When inclusivity becomes exclusion

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Despite legislation mandating that students with disabilities receive an education equal to that of any other student (Disability Discrimination Act 1992) the inclusion of students with Special Needs into the mainstream classroom is still a controversial debate in many staffrooms and school car parks.

Whilst such conversations are generally only had behind closed doors, as any opinion against ‘inclusivity’ would carry heavy consequences, those on the front lines are not always confident in their ability to best cater for our most vulnerable learners, resulting in a negative culture of exclusion developing in our schools.

A school close to home is currently struggling to accommodate for a spike in the enrolment of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). From a peer point of view it seems that teacher attitude towards these types of learners is fast becoming the greatest hurdle in achieving true inclusivity.

‘He shouldn’t be here’,

‘This isn’t the place for him’

‘It’s not fair on him’

These are among the more positive comments to be heard from the mouths of teachers and Teacher Aids in the past few months.

One particular child who lives with a co-morbid diagnosis, presents with a range of violent and unsafe behaviours and is struggling to ‘fit in’ to his first year of Prep. He currently attends school for just two hours a day, and last week within an hour of being in the classroom has struck a fellow student directly in the face, bitten two teachers, threatened to kill two classmates and kicked and punched the teacher aids.

The school appears to be doing all of the ‘right’ things to promote inclusivity for this child, but I do wonder if the lack of teacher training, paired with escalation of negative teacher attitudes is contributing in some way to this declining situation.

Parents are starting to whisper in the car park, teachers are up in arms at having to be subjected to such dangerous conditions and staff are losing patience. The requirement to ‘include’ this child without the proper training, and evidence based programs in place is fast becoming the reason for this child’s ‘exclusion’ from our school environment. By pretending to ‘include’ this child, we have ultimately contributed to his exclusion. Parents have already turned their backs on him, students are scared of him and despite their best intentions, teachers are fearful.

Who is to blame here? You see the problem cannot be that the child is just ‘not fitting in’, or ‘it isn’t the right place’, but more that the school has not genuinely adapted and properly prepared to accommodate for the arrival of the child. The school was reactive instead of proactive and action plans were being made as situations came to a head. A lack of current knowledge and evidence based practice is to blame.

When I hear people say, ‘This isn’t the place for him’ it drives me wild.

Where do they suggest ‘is’ the place for him? At home? Should he stay at Kindy until he reaches an age at which he is mentally able to cope with the demands of the school environment? He could be shaving before he makes it to Year 1!

Special school programs when they are available and within a reasonable proximity to the family, are limited in space and are often only able to consider Intellectual Disabilities as criteria for entry.

Students with ASD are being left out in the cold. Too left of centre for the mainstream, but to ‘normal’ for special settings. With the prevalence rate of ASD currently sitting at around 1 in 80 students, isn’t it about time teacher attitudes got a kick up the bum, and teacher training programs and systemic funding be modified to reflect this need in our classrooms?

Why Rooms Get Smaller and Heroes Must Fade Away

 

 

Last week at school was our Sports Carnival. It is always a fantastic day for the children and for the staff. It is one of those days when the barriers between students and teachers dissolve, it becomes house team against house team and for a small moment in time we are our student’s peers. Our Academically weak shine on the sports field, and for that one  day of the year they become ‘Top Of The Class’. It is also a day that proud mums and dads line the sidelines to catch a glimpse of their son or daughter, most taking time off from a busy day at work, to support their little person as they run what seems like the longest race in the world. 

One older sibling had come to support his brother, after having left primary school several years ago he as enjoying his trip down memory lane. He approached us teachers in the tents for a chat and a catch up. One thing he said has remained in my thoughts every day since we spoke.

 ‘I remember my last sports day here, but the oval seemed so much bigger than it is today’. Of course in reality the oval had never changed, but the young boy who once ran here had turned into a man. His body had matured, his perceptions had changed and his ‘present’ had become reflective of his current circumstance, he was now an adult.

It got me to thinking about how as children we must experience growth and change in order for us to move forward as well adjusted adults and with this change, comes an acceptance of adult truth.  Yeah sure it was warm there, it was safe there in our minds while looking at aspects of our life through a child- like lens, but this lens is not reality, it is not what is ‘real’. We protect our children from the evils around us by allowing them to use this ‘lens’, because without it, people are just a bunch of pretty shit adults who practice little of what they preach, and for at least 18 years we want to help shield them from the truth. The Tooth Fairy, Santa, fake phone calls to the police when you try and con your son into owning up to a petty theft,  it is all part of this rite of passage.

I look back on my childhood and how lucky I was to have many heroes in my life. As a little girl I remember looking to these people as the light on my garden path, I looked to them for truths and in the most part modelled my own adolescent morality on what I was ‘taught’ was the right way to think and believe. At the time, through my ‘lens’ they were one hundred percent an authority on life and living. Sadly, as age and maturity would have it, with each birthday I clocked, a little more of the lens became cloudy. Each year a little more hurt, a little more let down, a little more tired of waiting, a little more ‘used’. The invisible cloaks that those close had held up to protect us slowly but steadily fell to the floor, what we thought were our foundations had become complete bullshit and replaced with not so nice things and not so nice people. There will always be those in our childhoods who claim high morality,  who are quick to condemn those not living up to the high standard they are faking for themselves, but soon enough  ‘reality’  has to step out of the shadows. Rooms become darker, days become longer, school ovals became smaller and heroes must fade away to nothing. 

There are of course those who for whatever reason choose to stay living as ‘children’ and ignore this passage of truth. Blaming others as a child would, feeling a sense of entitlement, manipulating loved ones around them as a child would,  throwing their toys from the pram as a child does and making choices with no regard for consequences- as a child does. For these people you can only hope that in their lucid hours, they can still remember what is real, what is the truth, for it is only when we are truly alone that we are left with what is ‘truly’ right. You can lie to others, but you can never successfully lie to yourself.  Maybe in those hours when the consequences of the ‘victim’ mentality’ are the loudest thoughts in their minds, they can see that it is actually an impossibility in life – that on every occasion it was always  someone else’s fault, maybe just one or twice being ‘right’ should have come second….and yet because of all of this they choose not to see that they are still loved, because it easier this way. 

If you are lucky, losing this childhood perception is hopefully your first real encounter with grief. Once you learn to accept that it isn’t really ‘anything you have really lost’ but more ‘what never really was’ you can move forward and try be the best adult and parent you can be.

To my dear boys, whilst I can never promise to keep you from the truth, I can always promise you this:

As a mum now I know that it should never be my child’s job to carry and protect me, but always my job to carry and protect my children. It doesn’t matter how old I get, or where life takes us……my love for you is paramount. There will never be anyone more important in a mother’s life than her own children, and nor should there be, for the intentions of those not in blood, can never be as pure. You will never have to wonder if I choose ‘you’, for the answer will always be…..yes.

 

 

Better late than never…VBA Award Post

 

 

It has taken me a week or two but have finally found some free time to respond to an ever so thoughtful nomination for a VBA or Versatile Bloggers Award (yes, I know..sounds suspiciously like an acronym for a visible underwear warning or dirty disease) . I am not claiming to be ultra busy or anything, just that Reality TV is so good at the moment, I just couldn’t pull myself away from The Box. Why must they start EVERY good show in the same month at the same time! (yes I realize I am sounding very much the 14 year old right now) 

I must be completely honest and admit in the past I have failed miserably when nominated for any of the Blogging awards. The cut and past part just seems to be so much bother (..lazy right?) and then before you know it, weeks have past and you’ve forgotten to do it. So last week a little birdy tweeted a VBA nomination my way, and there was nowhere to run. This little birdy was the ultra talented writer/ mummy/ wife and knower of all things wine mammasvida.com.au. Head over to her page for some good, honest observations on life, wine, food, parenthood and the world game.

So the conditions of this grand prize require me to share seven things that you might not know about me, and despite my tendency to over share, this part was really tricky, So Here goes.

1. I am a terrible, terrible, terrible  nail biter. Yes I hear you…I may as well lick a toilet bowl- sadly this doesn’t turn me off it, nothing could. This addiction gets so bad that I will sometimes have  false nails put on to give my actual nails a break from the abuse. Worse still is that I also make it my nights mission to chew the Acrylic ones off too. I even had falsies put on the day before I was due to give birth, and managed to chew them all off  and spit them around the labour ward like little pink bullets, all within the first hour of arriving at the hospital. 

2. I once had a romantic dream about ‘Ridge’ from the Bold and The Beautiful. Yes that’s right ..the original Big Man of Forrester Creations, Ron Moss. I was even embarrassed for myself when I recalled this horrid event the next day. I don’t even find him attractive in real life, so I really don’t now how this occurred. Come to think of it, I’m still a little embarrassed now. 

3. Candles, candles and more candles. I just looooooooove them. Don’t care from where, what, how much, the smell, the colour, the vessel, whatever….just light them up baby! This was even going to be my ‘failed’ business idea no.3 ‘ making and selling soy candles’ but as you may have read in my last post…..my business sense is not my greatest asset. 

4. I use to lick the flavouring from Chicken Crimpy’s and BBQ shapes and put them back in the box. …can’t really defend this revolting revelation, the more details given, the more incriminated I will become.

5. I am a socially awkward idiot. Despite previously enjoying a busy social lifestyle and occupation, I have always experienced a great deal of anxiety in social situations. I am usually nervous for days leading up to events involving meeting new people and then end up trying to over compensate, saying something unintentionally offensive and spend the following week in a shame spiral wishing I could rewind and take my foot from my mouth. My awkwardness I am sure has at times been misinterpreted as standoffishness…when inside I am really shitting myself with nerves. However, after countless school assemblies, am totally okay speaking in front of hundreds of strangers, particularly about topics such as 1. toilet paper on the roof of boys toilets, sandwiches hidden in toilets and children looking under toilet doors. Seems I’m your ‘go to girl’ for all things toilety.

6. I have a burning desire to visit Pompeii. Since my Year 9 teacher showed me pictures of this amazing place as a teenager, I have always longed to visit. There is just something so amazing about a civilization frozen in time, with little warning. A little childhood obsession, that I hope will come to fruition one day. Actually as they say, youth is wasted on the young. Why is it when you travelled as a teenager, the pub was a more attractive option than the Vatican? I would love to travel again through ‘adult’ eyes. There is so much of the world that I wished I had of experienced with my husband, I guess our time will come again in a few years.

7. I have NEVER seen the movie ‘Dirty Dancing’. This one is truly horrific. Apparently it is up there with the the worst sins against women born in the 70’s /  80’s. Most people can not believe this and are actually driven into a rage of disbelief upon me revealing this secret.  It is now my life’s goal to avoid seeing this movie for as long as humanly possible. There is no real explanation either, I just haven’t. 

So there you have it, I am sure some of these are more of a surprise than others. 

Now, as I have been bouncing around in Blogger’s World avoiding these awards for some time, I am too embarrassed to nominate fellow Blogger’s in case I nominate someone who I have forgotten to respond to. Apologies.

So instead, Now that I have exposed myself…it is your turn. Come on and share the one thing about you that many people would not know?

Have a great week!

 

 

Gold Coast Marathon (well almost)

My nerves are gone (just for now) and the excitement has come to town. Today I collected my race number for the Gold Coast Marathon. Yes I hear the shock, well take back some of your gasp, I am only running the half marathon but to me it is the ‘Big One’.

After years of wanting to do it, this past January I finally plucked up the courage to enter. It was actually one of my new year’s resolutions but despite paying the entry fee months ago, (much to husband’s disgust ‘what do you mean you pay to run on the road? Do it the weekend after for free’) up until today it wasn’t really tangible, it was just another distant idea mixed up with all the other really great ideas I’ve had in the past such as:
No 1. Selling bathers (togs for you northerners) at Cararra Markets. This was a momentous flop. We sold two pairs, one to a friend of mine who was obviously embarrassed for us and another lady who I am certain was still drunk from the night before. We actually came out at a loss because we spent our profit on 79 coffees and a dodgy bacon and egg roll. Needless to say I still have a bag full of ‘girls’ bathers in my cupboard, and as luck would have it, I have two boys.
One of my dear friends: ‘Why does she buy Sienna bathers for her birthday and Christmas and Easter every year? Weirdo!
No. 2. This one more recent (as in right now) so I can’t even mock myself. Buying cushion covers from Chinese supplier who promised to get hold of any design you sent her. Unfortunately none of the 743 designs she had resembled anything slightly worth buying, so because I felt sorry for her bought ten of the least ‘Chinese New Year’ looking covers available. We had 5 Views on Ebay in 4 weeks, 4 of which were actually my husband and I checking the listing. FYI there auction is still open on Ebay, so hop on, don’t be shy, plenty left to choose from.

So my goal of running the half is almost here, no longer an idea but an actual event. The timing has never been right, between pregnancy, recovery, breast feeding, lazy, lazy, scared, pregnancy, fat again and recovery, there was always something standing in my way. Isn’t it the strangest feeling when that ‘something’ you have been working towards, training for, saving for or wishing for finally comes within reach. After Seven months of training and many more years of just wanting to do it, On Sunday I can finally tick my ‘something’ off my list.

Since being a chubby little 13 year old who turned up one Saturday morning to try Little Athletics, so started my love of running. For a small moment in time, no one can get to you, it is just you and your thoughts. When you leave the house in a shitty mood, you return home with all of the answers you’ve been looking for. I will still run most days when this race is over but I’m feeling a little sadness almost as if I’m about to lose a friend. I also feel a little lost. Where do you go once you’ve achieved your goal? Of course I have many more on the go (travel, study, work, life and family) but for a runner, the half / marathon is the ultimate. Maybe the London marathon? NYC Marathon? I really have always looked at full marathon runners and thought ‘why would you do that? It’s actually ?%$@# outrageous that you would want to run that far’. But who knows how I will feel after crossing the line, where to from here?

So what is your personal goal? What did you do when you finally ticked it off that big list?
Can’t wait! See you on the other side :)

Public Vs Private (and then there is Catholic)

 

 

It is hard to believe that in just a few short months my first baby will be turning four. With another year disappearing fast, and the last remnants of my baby slowly morphing into a boy, it is time to start considering where this little man will be spending his waking hours for the next thirteen years. I am talking schools!

I know some of you are already freaking out. Yes, he is almost four and I am only just beginning to think about his schooling.  I know that being a teacher I should have this covered by now, but maybe this is also the reason why I have left it so late to make this important decision. Sometimes there is such a thing as having too much information.

Last week’s encounter with ‘Freak Out Mum’ has called me to action with this school business. Those with toddlers will be familiar with the ‘Freak Out Mum’. Freak Out Mum attends every ‘Mumsy’ type gathering within a 100km radius just to prove she is a good mum.  Freak out mum also takes it upon herself to initiate controversial ‘no go’ topics (or as I like to call them…arguments) such as Breast is Best, Dummies or No Dummies and Natural Births vs C-sections and my personal favourite Private school Vs Public school.

Our conversation went a little like this:

Freak Out Mum: ‘So, which school will your little one be going to?’ (translation; I have my child enrolled at a swanky, overpriced school that accepts the enrolment of a child in the womb and I would love you to ask me about this. Your thrilled reaction will also help me re-affirm that I have made the right decision here, even though I will not be able to afford to eat for the next 15 or so years. I hear the ‘no food’ diet is trendy these days anyway)

 

Me: ‘awww….yeah I’m not too sure yet, am waiting as long as I can to see which setting suits his personality’ Translation: What the hell? Actually no……what day is it? I hope I have my pants on the right way? He’s three right? Didn’t I just see him on an ultrasound?

 

I couldn’t believe my ears. Freak Out Mum was deadly serious. She had in fact attended a pre-enrolment interview for her daughter whilst still pregnant with her.

The battle of opinions on Public Versus Private schooling that followed amongst the other mums bordered on disgraceful, and the more and more unsubstantiated rubbish that I heard pouring from their mouths, the more I backed away from the conversation, Until…..

 

‘You’re a teacher, what do you think? Public or Private?’

 

‘Oh no, I hate this question…Don’t ask me’. To be honest, it would have made little difference anyway, they were a pack of wolves.Some people will go to ridiculous lengths to justify their personal choices.

From someone who has worked in the Catholic Education system for 14 years, what I wanted to say was:

Every child is unique. There is no such thing as a super school that will be a ‘best fit’ for every child in the universe. Each school setting, whether it be public or private will be able to offer a unique gift to your child’s learning. Look for their learning style and choose a school that fosters this, not one that highlights a weakness. It drives my wild when a student is diagnosed with a Learning Difficulty and the parent make the assumption that sending them to a Private / Catholic school will be the best option. This is NOT always the case. As a result of reliable state funding, government schools can often provide greater access to other professional services such as Occupational Therapists, Speech therapists and Psychologists. Some of the best Special Education Units in Queensland and South Australia are based and funded by the state governments. If my child was learning with a disability, I would most definitely be sending them to a state school.

Expensive school fees, do not necessarily equal a high quality curriculum and quality teaching methodologies. It may give a good indication as to how well resourced a school is but research indicates (Hattie, John. 2009) that it is what the ‘teacher’ does that matters most in terms of student achievement. In short- There are good teachers at every school, and yes there are also the lemons…I have certainly encountered some big, fat juicy lemons in my time. Expensive schools do however offer that ‘boys club, wink, wink, nudge, nudge’ old scholar aspect to education. They do say it is who you know not what you know that is the key to gaining that perfect opportunity.

Then there is the religious aspect. I believe you should choose a school that will support and reflect the morality and values you plan to instil in your own home. For me personally, this may mean a Catholic School for my boys because I am Catholic, and because I know I am not fighting a different agenda or set of values outside my own. However this is not to say that a religious school will be the correct setting for all children….because it will not be. As a public school student myself, I know that a Catholic School Education is not the ‘essential’ ingredient to being a ‘good’ person.

A good school is one that sets high expectations for all students, not just the ones who are academically inclined. A good school has happy teachers and happy students. A good school is inclusive. A good school is a safe school where there is zero tolerance for bullying. A good school is one helps your child fulfil their own unique potential not one set out by a standardized test. A good school can be State, Catholic, Christian or Muslim School or even a shed in the middle of the Northern Territory.

I wanted these mums to stop trying to keep up with the Jones’ and to think about what is best for their child. It is not about that fancy college sticker that you can place on the back of your 4WD like a badge of honour.

So my decision for my own little man? I enrolled him at three different schools and will figure this out later! Instead of rushing my 3 year old off to school, I want to enjoy the time I have left with him at home instead of wishing away the next year.

where do you stand, Public? Private or are you in the who really cares camp?

For those of you interested, have a look at John Hattie’s ‘Visible Learning’. This book will really change any ideas you have about improving student outcomes. Amazing Research!

Awkward work toilet moments

When you work in schools or large office environments it is without doubt that you have encountered an ‘awkward shared toilet moment’. As a teacher in a large school, each trip to the toilet is an odd time, usually consisting of some controlled weeing pressure, loud talking or vigorous toilet paper ripping as a disguise to muffle the noise.

 Really when you begin to think about the logistics, whose bright idea was it to force relative strangers into the same tiny space to carry out their most ‘private’ business? Whilst I am intimate enough to share a wave with Wendy from the front office as we pass for the tenth time in the hallway, I certainly don’t want Wendy becoming a front row fan at my one woman toilet show.

 In some ways I admire those who can enter the shared toilet space and proceed as they would normally do at home. These toilet warriors have no shame what so ever and are happy just to let it all go, sharing their acoustic wee melody with all occupants. This person also doesn’t mind adding the occasional bottom burp to the mix. They figure, Hey, It is a toilet after all?

 Then there are those who take the cautious approach. They engage in polite yet pointless conversation over the cubicles in a not so discreet way to drown out the sound of the job at hand. Not sure I feel comfortable discussing report cards and children while reaching for the loo roll.

 What about the visitor who suffers from cubicle performance anxiety. This occupant enters at the same time as others but cannot proceed with business until the other person has at least started flushing the toilet.

 Some clever ladies out there who listened carefully to their doctors after giving birth are able to use the toilet to show off their amazing pelvic floor strength. These women are able to control the pressure and therefore the overall volume with more precision than a Foxtel remote. I applaud these strong and disciplined women, for I will never be one. I suspect I am headed for the ‘Nanna Nappy’ before the age of 50.

 My favourite toilet tales over the years have undoubtedly come from those who were suffering from ‘emergency’ toilet situations, with the consequences so disastrous they have had to wait in the cubicle until the room had cleared in an effort to avoid owning the‘pu-nami’. These poor souls, who are often experiencing the aftermath of a good curry have no time to employ the wit and caution of the above occupants. It is do or die.  It is the ‘emergency’ occupant who will also need to go one step further and sit with their legs tucked up to their chins so as to avoid the ‘shoe identification’ strategy. You know when you have a been a disgusted spectator and it is so bad that you can’t help but look at the shoes peering from under the door to see who it is that is struggling so badly in the cubicle. You walk out, sit at your desk then check every pair of shoes that leave the toilet for the next ten minutes hoping to positively I.D the ‘one’. The sole purpose of identification is of course to share the story with close colleagues and perhaps assign a completely unfair nickname to the owner of the black pointed heels.

 Lastly, I have also encountered my fair share of women who are too stupid to ensure that cubicles are empty before they begin a full scale bitch session about a co-worker. First rule of gossiping is 1. Don’t do it 2. If you must, then at least check for feet! Ignore this simple rule and you deserve to be caught.

 There are so many more stories to share on this unsavoury topic, but I will leave the rest to you guys.

 So don’t be shy, what toilet stories have you been keeping to yourself?

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Why men can just say ‘Nah’ and women let you down gently.

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Why is it when a man is asked to do something that they don’t particularly want to do they have absolutely no shame in telling the asker of the unreasonable request ‘Nah mate, I just can’t so it’? If the ‘asker’ of the request also happened to be a male, they feel even less need to elaborate on why they ‘can’t do it’ and the answer is just ‘Nah’. I have listened to my husband just say ‘no’ on many occasions and I must admit while one half of me is cringing at his unwavering honesty, I am always secretly envious of his ability not to get caught up in things he just doesn’t want to do. There’s never any beating around the bush. There’s never a pretend emergency, pregnant dog needing supervision, or apologetic tone promising their kidney in lieu of failed assistance….it is always a straightforward ‘no’.

Women on the other hand, when asked to do something that will be of great  inconvenience to us and at times outrageous will feel so backed into a corner that we end up buying a $900 lunch box from a Tupperware party even after swearing blind we wouldn’t be buying anything.

Why is it that women can’t just say ‘no’ to another women without feeling terrible or feeling the need to offer some amazing unearthly excuse? For some reason I think we feel as though honesty would have drastic effects on the friendship, and in all fairness it more than likely would. We know we are sensitive creatures and whilst a ‘nah’ to a male is just a ‘nah’, to a female it a monumental rejection of friendship. We are just a bunch of overthinking, oversensitive sooks.

 

This is what I would love to say:

 

No, I’m not coming to meet you tonight I’m going to see if I get a better offer first and then get back to you later if nothing pops up.

 

No I won’t be meeting you for a drink later, You’ll be drunk and vomiting by then and frankly it will be a monumental waste of make-up and perfume for myself.

 

No I am not ‘happy’ to go for Tapas because I always leave dinner starving because I have been too polite to be my usual piggish self. I hate that I will still end up having to put in $40 for my ‘alleged meal’ and will end up in the McDonald’s Drive Thru on the way home.

 No, I‘d really like to just sit on my couch and I’m not really in the mood for your crap tonight anyway.

Yes I do mind giving you a lift, in fact I am shocked you even asked …You actually live in the complete opposite direction. Are you kidding?

 No I don’t want to come for a play. It’s actually more relaxing putting pins in my eyes than it is listening to your child for two hours.

 No I really think me putting in $50 for a birthday present for someone I don’t really even speak to is unreasonable.

It’s interesting to note that I would have no problem saying any of this to a really close friend, so maybe the answer is ‘Proximity’ The further removed we are as friends, the less able we are to be completely honest when saying no.

 

I tried a little bit of this male honesty last week. Even though I still offered a small glimmer of hope, It felt great just saying ‘Look I’ll see what I can do but it doesn’t look good’. I felt like the situation was left ‘open’ and that the other person was waiting for a better excuse, but I was spent, I just couldn’t be bothered.

It was a small step, but at least I’m a little bit closer to that elusive ‘Nah’.

So are you a ‘no’ man or a ‘Yes, of course I’ll buy you coffee again even if it is your turn’ man?