“Progressive, inclusive, learner-centric education practices, based on the most effective methods of learning from the most current research in education and cognitive science, provide a supportive, academically-rich learning environment to the widest range of students possible.” - Nina Fiore
Strong connections exist between what inclusive educators and progressive educators believe.
Both believe that each student can and must be educated to become thoughtful and active citizens of the world. The progressive educator’s conviction that human diversity has many dimensions is similar to the belief that inclusive educators hold, which is not only that humanity is diverse, but that learning together with our varied strengths and challenges makes us better advocates and better humans. There also exists a love and encouragement of divergent thinkers who bring their authentic selves forward, willing to risk and imagine what their education can be.
What was it about The Mead School that existed already that made this an ideal home for inclusion? There are many reasons that made it ideal, but most important was its progressive educational pedagogy, with over 50 years of implementing a whole child philosophy with passionate teachers and bright, engaged learners who already knew how to challenge and support.
Progressive Pedagogy: the Ideal Philosophy to Coexist with Inclusion
“Sit still, sit quiet, listen” is a challenge for any child, and yet this is asked of our children daily in schools modeled on traditional philosophies of education. Often class sizes are large and student differences are felt as burdensome. Students who are twice exceptional are ‘othered’ and removed from the community to spend much of their day in remediation, never challenged or understood for their giftedness. Even when schools promote their inclusion programs, often 2e students are only included during specials or unstructured times when few teachers are available to ensure social emotional development.
Progressive pedagogy embraces relationship, multimodality learning, and social emotional development, and makes it an ideal philosophy to coexist with inclusion. Mead understands the value of neurodiversity, and that with difference also comes creativity and giftedness. Mead places a high value on experiential learning. Experiential learning allows material to become both relevant and multi-sensory, enabling learners greater access to material. Skills are embedded in relevant curriculum, so twice exceptional students are able to develop skills they need through content that excites them. Teachers are skilled at leading conversations about both strengths and challenges, allowing students to develop empathy for each other and for themselves. Students are taught to challenge themselves and dive deeper into their strengths and passions while at the same time advocating for their challenges. Small and blended classes allow for both challenge and support, allowing each student to get what they need.
Strong, Trusting Teacher-Student Relationships
The development of trusting relationships between teachers and students is integral to educating the whole child. Teachers at Mead ensure children are deeply understood so that all parts of who they are can be brought to life and considered in their education. This is essential for 2e students. Knowing when a student is anxious, or having a bad day makes all the difference in building trust and understanding, as a teacher can then decide when to challenge and when to be flexible. The social emotional development is considered as important to development as academics. Unstructured times are opportunities when teachers are on hand and are paying attention to a student’s play, friendships and conversations. During these times, teachers help facilitate peer interaction and ensure that social goals are being met and generalized. Conversations are facilitated and conflict resolution is modeled.
Mead, like progressive schools in general, holds the principles of equity and diversity at its heart, and faculty spends time reflecting on themselves as progressive educators. The addition of inclusion reinvigorates the role of the educator to reflect on current practice as well as all of the latest research into brain development and learning to ensure each learner thrives. Within the heart of progressive schools lives a deep respect of difference and community. This heart was here from the beginning of Mead’s existence and made this the perfect place for a progressive inclusion program to live and coexist.