This candid shot was snapped by my teaching partner, Laura Seckington, during one of our collaborative Physical Education periods. That year, Laura and I were teaching a grade 1 class integrated with students of varying disabilities from her Community Class.
What emotions does this picture evoke in you?
What teaching strategies do you see being used?
What kind of learners might be present?
It was at the beginning of the school year in September 2014. The perfect time for teachers to set rules, routines, and expectations in the classroom. Laura and I were co-planning games where each student is intentionally paired with a ‘buddy’. In this unit, we led the class through a variety of challenges that gave them opportunities to work together in different ways. If you take a careful look to my right, on the floor, are a stack of towels. Each buddy-pair was challenged to hold the towel with their partner while balancing, and sending/receiving a variety of objects without dropping them on the floor. As the students were going through the series of challenges, they were only allowed to communicate with body gestures, visuals, or partially prompting each other with their hands. At one point in the lesson, we decided to pause the activity to highlight some of the ways the students were working together to complete the challenge. Laura captured this photo as I was holding this discussion with the class.
When I look at this picture, the two students in the centre immediately capture my attention. One has their arm around the other. These two students were intentionally paired together as buddies as their personalities complement one another. One of them was a student in the grade 1 class and the other was a non-verbal student with autism in Laura’s class. The natural instinct for the grade 1 student to hug her buddy was a genuine act of friendship. Oh….and the student lying on the floor? Well he just needed to lie on the floor (maybe he was bored of listening to me and just needed a break!)
This is one of my favourite pictures because it communicates caring, sharing, and security - a sense that all is fundamentally well with the world. It hangs high up on Bella’s bedroom wall - partly because I don’t want her to touch it or to knock it down - but mainly because it is a reminder that we can create a culture of inclusion. It is a reminder that people with disabilities are assets in our community and hold value. I don’t see disabilities in this picture. All I see is friendship and belonging.
How does your role contribute to the climate of your community? Does everyone feel safe, supported, and respected? I am not a person with a disability. However, I regularly witness the marginalization of people with disabilities. The dominant perception of people with disabilities is that they are at a disadvantage. Each of us must take a closer look at how ableism impacts our community.
2021 is here and the new year is always a notable milestone. I love sharing my voice as a parent, advocate and teacher through this blog. It has always been my dream to funnel my work as an educator to a platform where people can network, learn, and inspire one other to Play Beyond The Label. Want to know more? I have something exciting to share with you on Saturday, January 9th, but first I need your help tonight...
I look forward to seeing all the notifications on my phone tonight!