Yes, I definitely had a good time visiting McKay Elementary School, and to top it off, right before I left I got a hug from Angel, one of the members of McKay’s Resource Club. I was there to see what the “Club” was all about. It meets for six blocks of time a week, a total of four and a half hours, and the members are in typical classrooms the rest of the time. This day there were five members attending, along with two Resource Teachers and one Educational Assistant. The Club’s exclusive in that way, but inclusive too. Angel’s fellow club members are Kyle, Joshua, Abbish and Clivedon. As they explained to me, “We help each other here.” I don’t think you can get more inclusive than that.
Most of these kids are very young, which explains some of the discussion below.
We started with a little chat about how everyone got to school that day. Lots of variations here, and answers ranged from “I don’t know,” to “I came in a van,” to “I took the bus.” Apparently this last one was complete fiction, based on several eyewitness reports, but we’ll call that pretend bus ride an aspiration worth sharing, and whether it happened or not didn’t really matter. It’s pretty clear the young members of Resource Club believe in living in the moment – they’re there right now, and that’s what counts.
We moved on to talk about what their favourite thing at McKay is. Again, we had a range of answers, from a cheerful “Nothing” to “Gym Class” to “Paper”. With some coaxing, the last answer turned into drawing as a favourite, and of course, paper is a key ingredient, so it all made sense. Later the kids each took a turn getting up and talking to the whole “Club” about what they liked. Everyone listened, and no one criticized, even though some of the likes were hard to understand, and others needed some piecing together.
From what I gather, these children wouldn’t be getting up to speak in the typical class at all; it would be too risky. In the Club it’s perfectly safe to share your thoughts.
Next it was time to practice some large motor skills. The feature today was hopping on one foot, and the kids lined up and took turns hopping through some hula hoops that were laid out in front of them. This was a challenge for some of them, but again, everyone wanted to try, and the kids clapped for each other when they finished. I’m not so sure how I would do myself on that one, given my balancing issues in yoga class, so I was happy to stand by and admire everyone else.
Last came the small muscle skills, and this was tricky. Golf tees were poked thought the bottom of an overturned egg carton, and the kids had to roll some dice, check out the number that came up, and balance the same number of marbles on the individual golf tees. This got pretty exciting, as there was a giant marble in the mix, and of course everyone wanted to balance the big marble. Unfortunately this would often knock over all the other marbles , and they would cascade into all kinds of inaccessible places. This seemed to be part of the fun, and after all, picking up marbles from various nooks and crannies is a small muscle skill too.
I’m currently writing about the relationship between the concept of inclusion and different settings for different learning purposes. Do these two ideas fight with each other, or does it make sense to sometimes differentiate learning settings, yet still be inclusive?
I’m still thinking about this. I’m haunted by it actually, and visiting to see how various schools in Richmond work with this idea. Sometimes we assume that inclusion means being with everyone else all the time. Resource Rooms, or Clubs if you will, have become something we don’t talk about, as the idea of the separate “pull out” time seems contrary to inclusion. But these kids at McKay felt supported, included and successful in the Club. They were working on skills it would be almost impossible to address in the typical classroom, where hopping on one foot and balancing marbles usually aren’t on the grid. At the same time, each of them has a home base in a classroom, and a lot of effort goes into the communication between the Resource Team and their classroom teachers.
And then there was that big hug from Angel as I left. And yes, I definitely felt included.