In special education, there’s too much emphasis placed on the deficit and not enough on the strength.
A Somewhat Subtle Shift
Shelley Moore is an inclusion-educational consultant in Vancouver, BC. With a YouTube channel and newly minted podcast (available from your favourite podcast provider), Moore has hit the road and worked in several public and private jurisdictions. In the midst of her Ph.D, Moore also recently published her first book earlier this fall, One Without the Other: Stories of Unity Through Diversity and Inclusion.
For Moore, all learners are special, diverse, and bring both their strengths and challenges into our classrooms. We can no longer design and plan for the average student. The average student, notes Moore, never really existed. She cites Todd Rose’s very insightful book, The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World that Values Sameness, to understand how designing a universal cockpit for the average fighter pilot failed miserably. The same is true for our public education systems. We focus on the average student when designing and planning. It’s not working. But it’s changing (ever so slowly).
Capture Their Diversity
Focusing on the strengths and the ‘gold’ of each learner is the key to providing a safe and inclusive learning space for all of our students. “Learning with diversity through a strength-based lens” argues Moore and that in “[l]earning about the diversity of learners [and] finding their dimensions, we aim to capture what they bring, not what they are missing or cannot do…”
Our school district began its long overdue work with Shelley earlier this week. Not only did I learn about the powerful mind-shift of planning and thinking that the inclusion model offers (and how inclusion can work in all of our classrooms), but Shelley deftly demonstrated how educators effectively and efficiently leverage are still poorly understood and underutilized four-year-old provincial curriculum.
Just One Thing
After Moore’s enlightenment session (and her personal warning to me to focus “on one thing” and to “not go back, only plan ahead”, I was able to, within an hour, create two unit plans for my humanities classes that contained the four elements of the revamped curriculum through backward design. Everything became so clear. Crystal clear. The fog around our curriculum lifted a little bit Moore (pun intended).
Moore offered me another way to look at the curriculum. A back door of sorts. Another lens. Strengths-based model. An inclusion-based approach to planning for the diversity of all of my learners. This is what had been missing in my planning. I cannot recall when another professional learning opportunity has left an enormously impactful mark. Moore will return for two more sessions with our group in the New Year.
In the meantime…
I’m jumping in.