Published by CELA on 22 May, 2017

‘I am not much of a writer,’ Rebecca Thompson tells us as she starts her inclusive practices series today, but we disagree.  In this first of three gentle provocations Rebecca captures difficult concepts with simple descriptions and asks you to consider your response to her Inclusive Practice question about Danny, Francesca and their educator Alison.

I am not much of a writer, but I love talking about inclusion so let’s just pretend that I am talking to you instead!

I am excited to join Amplify and talk about inclusive practices. Often in training or consulting we feel the need to write about what we know so we can help educators gain new understanding. I visit many services in my role as a trainer and consultant, so I have decided to use the opportunity not so much to teach as to celebrate what you already do in the name of inclusion.

Here’s what I see when I visit your service:

  • you already know that inclusive practice is not only about enrolling children with disability or developmental delay
  • you already know it’s not just about all children having the same experiences
  • and you know it’s not solely about behaviour guidance either is it?

Inclusion is more complex and dynamic than we can imagine. Out of reach even?

In my imaginary conversation with you I can see you nodding in agreement and thinking, perhaps:

  • “We don’t know enough about inclusion.”
  • “Our centre isn’t physically equipped or designed well enough to do it properly.”
  • “We don’t have enough staff, I barely even get a lunch break.”

Here’s a good exercise to nudge your thinking along.

Ask a colleague at work to tell you what inclusion is by asking how they know when a child feels like they belong.

What does the child’s body language look like?

What does the child share with you?

Now, tell me what your real or imaginary colleague answered.

When they described how they knew the child belonged, could you see how your colleague’s decisions as a teacher enabled the child’s sense of belonging?

This way of thinking can take you to unexpected answers.

Recently I asked a group of teachers in a workshop to finish this sentence, ‘I belong when I …’

The best answer?  I belong when I Gangnam style’! We all laughed but it actually makes sense, doesn’t it? A Gangnam style dance or dress-up is based on a shared sense of fun, music, coordination and, of course, belonging.

If only we could Gangnam style all day long!

It’s tempting to dance our way through life avoiding words such as ‘dynamic’ or ‘complex’ or, indeed, ‘inclusion’. They’re words that threaten to make our heads explode as we fear this feeling of creating an extra job.

When I speak with services about their responsibilities to inclusive practice everyone thinks I am going to give them even more work on top of the roster, the program, the fees, the policies, the working bee day, the Christmas concert sausage sizzle, the email…

I’m not. You are already doing it. I see it every time I visit you.  But perhaps you just need to nudge and adjust.

In this series of blog posts I will share three examples of how I have shown educators that inclusion is happening in their practice every day. As we work through the three cases, I hope you will see how we can nudge ourselves just outside this daily practice in order to effect change and enact rights for children.

Because being an educator in 2017 means we reflect on everything, hey? Come on then! Let’s look at our first inclusion practice question and notice what you are doing already.

Inclusion Practice Question #1: noticing Danny

Danny, 5, circles the yard early one morning looking at the patterns in the path. He is going around for the fourth time when Francesca, also 5, approaches with a smile. Danny briefly looks at ‘Chessa’ and continues following the path with his eyes.

This is a daily occurrence and Danny has been known to hit out occasionally if children get too close.

‘Danny I found our secret key!’ cries Chessa.

Danny runs faster around the track and Chessa begins to chase him yelling his name louder as she tries to catch up to him.

‘Danny! Danny!’ she cries.

Meanwhile Alison watches from the sandpit. Alison has a Diploma in Children’s Services and has been working at the centre for about 12 months supporting children with additional needs.

Alison has been watching Danny and Chessa each morning and notices today that Chessa is becoming more persistent about engaging with Danny.

This is where I entered to stand with Alison as she notices.

She may or may not make the ideal decision when she responds, but she must make a decision all the same.

The fact that she has noticed is inclusive practice. Alison is tuning in to a change in the relationship.

To plan for inclusive practice Alison needs to make an adjustment based on her observations. She must plan for outcomes, and this opportunity is crucial for Danny and Chessa.

Some of her options are:

  • Continue to watch to see what Danny does in response to the yelling of his name and let the children sort it out
  • Stand up and move closer to both children to be in their eye view for an indicator of support
  • Run over and explain to Chessa that Danny doesn’t want to play and that she might get hurt
  • Walk to the children and ask what they are playing
  • How would you respond?
  • What can Alison do to intentionally plan for Danny’s social encounters?

Meet the author - Rebecca Thompson

Rebecca Thompson

Spanning 20 years in a variety of early childhood, early intervention, primary school and tertiary education, Rebecca's hands-on experience backs her commitment to advocacy for every child's right to quality care and education. She has also engaged in action research and community wellbeing programs for children and families from marginalised groups.As founder and early childhood consultant at Stone & Sprocket, Rebecca supports services wanting to bring new light to children’s behaviour, re-think inclusion through nature connections, relationships and meticulous observation/data collection for informed decision making.

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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