which is essential in creating an inclusive environment.
On the other side of the spectrum, the equally urgent need for communal involvement is a pivotal aspect of the philosophy of diversity as well. This is because inclusivity can only be made concrete if and only if we can witness to a generous outpouring of support from as many sectors of the school’s neighboring communities as possible. This reminds me of an inclusive educational concept which stipulates that, “teachers, social workers, community education workers, health professionals and others (must) work together in a single team to meet the demand of individual child” (Simmons & Roaf, 2004, p.
29). Fortunately for Santa Rita, we have not been wanting in leveling and setting expectations for all members of the school community to comply with. This concept is far from pressuring concerned individuals and groups, for the plain reason that, asking the community to take part in school activities is, in fact, not an option that can be dismissed outright. Instead, this approach makes everyone accountable to all things pertinent to children’s education.
And it breeds a sense of responsibility to the advantage of our students. I have seen this succeed, for instance, in encouraging our ESL students achieve better results because of certain articulated expectations not only on them, but also on their parents. One way or another, we need to acknowledge that there is a wisdom that lies underneath the effort to get more people involved in the learning processes of our children.
In the ultimate analysis, a communal approach to education conveys a message that must be resonated throughout this country’ entire school system: that school administrators and educators are not the only ones responsible for educating our children; to the contrary, neighboring communities, as well as families of origin necessarily share the burden of raising our children towards an appreciation of the nobility that comes with human learning. Work Cited Simmons, K & Roaf, C. (2004). “Learning to Change”. Inclusive Education: Learning from Each Other. Keynes, The Open University.