Becoming part of a greater community; the importance of a socially inclusive school

William Woods EDU

How does a teacher in San Francisco help empower special education students by creating a more inclusive social and learning atmosphere?

She uses a coffee cart.

Using a cart to sell coffee and pastries to teachers in Lawton Alternative School, Sadie Guthrie assigned students in her special education class roles as baristas, cashiers and servers in order to teach them social interaction and life skills.

“When I thought to bring Coffee Cart to Lawton, I just thought there really could be nothing better to improve our community and give kids in my class more opportunity to become a part of the greater school community.”

“Any school in this country could take this example to help transform their own school community, to make sure that every child feels accepted, that every child feels that they belong, that they have a place,” said Lawton principal, Gina Ferrante.

Creating inclusive social and learning atmospheres for diverse student populations, including those marginalized due to socio-economic status, cultural heritage and disability, is vital to the success of a school.

Maurice Elias, world-renowned author and researcher of social-emotional development in children, explains that one of the major challenges schools face in becoming socially inclusive is the hesitation to empower students.

“Student engagement — on the part of both those with special education labels and those not so labeled — is essential,” he explained, “Don’t be afraid to give students significant responsibility, albeit with supervision, guidance, and training to help them grow.”

Elias goes on to share some of his suggestions and ideas for creating a more socially inclusive environment in classrooms and schools.

If you are studying education at William Woods University you have the opportunity to learn skills needed to address and evaluate the cognitive, biological and social development of children in classes like PSY209: Child Development and Behavior.

In addition, William Woods Education students have clinical hours embedded into their Special Education coursework, which places them in local schools for 10 one-hour blocks. During these blocks they work one on one with students in areas such as language development, reading disabilities, math skills and assessment. The Education students then blog after each session and complete a final summary reflection as part of their coursework.

The question is, how will you apply these skills beyond the classroom? How will you make your classroom — your school — a more socially inclusive atmosphere for students to grow and learn?

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