Inclusion and Academia – The bitter sweet symphony

“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” 

  Thomas A. Edison

I  decided to use this quote, because this year was ninety-nine percent of perspiration in my life, I mean, it really was…

First, I had great moments that I have already described in this blog. Doing an online MA is not that easy as I thought. It takes discipline, autonomy, self-control  and hardworking efforts. Most of the time, you have to review some concepts that it is no longer appropriated to your project. You have to understand the point of view of your advisor who is not in the same context that you are and, it can be frustated but in some situations a relief. The life in the Academia is a bitter sweet symphony.

Second, when you challenge yourself to another level, you have to face it. There is no turning back. In May, I enrolled for a teacher position at one of the most important University in Brazil. I passed at the 4th place, it really surprised me and I felt very happy. I am working with a group of amazing professionals who I have been learning and sharing with them all.  I teach nowadays English for Academic Purpose – EAP.

Third, I have the chance to put into practices what I have been doing since 2011. The first day at the University, I was heading to my class, when a young-blondie-girl around her 20 somethings asked me – ‘Where is the room F-205?’. I told her that I was going to the same classroom and she asked me in just one-minute-conversation at least 10 questions…

She told me that she was very anxious to learn how to write a paragraph, because of her TCC. In fact, I did not realize that she would come to me at the end of the class and reveal that she was diagnosed with ADHD some months ago and for the first time she was comfortable enough to exposure herself with a ‘Professor’*. It really caught me by surprised! Therefore, I welcomed her to my class.

I reckon that she did not miss more than 2 lessons in a schedule of 14 meetings. She used to carry with her a heavy-backpack full of papers and folders in different colors for each subjects.It was awkward situation, because the other students stopped to see her desperately seeking  for something in her bag.

There was the moment that she got lost with her papers, and she almost panicked. After that, I asked her to wait for some minutes after the class and, we talked a little bit and  I gave her a pack of post-it. I suggested her to start writing her routine in that small papers; from morning to evening; and create a to-do-list. If something she forgot to do in the previous day, she should put for the next day in priority.

She took this suggestion as an advice. She showed me how she had improved herself, that heavy-backpack full of stuff, now it was light with just few things that she really needed for each day at the university.

Not only she improved herself to her routines, but also her focus on studying. Her paragraph was easier to understand, she developed her concentration in some specific moments during the class, what helped her a lot during her writing process.

When our course finished, she sent me an email, saying that she was feeling more confident and less anxious. That email made my day, weeks and gave more strength to move on. Besides, I was ready for my new group. I reckoned with someone who did not conclude the previous course, one could join this it again…. and it happened.

One of those students who quit the course had returned and, it was the most enigmatic one. He attended some classes from the previous course but suddenly he disappeared. I sent some emails asking him to come back but no answers, nothing at all. I thought that, he did not like the course, maybe because it was easy or diffucult, lots of question were in my head.

The first-day for this new group had arrived and he was there. I felt very happy, he gave me a second chance what I hold on to. I decided to create some activities to engage the whole class.  Now with this group, I should be more patient.

Some of them were threatened to speak in English. They were afraid of making mistakes IMG_0856and their classmates could laugh at them. I told them that the course was ‘writing production’. However, in some situations I would like to work with them some speaking activities just for brainstorming the ideas to write, otherwise it would be very boring. So, they accepted my proposal.

I thought that he would not accepted my request and with his “limitted english” (he argued that) he was interacting with the other students, putting his point of view and participating with the whole classrrom now.

That was fabulous, but one thing was not right. There were some moments in the class that, he did not understand some jokes presenting in the activities. One of those jokes, it was the adjective “stubborn” and the text gave the example “like a mule” he could not understand the meaning behind these two contexts in the text. He understood literal meaning. He thought the text was offensive.

It was the moment that I realized that something was not as it seems. There were some social behavior conflicts, visual contact surrounding his attitudes.   I could not ask him if he has autism, because he could feel uncomfortable.

So, I decide to explain the text in a different way. As some of the students did not understand the word stubborn, I tried to use real examples to come up with the meaning, using famous people attitudes, memes and, BINGO! Everybody else got it!  In that was the day, my perspiration works a lot! 

Besides, the class was very challenging for some of them, everyone learned something including myself. At the end of the class, he asked me to talk a little bit, and in a certain time, he told me his story of overcoming barriers, stigmas and diveristies.

He is an Asperger adult, he was diagnosed in 2010, he entered to the university through the accessibility process of Berenice Piana’s Law  (This is a brazilian law which gave all people with autism spectrum access to study in regular schools and universities across the country, it is a federal law).

That day, I was in his eyes my son. I looked at him and I said “I am here to help you, please do not turn away, it is difficult but you will get it. Look at yourself and see where you are now.” And today in a rainy saturday night, I am correcting his 2nd paragraph. Updating this post, he concluded the course with flying colors!

I write this post full of joy, because I can feel what their parents went through to get him in this stage. It is challenging  and demanding  to raise kids with disabilities in many parts of the world. It is  tough to plan their future and most of the time difficult is to include them in any sphere of education.

I have been working in many contexts; private x public; school x university. I hope seeing the inclusive education more vivid, more open and dynamic…

I wish all the teachers around the world Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year…

 

P.S- I choose Thomas A. Edison quote because he suffered a lot in his school time, a teacher sent to his mom a letter saying “your son is mentally deficient. We cannot let him attend our school anymore. He is expelled” His mother taught him until she got ill and  she could not see how he was important to the world.

* Professor in portuguese also means Teacher ( schools or institutions) or Professor (academic context) I am not a professor yet, so I am a Teacher.

 

I recommend two articles for those who are facing challenging and demanding situations at their classroom:

Motivating Teachers to include everyone

Building a culture of inclusion   

Soundtrack for this post – The Verve

 

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Lego Batman is a big deal for ‘Team Work’

lego“If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change”  Michael Jackson

 

Hello There,

It has been a long time since I posted here. Lot of things have happened and I would like to share with you some lessons plans for Young Learner. Actually,  I have done with my students and also with my kids at home these activities. It might be helpful for your students as well. Moreover, I have been involved with some projects, adapting some materials for an inclusive curriculum.

We have just started a new school year in Brazil. Maybe some of you are working in a new School, of course new students  (just a typical situations for us, right?). In some cases, new methodologies and approaches will come in our ways. Perhaps it may be our first time teaching these methodologies (well, you left your comfort zone?! that’s totally fine and very important to your own development!). There is a moment that you realize that everything is not awesome! It can be very complicated sometimes (yes, it is) – new friends, new staff room, everything is different and WE FEEL ALONE and no empathy…

According to the dictionary Merriam-WebsterEmpathy is the ability of being aware of and sharing another person’s feelings, experiences, and emotions’

I will share with you what a cartoon suggested by one of my kids made me thinking about ’empathy’  and create a lesson plan for my new students.

Last Sunday, we went to see a movie called ‘The Lego Batman’. My daughter was so excited to watch it. One of her friends recommended it and, it was my son’s birthday too. My son simply loves Lego and Batman (perfect combination).

 I have to confess that at the beginning it was pretty silly, just coloful bricks building situations, what I could not have taken into account, it was how many “hidden messages” appeared in there.  Every new scene tried to touch us straight to the head and heart. It was not only for kids, but it was also for all of us.

In a world where ‘egocentrism’ is showing its ugly face, some people don’t see the power of togetherness, community and friendship with good eyes. Lego Batman nailed it. We can not live isolate, NO WAY!! So this is the same thing to our classroom, our school and on.

Just telling a little bit about the story, Batman (Lego) was very confident about himself! No super hero was better than him! He did everything alone in his ‘entire’ life. However, he could not have imagined that ‘Team Work’ would helped him to defeat his most powerful enemy – ‘loneliness’.

Most of the time, we face some situations as shown in this kid’s movie. In our classes, We have the outgoing kids and the shy ones. It is not an easy task to make them working together. However, they have different behaviors, working their differences  can turn into a wonderful team work full of empathy.

And How can we engage these two opposite personalities?  Well, there is not a magic formula, but building some strategies to raise ’empathy’ in class, it might improve themselves to work as a big group in and outside school. 986c2de92af8bb5be23d1aac38713c43

Everything was not awesome this time with that poor Lego character.  Batman went to visit Superman, he thought that Superman was really sad and alone. However, He had no idea that The Justice League Compatriots were having a good time all together with Superman and no one cared about Batman’s presence at the party. Surly Batman’s isolation was the huge problem in his life but when he decided to change his way of living and worked as a Team, he saw that it was easier to handle. This time Batman did everything right! In a movie it seems to be easy. On the other hand,  how tough is to deal with ’empathy’ in everyday life?

Therofore, in an inclusive classroom team work is essential to make a better place to interact and learn. There are no limitation, no fear, no isolation. We are all together, helping each other to overcome our barriers or trying walk with our friends’ shoes. We can make it possible by doing from simple actions to a big challenge. For an inclusive atmosphere, it is necessary  set up some goals during the semester and measure how these actions will develop with the whole group.

I will share with you an activity that you can help your students to work their ’empathy’

Young Learners activity – 7-10 years old

Time:10-15min (It can be a warm-up or a ice-breaker activities)

Aim of the activity: Raise the idea of team work to create a board for Superhero of the day. One day of the week, one student will be the super hero in class. He or She has to help a friend in needed.  So, let’s see how it goes.

Super hero in our class!

1- Find out what kind of abilities your students may have:

  • someone who loves to draw or write
  • someone who can sing, dance or play an instrument
  • someone who knows other languages (Spanish, English)
  • someone who practices sports…

 

2- Motivate the “Hero of the day” share with the entire class what is his/her superpower and weakness.

First give them your own example (Modeling) – My super power is ‘sing’ and ‘dance’, you can show them a videoclip and ask them to dance and sing all together to break the ice. I usually use this video ‘What does the Fox say’ it is top #10 in my classes and they love Just Dance games.

 

3- Encourage them to be superhero everywhere.

The good things they have shared with you during the classes, you can ask them to do it outside as well. Stimulate them to be a good friend and citizen.

  • Help their parents, granparents at home (doing their errands, make their beds, go shopping…)
  • Read or tell a story to a small kid, or special friend, or for elderly people
  • Help them to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle things at school and at home.
  • Teach them the importance of playing Fair games.

 

 

4- Use the social media to interact with other classroom*

This is an example how I use social media (Twitter) with them. I pos16934095_10203022191152353_320569471_nted just the chorus from Michael Jackson’s song  from Lego’s soundtrack, and an Unofficial Lego Batman just replied . It was cool, the kids got really surprised when I showed them the tweet, they just said ‘WOW’.

Most of the time, when I use social media, I ask  for permission. In Brazil, we have some laws that it is not allowed using classroom pictures without parental consent* (*parents should be aware of using social medias during your classes. It is part of your lesson but it is necessary for their kids securities.

 

This activity help them to interact with everyone. Not only the school enviromnent but also wherever they will be. Their superpower is there,  ready to help a friend, their family  or even improve themselves. It is an active that raise equality, diversity and friendship. If we teach our kids kindness and respect, we will let them  grow up in a better place. Don’t forget that kids learn by examples.

 

Sources:

Good readers quotes

Edutopia

LegoTM

Youtube

U.S Department of Health and Human Services