CORNER BROOK — Gordon Porter believes inclusion is the most natural thing in the world.
The educator and director of Inclusive Education Initiatives presented a session on inclusive education at the Greenwood Inn and Suites on Thursday.
Porter, who is also the editor of the Inclusive Education Canada website inclusiveeducation.ca, spoke to parents, educators and agency professionals who deal with children with special needs at the pre-conference for the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living Conference taking place in the city today and Saturday. The session was sponsored by the Community Inclusion Initiative.
Porter’s session revolved around the theme of parents and teachers working together to make inclusion work.
“It means kids go to their neighbourhood schools with kids their own age in regular classes,” said Porter.
“If you’re seven years, old you go to the school just down the street. You go in a class with other seven-year-olds, and you’re supported if you have extra needs.
“It’s so simple, it’s that simple,” said Porter.
But Porter said total inclusion in education is still not happening.
“It’s gradually changing,” he said.
To facilitate that change, Porter told those gathered that parents and teachers need to work together.
“We have to stop just talking about whether inclusion is a good idea and actually work on making it happen.”
He said if local schools were introducing a new way to teach math that people wouldn’t need to gather and talk about it. Instead they would figure if the new way is better and then teachers will learn it and do it.
“But with inclusive education, it’s not taken for granted. It is not universally supported," he said.
One of the challenges for inclusive education is making sure classroom teachers have the support they need to work with children with special needs. Porter said in order to do that the role of resource teachers may need to change.
Porter said in Newfoundland and Labrador the ratio of resource teachers to students is about one to 80. The problem is in most cases the teachers spend time working with the kids individually or in groups and then the children go back to the regular class and the resource teachers don’t have time to spend with the classroom teacher.
He said it may be necessary to stop the resource teachers from working with the kids outside the regular classroom and instead have them spend more time in the regular classroom co-operating with, team teaching or coaching classroom teachers.
“The question that needs to be asked is do these resource teachers only spend time in a room with kids and have no time with the regular teacher, or do they spend time with the teachers who have the kids 80 per cent of the time.”