After the conference ended, we had a few open days to explore and travel. On Thursday, our group and Marymont went to the Spier Winery for a wine tasting and ate dinner in Stellanbosch. On Friday, we went on a boat tour to look at a large population of seals in Hout Bay, ate snacks on Chapman’s Peak, watched penguins swim at Boulder Beach, went on a bike ride and saw ostriches, walked up to a light house at Cape of Good Hope, and walked along the edge of the ocean to the “most southwestern point” of Africa. It was an incredible day with breathtaking views. The following day, we went to the Old Biscuit Mill Market where I ate shakshuka and shopped for souvenirs at the Green Market. It was the most incredible trip and I’m so thankful to have had this experience!
Inclusive Education in Developing Countries: A Case Study from Guatemala – Alfredo Artiles (2018)
Dr. Artiles (2018) discussed how special education in Guatemala created a sense of belonging for students, which he noted was nice for the families and learners, however school did not make a difference in the learning and development of learners. Families enjoyed how for the first time their children were not only able to leave the house, but were accepted and appreciated. However, these families were lower socioeconomic status and lived in rural towns, how were they supposed to pay for transportation, uniforms, and supplies for their students, when this education wouldn’t even lead to an increase in social mobility? Artiles discussed the importance of social development in order to fully implement inclusive practices. Artiles said, “education is a strong arm of change”. He mentioned that it is a deliberate process and we must continue to fight. This work is an ongoing struggle and we will never see the end of it, but it was comforting to see everyone at this conference from all over the world be passionate about making a difference in spite of this fact. I feel that it is important to remember when the going gets tough, although we may never see the change, we know that the system is slowly evolving.
Journey for Inclusion- Chaeli Mycroft
Mycroft (2018) is an ability activist and has lived an incredible life. Mycroft and her mom discussed how inclusion can’t be learned, it needs to be lived. I loved when she discussed how we don’t need to change special education students, we need to change the mindset of able bodied students. She said the best way to do this is to have open discussions and “remove the air of mystique”. When students get to know one another and have a greater understanding, differences are no longer scary or foreign. As a general education teacher, this was important for me to hear and I will definitely implement this mindset into my future classroom.
What Will Improve the Reading of Children with Both ADHD and Reading Disabilities? – Carolyn A. Denton, Leanne Tamm (2018)
Denton and Tamm (2018) discussed that in order to help children with ADHD and reading disabilities it is important to provide separate interventions for ADHD and their reading disabilities. They provided tips to engage these learners by creating active involvement time during lessons. For example, I could incorporate manipulatives, hands on activities, quick pacing, little downtime, and clear, positive, corrective feedback into my future classroom.
Learning Support In South African Rural Schools- Rebekka Jez & Lawrence Meda (2018)
Meda (2018) discussed that we need to holistically review the school in order to see how parents, teachers, learners, and the community collaborate. Additionally, they discussed how differentiation is not lowering expectations for our students, but identifying learners who need more support. A major outcome from this study was the importance of teacher education and professional development. As a general educator, this serves as an important reminder for me to hold high expectations for all of my students.
Embracing Inclusive Practices: The Case for Zambia and Zimbabwe – Lindiwe Magaya, Florence Muwana (2018)
In Zambia and Zimbabwe, students with hearing impairments, autism, and severe intellectual disabilities are still not included in the classroom. Magaya and Muwana (2018) discussed the importance of shifting cultural beliefs to be more supportive of inclusive education. They believe teacher education, international collaboration, parental involvement, and policy/ administrative support will be the answer. They call for educators to push implementation forward. I enjoy that they have a holistic approach to looking at this issue. In the United States, there continues to be a stigma surrounding disability in our culture. This study is a reminder to myself that I am an integral part in my community who can help facilitate acceptance and appreciation of those who are different.
Creating A Culturally Responsive Classroom- Julie Phillip, Josephine F Gurira (2018)
Phillip and Gurira (2018) began their presentation with a white privilege exercise that was very eye opening. One woman from the audience had a insightful comment “No matter where you are in the line, you all matter. We all come from different backgrounds but we are all here today”. This activity is one I have done before, but it was nice to experience it again and have an opportunity to reexamine the privileges I have in my life. I reflected on the importance of valuing the perspectives of others and how I can use my privilege to embrace the voices of others who have fewer privileges than myself. Phillip and Gurira provided tips to incorporate culturally relevant pedagogy such as embracing language, providing multicultural literature, and being aware of your own bias.
Implementing Culturally Responsive Practices Through Narrative Fiction When Working with Students with Autism and Families- Brenda Barrio, Yun-Ju Hsiao, Teresa Cardon (2018)
Barrio (2018) discussed how literature is an effective tool in facilitating empathy and greater understanding of other’s perspectives of students on the autism spectrum. Additionally, Barrio noted to be weary of literature because it can become stereotypical representations of individuals. I plan to incorporate a diverse range of literature in my future classroom’s library because I believe it is important for students to feel represented in the classroom. Also, I agree with Barrio that literature is a great way for people to learn about people, places, and things that are different from them.
Creating Conditions for Systemic and Sustainable Inclusive Practices- Sowmya Kumar (2018)
Dr. Kumar (2018) discussed how to create change and implement inclusive practices within the school administration. Kumar worked for Huston School District as the Director of Special Education. She portrayed how we must put ourselves out there in order to actually make a change. For example, she told the textbook company that their district would no longer be ordering books from them unless they created online textbooks which could be used on their students’ tablet technology. Then, that company promptly made changes to their textbooks. We cannot just wait for change to happen, we must do something about it. There are many heavily seeded systemic issues in the United States education system, however it is possible to change. This presentation happened to be extra special for me because Dr. Kumar is my best friend’s aunt. It was exciting to listen to her speak and learn about the school administrative system.
Changemakers' Collaborative Project: Pre-Service Teachers Framing, Convening, and Igniting Inclusive Practices Across Countries - Rebekka Jez, Kassidy Brown, Shelby Dorrance, Paige Kennick, Stephanie Giertsen, Jeffrey Hilbert, Kadesha Martin,
Eleni Stang, Antonio Marques, Sarah Eichler, Amelia Hobart (2018)
We presented on what we learned from our changemaker project. We began by explaining the framework of our project which consisted of our email exchange with the South African educators and our readings from Can We Talk About Race? and Inclusive Practices in African Contexts. Then, we explained the convening process when we met with our groups and began discussing problems we notice in the education system and possible solutions. Finally, we depicted our ignite process, when we created and presented our changemaker project at Wits University. We all wrote changemaker pledges to commit to creating change with our future classrooms. I learned a lot from this project and I’m thankful for the relationships I’ve made with the South African educators.
We attended the DISES conference from July 3rd through July 5th. DISES stands for Division of International Special Education. We watched presentations and presented our changemaking project on July 4th. The following posts will consist of overviews of the presentations I listened to.
Afrocentric Lens on Inclusive Education -Dr. Nareadi Phasha (2018)
The DISES conference began with the first keynote speaker, Dr. Nareadi Pasha (2018) who wrote the text book we read to prepare for this trip, Inclusive Education in African Contexts. Pasha (2018) described how to take a broader inclusive approach by shifting our understanding and using the perspective of African people. Pasha (2018) discussed that the African perspective is marginalized knowledge. “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” means a person is a person because of other people. This moral principle paints a picture of the importance of community when raising a child in African culture. Pasha noted that humanness, interdependence, and communalism are all important principles which should be integrated into the child’s education. If we take into consideration the African perspective it will remove barriers to inclusion and help the implementation of educational practices.
Designing Culturally Responsive and Relevant IEPS: A Tool to Guide Teachers, Parents, and Administrators- Brenda Barrio, Yun- Ju Hsiao, Michael Dunn, Aleksandra Hollingshead (2018)
Barrio (2018) discussed the importance of building off students’ backgrounds and taking culture into consideration when planning IEPs. She provided a set of questions called CRIBB which can be used to get to know families and maintain cultural competence. Strength-based planning will empower the students and their families, as well as design a culturally responsive IEP.
A Change in Perspective: Embracing Inclusion Through Peer Programs- Gina Grogan, John McConnell, Nikki Sneed (2018)
Grogan, McConnell, and Sneed (2018) discussed a program called Full Spectrum Learning at their university which supports students on the autism spectrum. This program is student led program which offers peer mentors, faculty mentors, tutoring, academic and career support centers, and many other resources. They spoke about the importance of disrupting the disability stigma and focusing on the exceptionalities of individuals. Also, how they are preparing their students to be successful in the real world. Finally, this program facilitates understanding between different perspectives and brings people together.
Social Acceptance of Students With Special Education Needs: A Multiple Perspective Approach- Lisa Hoffmann (2018)
Hoffmann (2018) portrayed results from a study on the social acceptance and popularity of students with special needs. Hoffman found that teachers rated students without special needs as more popular than students with special needs. Additionally, teachers distinguished between popularity and social acceptance. A discussion followed the presentation on how disability is portrayed in that community. The audience found a need to educate society on inclusion, disability, acceptance, and appreciation.
Project CREED: Globally Ready & Culturally Responsive Educators- Cathy Kea (2018)
Kea (2018) discussed the importance of Culturally Responsive Education in schools. Following the presentation, I asked for tips for pre-service teachers who want to implement culturally responsive pedagogy in schools but may not be in an environment where these practices are supported or encouraged. Kea responded that in interviews I should be armed with questions to learn if this school supports culturally responsive pedagogy. Additionally, I should have conversations such as, “If I’m hired, I plan to do x, y, and z”. There are many progressive schools which embrace inclusion and its up to me to seek out that environment.
We did a tour of Lebone college, a campus with approximately 700 students ranging from Grade R (kindergarten) to Grade 12. Lebone is funded by the King of the Bafokeng region who is the wealthiest king in South Africa. I noticed many elements of Universal Design Learning while touring the campus. From accessible buildings, to open floor plans, and flexible seating, the design of the school created an opportunity for inclusive education practices to flourish. The walls were covered in beautiful mosaics with phrases such as “I am proud where I’m going. I’m proud because I’m African”. The library had multiple reading nook areas. it was warm and inviting, definitely a place where students will foster their love for reading. I’m interested in learning about the demographics of their school. Specifically, what the students’ home languages are and whether they are included in the curriculum. I appreciated that the school provides every student with a backpack when they enroll in the school. Small acts such as these create an inclusive and equitable environment. Especially when the learner population draws from diverse backgrounds. Unfortunately, it was disheartening to see the drastic difference between Lebone College and Thaba Jabula school in Soweto. Thaba Jabula had little resources in comparison to Lebone. I would like to learn more about why certain schools are more heavily funded by the South African king because it seems unjust.
We stayed at the gorgeous Ivory Tree Lodge in Pilanesberg National Park. This park is located near the border of Botswana. We arrived mid morning and our safari was not until 3PM so we decided to sign up for archery. It was very fun and I learned that I have horrible aim. After lunch, we left for our sunset safari and excitement was in the air. We saw wildebeests, pumbas, imapalas, African wild cats, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, and a family of zebras! It was incredibly exciting and the icing on the cake was ending the night with a drink on the dock watching lions walk along the ridge. The following morning, we left at 6:30 AM for a sunrise safari. Our group was dying to see elephants but we didn’t want to get our hopes up. While driving through the park, we kept coming across elephant dung and knew they must be close. We saw a leopard sleeping on a rock. Apparently, there are around 30 leopards in the park, so it was a rare sighting. Then, we came across two young male lions taking a walk by the lake. We stopped for hot chocolate and snacks. We were about to head back to the lodge and then someone noticed an elephant. Everyone rushed to the fence and we watched an entire herd of elephants feed and drink. It was incredibly moving and made me cry. I’m so thankful that we were able to have this experience.
We went to Wits School of Education to present our changemaking projects and listen to key note speaker presentations. My favorite part of the day was our key note speaker, Dr. Erasmos Charamba (2018) and his talk on Multilanguaging and Infinite Relations of Dependency: Re-theorizing Reading Literacy from Ubuntu in the Global South. He discussed how colonialism affected the languages spoken in South Africa. The current system is not inclusive of all languages. My main takeaway is that all languages are equal and have value! It was so beautiful to hear this because I believe we struggle with this same concept in the United States. Hundreds of languages are spoken in the US yet we often view our bilingual students from a deficit perspective. Dr. Charamba described the importance of utilizing Sankofa, a phrase which means “the past informs the future”. It is important for us to reflect on the past and how we can use these experiences to help us grow. He offered us an educational strategy to implement in our classrooms called translanguaging. Translanguaging is an effective way to maximize communication by using multiple languages or different forms of communication to create understanding. It was a beautiful and informative presentation.
Before our presentation, Sven lead a song that he believes is from Ethiopia. It goes:
“ Zoom galle galle galle zoom galle galle
I will sing all day as I work, I will work all day as I sing.”
When I teach, I feel alive and that I have a purpose. I truly feel I can “sing” while teaching. It was invigorating being around so many passionate educators discussing ways in which we can improve the education system.
We met our change making group at a school in Johannesburg. Our goal was to discuss the multitude of problems we face in school and move toward solutions. I was in group two with Paige from USD, Sami and Maddy from Marymont, and Dumisa, Nanile, Zenzeleni, and Sven, our South African educators. While discussing challenges in the education system, we identified many similarities between the United States and South Africa. Sven took on a facilitation role for the group by directing our conversation, prodding us to think deeper, and fostering connections. We realized that many of our challenges boiled down to one common theme of collaboration. We made a “human sculpture” of what collaboration represented to us and what collaboration was not. When we acted out collaboration, our arms were intertwined, linked strongly by the elbows, we were smiling, and our bodies were close together. Then, we did the opposite by facing away from one another, arms crossed, angry faces, closed off bodies, and little to no interaction with one another. This physical experience helped us along our process in figuring out what collaboration truly is and how we should create an action plan to facilitate collaboration.
I learned many things from my group members which I plan to implement during student teaching this coming year and in my future classroom. For example, Dumisa explained how he and some of his classmates get together after class and discuss the lecture. He said how some students would leave the lecture without a complete grasp on the information. However, by talking it out with classmates everyone was able to bring what they knew to the table and help paint a fuller picture of the lecture. I will definitely implement this in my classroom because I believe it will not only help English Language Learners, but all students consolidate the information learned that day. Instead of an exit card, I would have students discuss takeaways from the lesson. Additionally, we were discussing the importance of life long learning and promoting curiosity in the classroom. Sven suggested that teachers should do a presentation at the end of each semester on what they learned from their students. I feel this would be a fun and encouraging platform to empower students and show them that we learn from them everyday.
We met the Marymont group at the Lebo’s Soweto Tours. Our guide, Imfundo was incredible. In IsiZulu, Imfundo means education, very fitting for this group of teachers. Soweto has many meanings. The government used the term Soweto for South Western Townships. The people who were forced to move referred to Soweto as “So where to? ” because they did not know where the government was placing them. Now, the citizens refer to Soweto as “so we too can make change”. It is moving to see the beautiful progress which has occurred in this town. The bike tour was the perfect way to experience Soweto because we were able to interact with the locals. As we biked through the town, children came up to us and gave us high fives. We greeted them with “Sanibonani” or responded with “Yebo”. Also, we biked past Nelson Mandela’s first house and saw a traditional dance which was incredibly moving. We stopped for a snack called a “fat cake” which is similar to a doughnut. It was the perfect way to start the trip!
After landing in Johannesburg, we were able to meet some of the South African educators at the Apartheid Museum. Paige and I met our group members Nanile, Dumisa, and Zenzeleni. The apartheid museum was very eye opening and moving. On the entry ticket, everyone either had “white” or “non white” on the ticket which corresponded with the door we were supposed to enter the museum in. I learned many things which contributed to the start of apartheid including, racial classification, gold mining, townships, and overall systemic oppression.
I enjoyed the “We Are the Storytellers” portion of the outdoor exhibit. It spoke about a native language which went extinct due to colonization. I reflected on the similarities with the United States current issues, “In our stories we carry knowledge from one generation to the next, yet recorded history silences voices at the edge of power”. Who are the recorded voices in our history textbooks? Who is not present and not provided a voice? Who has power and privilege?
The South African educators range in age in my group. I asked them about the current state of South Africa. Was reconciliation enough to resolve the issues that came from apartheid? Is there equality? Does more change need to occur? The older generation talked about how today is much better than apartheid times. Whereas the younger generation discussed how there is a serious need for change, many things need to occur for equality, and that people need to continue fighting for civil rights. Obviously, this is not a generalization for entire generations, however I found it interesting to note. This echoed Winnie Mandela’s call to the younger generation to be active in the fight to end apartheid.