Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Road to Inclusion: First Step Respect

First posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pic courtesy of

I just finished reading Diversity- Inclusion Handbook by Sondra Thiederman  Admittedly, this book was written from a more business perspective the ideas presented, in my opinion can be easily transferred and applied to education.
The book opens with the following two quotes:

"Working together is more than a good idea it is essential for success”
"Inclusion is not a problem, but a solution"

Since it is clear that inclusion is so necessary how is it achieved?
Thiederman offers the following advice. “The foundation of any successful inclusion and diversity effort lies in the ability of each leader and each team member to communicate respect for people different from him or herself”
In one work RESPECT. To achieve inclusion, we must respect diversity.
However, I believe it goes one step further which Thiederman points out as one of the myths. Too often people are OK with Inclusion and may even be respectful, but only believe that it will work if one group is held to a lower standard of performance.
This unfortunately is true in many schools. We are OK with diversity or even inclusion as long as there is still a difference between the students with special needs and the mainstream students. Nothing is further than the truth. The only way for inclusion to work is to have one class that id differentiated so that each student can meet his or her goals within the classroom.
James Gardner said it best rather than lowering standards we need to “respect people as they are (and then) you can be more effective in helping them become the best they can be.”

Respect can have many meanings, but when talking about inclusion I like the way Thiederman defines respect. She says; “In this context  “respect” means an attitude and the behaviors that accompany that attitude that everyone has a right to be acknowledged as a valuable individual capable of making positive contributions to the team (I would add classroom as well)”.
This is a much higher level than a mere lip service type of respect and takes real actions and effort. That takes leadership.

Thiederman gives us some Essentials for leaders who are truly committed to an inclusive culture.
·         Treat people as individuals
·         Listen to everyone with respect
·         Hold everyone to a high standard of performance.
·         Provide Feedback that allows for growth
·         Educate people about the differences that exists among people
·         Recognize that Inclusion is an ongoing process

Today’s students are all diverse and for our students to succeed in our diverse world we need to embrace a culture of Inclusion and diversity. I have only touched on some of the starting points and hope to explore these ideas more fully and more in depth in future blog posts. 

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