At the Country Day School we have a belief that, everyone does learn, albeit at different rates and in different ways. This core belief is shaped around the idea of Inclusion. We strive to create the environment where all students are challenged at their level and serviced in the least restrictive environment, the homeroom classroom, regardless of their ability. Paramount in achieving true inclusion is meaningful and relevant professional development for our student support teachers as well as homeroom teachers. We need leaders in the school to help support all teachers, parents and students create an inclusive community. The Inclusive Leadership Program has been the professional development resource needed to achieve meaningful change in regards to our inclusion program.
The Country Day School’s participation in the Inclusive Leadership Program has had an immediate impact on our support services and how we approach all of our learners not just students with exceptionalities. First and foremost, we have restructured our intervention system completely. Previously, we were a school where children with exceptionalities needed to pay additional costs in order to receive services. This is no longer the case. We reset our support program completely to not only service students with documented exceptionalities, but now to recognize that most students will need support at one point in time or another and just because they do not have a documented disability, does not mean they should not receive the support they need.
We have also begun to rethink the format in which our students receive their interventions. In the past, our support teachers have pulled out the majority of the students to receive support in a separate classroom, in a one on one or small group environment. Now, with new information and techniques from the Inclusive Leadership Program, almost all of our interventions come in the form of the push-in model, where support teachers and homeroom teachers work together in the classroom to support students in the least restrictive environment. We have seen a major swing in our student’s attitudes towards intervention as well as tremendous success in increasing the amount of time our homeroom teachers and support teachers plan together and collaborate to help each student succeed.
Currently we have eleven teachers from CDS participating in the program. The participants are a mix of support teachers, administrators, and homeroom teachers. The ideas that our team have come back to school with after only beginning the courses have been profound and their excitement and enthusiasm to invest their time to making a meaningful and lasting change regarding how we provide support to all of our students has been inspiring to others. Our conversations in team meetings, parent meetings, even in the teacher’s lounge have shifted due to the participation of these individuals in the program. We now use person first language when discussing students with exceptionalities, share the belief that the students are “our” students, no longer just, “mine,” or “yours.” This has helped build our community stronger and more focused on what is best for all of our students and our school community as a whole.
One distinct piece to this program is the collaboration between schools in our region. Participants are able to interact with colleagues from all over Central America and share success stories and failures in everyone’s quest in creating meaningful change in their schools. This program is set up to raise the bar for education in our region by creating leaders for inclusion and has so far been successful in doing so. Our participants remain in contact with others from different schools and have added to their professional learning networks and built lasting relationships based on common goals.
The Inclusive Leadership Program is without a doubt the kind of transformational professional development that we required in order to make meaningful changes regarding our school’s philosophy of supporting all learners. Dr. Lee Ann Jung has impressed us with her knowledge, passion, and energy for helping support our school community as if it were her own. Dr. Jung, coupled with Dr. Sonia Keller and the generous funding from the Tri-Association and the United States State Department have made this opportunity possible and have helped bring our school into the light of Inclusion.
The Inclusive Leadership Program is a 5-course program in partnership between San Diego State University, Lead Inclusion, and the Tri Association. If you or your school is interested in learning more about the program, visit www.leadinclusion.org/international or contact Lee Ann Jung at firstname.lastname@example.org.