Classrooms as Inclusive Communities

Written by: Jordan Tinney

Published On: June 3rd 2017

The girl begins to tell her story to her secondary colleagues. It’s personal and she struggles to find the words. The struggle isn’t because she’s not sure what to say, it’s because she doesn’t know if she can say what she wants. She looks down, glances across the classroom and makes a small motion to a friend. It’s a small gesture with her fingers and I’m not sure what it means. But her friend understands completely and goes into action. As the fidget spinner makes it way quietly across the classroom to her, she grabs it with care, gives it a sharp spin, and the world is whole. The tiny event makes me once again see that classrooms are not simply instructional spaces, they are communities of care. Places of safety, places of connection, places where it’s ok to be who you are and places where your friends care for you.

It’s another classroom and another day. The kindergarten kids are learning to read and write. After the teacher reads the story they sit together in small groups to write their story. One boy looks up at the other students and says “how do you spell dolphin?” Currently, he has “dlfn” on his page and he’s just not sure it’s right. His classmate beside him says “it’s right here.” He gets up, crosses to some chart paper where the word dolphin is written and points it out to his friend. It’s no coincidence that the teacher has it at hand for all to see but this small, smiling interaction between friends is just another example of kids caring for each other.

Classrooms big, classrooms small, schools big, schools small. Classrooms are a mirror of our community. In all their diversity, in all their multicultural richness, this is largely where our children learn about how to care and support our friends and our neighbours. These classroom communities just don’t emerge out of thin air. The core curriculum that teachers help unfold every day is the creation of safe, caring and inclusive places. In my visits to schools, I watch this nurturing of environments done with such grace and ease but I am acutely aware that this is the very intentional and purposeful construction of teachers on a daily and hourly basis.

I am also aware that one of the lovely things about being in education is that we know our work will never be done. Our moral bar is high and the pursuit is endless. While the visits to schools show me the wonder that is going on across the district, the issues that emerge every week on my desk are also a reminder of the ongoing dreamĀ of safety and inclusion for all. On one of my last visits in the week, I walk through the doors to the Pride Prom as a means to show my support. I ask the teachers outside, “where’s the Press?” Last year hosting this event was a national news because it seemed to push the boundaries. This year…it’s just a bunch of kids having fun. Now that it’s just part of what we do, I guess it’s not news anymore and this is a good thing.

One step at a time toward our never ending journey of creating safe, caring and inclusive environments for all. The kind of environments that teachers carefully construct and support in the many small communities called classrooms right in your neighbourhood school each and every day.