Inclusion – (Anthea Holczer)

We tend to be frightened or uncomfortable when we see someone with a disability; they look different from us, which unnerves and scares us. We need to understand that they are just the same as we are. They want to be included in our society, with us. People with disabilities have hopes and dreams just as we do. Just because their bodies don’t function the same way as ours, doesn’t change who they are and the gifts they have to offer society.

A person with disabilities wants to be included. They want to feel like they belong. They are part of a family, but want to belong to the neighbourhood, community, and school. These are all parts of our society we take for granted but it isn’t always shared with someone who has a disability. They need to be included too.

The children who are challenged and are included in society have better outcomes, socially and cognitively than those who don’t. Their inclusion also benefits regular students. It has been proven that regular students school work increases by 15% when having a special needs student in class. The students are more engaged with school work and are motivated to help their friend succeed. In helping the challenged student, the other students learn and understand the material more thoroughly. Everyone benefits.

Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems, apply to everyone; not only able-bodied people but to those with challenges also. The microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem and chronosystem all work in the same way for those who are able bodied and those who aren’t. We all want to have a healthy social identity, and school plays an important role for all children no matter what their challenges are.  We all need friends, and want to be accepted.

I have a sister who is blind, although she is accepted within the family, she has a tough time with society. People shout at her, thinking shouting will help when talking to her; her ears work perfectly it’s just her eyes that don’t. Thankfully she has an outgoing personality, and takes others lack of understanding in her stride.

How do you break down the barriers of peoples’ prejudice?

How should people start a conversation with respect?

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‘The Secret Path’ (Anthea Holczer)

Gord Downie was inspired to write the songs and orchestrate the movie ‘The Secret Path’ when he learned about the story of Chanie Wenjack. The train tracks in the movie are an important image, as Chanie is trying to find his way home, and the tracks are an easy path to follow. But, the tragic irony of the tracks, is that trains were used to ship Indigenous children to residential schools. The trains were full of crying children forced from parents and homes; these trains were nicknamed ‘trains of tears’ and it’s easily understood why. The families had to comply as it was the law, if the law was broken they were arrested, put in jail, or fined. Chanie’s walk home following the tracks makes sense; the train brought him to the residential school and the tracks will lead him home, unfortunately he doesn’t make it that far.

It is surprising to learn that only 66% of Canadians know about residential schools. Everyone in Canada should know about this part of our history, it’s part of our Canadian story. It’s even more surprising to learn that 40% of Canadians have heard about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. What have 60% of the population been doing? Maybe, this is our colonial blindness resurfacing; not listening to First Nations issues, and blocking out any ugliness we don’t want to see.

Canada has a history of not listening to First Nations peoples and easily turns a blind eye to their issues. Gord Downie, a white man, has championed the Indigenous fight to be seen and heard with his work “The Secret Path’. Downie was a beloved Canadian rock icon, he used his fame and influence to make the plight of Indigenous people common knowledge and main stream. Well done Gord Downie!

As teachers we will have First Nations students in our classes, and it’s important for us to understand, respect, and honor traditional ways. We need to learn the truth of our ugly history, own that truth, and work towards an anti biased society. As teachers we have influence on the students in our classrooms, and we will help the healing process which has only just begun.

We are very lucky to be students at the University of Regina, it’s an excellent school, that also has the First Nations University on campus. I try to take as many classes as I can at the FNU, and participate in social activities. I want to learn ‘Indigenous Ways of Knowing’ and make Indigenous friends.

Is it possible to build High School’s on reserves? Keeping young teenagers at home with their loving family is so much better than sending them south to finish school.

 

Constructions of Identity (Anthea Holczer)

The classrooms and hallways within a school are unkind and cruel to those who are different.  High school is a place where students are learning about their sexuality, and if they don’t conform to the heterosexual narrative, they can be subjected to verbal and physical bullying. If this isn’t bad enough the students can also feel isolated and invisible; they feel broken, and deviant. Fitting in and having friends is important at this age, and when they don’t, LGBTQ students are at risk mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Teachers and schools have a role in stopping the bullying behavior, and supporting the LGBTQ students. There needs to be an openness within the classroom for safe discussions about gay’s, lesbians, and bisexuality. Harassment needs to stop, and acceptance of different sexuality needs to be explored without condemnation. Issues of sexuality affects all students and they need to understand the whole spectrum. The more the students are educated in the area of sexuality the greater the chance we have of stopping bigotry in our youth.

Bigotry and harassment targeted at LGBTQ students decreases their chance of academic success, they have a higher rate of substance abuse, and are at risk of suicide. When there are reduced levels of victimization within the school, students have been found to be statistically just as successful at school as their heterosexual peers.

Anti-bias education stresses the need for students to have a strong sense of self worth, understand others feelings, understand human differences, make caring connections, take action and understand fairness. These goals are strengthened as students are empowered to act against prejudice and discrimination. We teachers need to stress and incorporate these core ideals into every classroom to ensure differences are accepted and everyone is respected.

In Bronfenbrenner’s model the teacher has an important role in the student’s micro-sphere. It is up to us to be nonjudgmental regarding sexuality, and give as much objective information as possible. We need to be open minded and supportive of all students. Our attitudes help to uplift, and empower students to be their true selves. We want students to be free to be themselves and fulfill their destiny.

How can we make ourselves more approachable to help students who are truly in danger of self harm?