Most educators I come into contact with say they are committed to inclusive practices and I believe in their hearts they have that commitment. However, actually doing the things that help include or engage all students in the classroom and learning process is not that easy. There is such a natural pull to engage more with students whose ways of processing information are like our own (like being highly verbal or how fast one can “think on their feet) or with those who we share cultural identity or political beliefs with. Basically, we tend to be most comfortable when we are engaging with people who are more like us or those who make our jobs easier.
If we look at how teachers engage with high achieving vs. low achieving students, (which is just one small aspect of inclusive practices) it is an eye opener. Here are some research findings about teacher’s typical interactions in the classroom from Comprehensive Classroom Management by Vern and Louise Jones. They report high classroom achievers:
• Receive more response opportunities
• Are given more time to answer questions
• Receive more positive non-verbal feedback
• Are less likely to be ignored
Engaging in inclusive practices is challenging. We have to constantly evaluate whether we are doing what is easier and familiar in the classroom or, if we are pushing ourselves to engage and be inviting to all students not just those that are more like us or make our jobs easier.
By Dr. Skip Greenwood