Research indicates the teacher has a large role in contributing to successful inclusive physical education or unsuccessful inclusive physical education. We also see that student’s peers have a large role as well, which in a sense relates back to the teacher as the teacher has the opportunity to influence attitudes behaviours of students in the class. Therefore, based on this research, my inquiry question became the following:
What does inclusion look like in my classroom? How exactly do I go about this?
I chose to focus on my Sr. Girls PE class where we had an individual who is designated globally delayed and an individual who has had a traumatic brain injury. Both individuals have significant cognitive and motor impairments, therefore I was not always able to build activities which suited their needs as I had to be mindful and responsive to the needs of all my learners within the class.
Therefore, I chose to focus on how can I socially include both these members and in turn have all my students do the same?
The following are some ways in which I helped create a socially inclusive and supportive environment:
Often we circled up/met as a group for various reasons. I made a point to ensure both J & M were in the circle and therefore a part of the group. Sometimes it took them awhile to circle up, but we waited. I feel this was important as it allowed both J & M to feel apart of the class, but also allowed for their peers to see them as a part of our team. One really neat thing I saw emerging, was girls kindly reminding J or M to come into the circle without me even saying anything.
Groupings were a really key thing for J. M cognitively functions quite low and often was only able to stay on task for a very short period of time. She also had an EA which she preferred to do many tasks with. J on the other hand was at times concerned with being left out. I made a point ensure she was in group/had a partner, often being proactive and quietly asking another student before the class and/or activity started. There were many times my students asked her to be a partner/part of a group, but at times this needed extra attention and a gentle reminder here and there.
J at times was confused after instructions and demonstrations. I often took time to break down instructions or a task in order to help her better understand and/or feel more confident.
I often looked for ways to highlight M & J. For example, M loves Bhangra dancing. When we had a guest instructor teach Bhangra, I highlighted to the class her enthusiasm and awesome dance moves.
INCLUSION AND SUPPORT AS A MINDSET
I often outlined to the girls learning involves patience and time. I also built activities and assessment from this mindset. I encouraged the girls to give their best efforts and be supportive of each other. To use their gifts and strengths, but also help those who are not as strong in a skill or activity or may be struggling with motivation that particular day. I feel this benefited all my learners, but also helped build an environment where support and inclusion was valued and able to flourish.
Lastly I daily made a point to daily interact with J & M to let them know I cared about them. This was during class or when I saw them in the hallway. If I was able to participate in an activity, I ensured to include them or asked them to be my partner.
In the halls M and I crossed paths often. I heard M say about 6 different words during my time with her. The 2 words she said most to me is “I happy” with a big smile on her face. My response was often I’m happy too M, so glad to run into you! While sometimes I wondered if I was doing enough for M & J, these moments showed that perhaps the little things actually went a long way 🙂