This is a slightly edited repost of a previous post.
Some time back a colleague was upset by the way that we had handled an incident in school. He quoted the idea that in the GP surgery there is a sign saying ‘we do not tolerate physical or verbal abuse’ and said that we should adopt the same zero tolerance approach to protect our staff and pupils.
I heard myself saying out loud the type of thing that I have only previously written in my blog posts (example here: https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/included-or-not/); that much as the post office may like to create an illusion that people will never suffer meltdowns, get upset or shout on their premises, they are actually only helping to create a world that demonises those who struggle with self control or have a different operating system. It did not go down too well.
Of course as a school leader I want school to be a place where staff and pupils feel safe, happy and where learning can take place I disturbed.
But I also want to lead a school where we all understand and accommodate the needs of others.
Where, when a meltdown has happened, we ensure that everyone gets a chance to debrief and learn; the staff and pupils who were present and the pupil who lost control. And I want staff to buy into that vision and approach and not see certain pupils as the responsibility of ‘the special needs’ department.
Is that asking too much? Am I too much idealist and too little realist? I have worried of late that I might be.
Recently we have been using a resource in school called “I Am Me” it looks to raise awareness of disability hate crime but also to explore general issues around inclusion and how we need to work together to allow all members of our communities to thrive. The resource consists of a brilliant film (originally a live play that toured schools) and associated workshop materials: http://www.iammescotland.co.uk/training-and-educational-resources/disability-hate-crime-training-resource/
We have also looked at the teenage brain and ideas about peer pressure, the bystander effect and moral dilemmas.
But in spite of all the theorising and empathic discussion around the situation and character of Charlie, the autistic protagonist of I Am Me, we found out last week that a member of our community who has a learning disability and travels on the service bus that also serves as a school bus feels intimidated and harassed.
And so I talked to those pupils who take the bus. About Charlie and his community and then about this lady and us. I talked about the absolute need for us to see this as our challenge. And I think that the pupils took it on board.
Maybe just my idealism again…. But I do hope that things will change.
Paying lip service to inclusion is not enough. We need to help children to learn what inclusion really is by creating caring, comprehensive school communities where they can learn about each other’s strengths and needs. Where we don’t segregate pupils with additional needs and see them as someone else’s responsibility. Where we discuss challenges openly and honestly with all in the community and find solutions together.
In the eighties, Care in The Community became synonymous with austerity measures that were detrimental to the wellbeing of the most vulnerable in our society.
I am absolutely committed to the idea, however, that schools can be at the heart of caring communities which are inclusive, compassionate and understanding.
If I am over-idealistic then I need to find another job. But I hope I’m not.