Small school with a big heart. That’s our motto. This encapsulates our school due to the countless hours teachers and support staff spend supporting students’ needs that go beyond the classroom. AD Rundle is an inner city middle school with a very diverse population. From free breakfast and lunch programs, to donations from multiple community partners, the school staff work hard to make sure our students get everything they need, which includes working towards being a truly inclusive school.
Over the past few years, AD Rundle has changed their approach to student support. The student services department has evolved from having enrolling segregated life skills classes, to learning assistance/aboriginal support classes, to students being fully integrated with NO scheduled support blocks. Staff has adapted their language and support models to adapt to the change in structure. The support rooms are currently flexible and adapt to student needs. For example, the Resource or ‘Special Needs’ classroom has been renamed “The Cove” to reduce stigma of entering the room because ALL students are welcome to receive supports in there throughout the day. The room is set up to be calm and quiet, with soft lighting, mediation music, essential oils diffusing, home-like comfortable furniture, and a sensory room (also renamed to the “Glow Room”). There are other support places located about the school for small group or one-to-one support, or pull-out supports, with EAs or the support teacher.
Student Services has also changed their support organization to the non-categorical model of support. This structure is in its second year and still developing. Up until 3 years ago, students were case managed based on their category. If they were Category A to G, they were supported by the resource teacher. If they had a Category of K or Q (or an uncategorized learning need), they were supported by the learning assistance teacher. This caused the support teachers to have to be spread out throughout the school, and with our current model of full integration, it was very difficult to support inclusion in all the classrooms effectively. Supports often overlapped and teachers were confused about who to go to about which student. Now, case management and support is organized by classes. Each support teacher takes a group of teachers and supports any student in that classroom, so that they have a range of categories on their caseload. This has reduced the number of contacts for not only the support teachers, but the classroom teachers as well.
With the move from partial segregation and scheduled support classes, there was a strong need for training and supports in-class for classroom teachers who now had students with a diverse range of needs in class all day long. Support teachers, who are now moving out of the more traditional model of life skills classes, are now needing to collaborate effectively with classroom teachers to move from integration to inclusion. This is our school’s current area of need – how can support and classroom teachers work together to create universally designed classrooms and lessons (UDL) to support inclusion.
As our own initiative to support this need, we had the privilege of welcoming Shelley Moore into our school in 2017-18 for 5 in-depth planning sessions. At each session, we would cover off a group of teachers to collaborate in a small group with her for the entire day. The team consisted of an administrator, a support teacher, classroom teachers and an EA. The team would select a class and a topic and then compete a classroom profile, RTI support triangles, and a learning map for a whole unit. Then they would narrow down to one lesson and plan a UDL lesson as a group. Then, Shelley would co-teach this lesson with the classroom teacher in the afternoon and then debrief with the team afterwards and present the day’s events to the rest of the staff afterwards during collaboration time.
See https://youtu.be/crNw5Ep_y-o for an 11-minute video created by Nicole Bertrand that summarizes one of these planning sessions and the impact that it had.
Our plan is to continue what we started with Shelley and build on the same structure. We would like to focus training and supports around UDL and building capacity to support inclusion with all staff. Within this objective, we would like to increase technology use in each classroom. UDL often incorporates technology as a learning tool, whether it for written output support, reading support or math application apps, and is commonly only offered to students who ‘need it’. We would like to change that mindset and offer these supports to ALL students. As Shelley Moore says, support for one are supports for all! Therefore, if one student needs technology to be successful, then all kids should have the choice and opportunity to use it as well. To make this possible, we do need more technology in the school. However, having technology in the school is not enough. It is one thing to have technology; it is another thing to know why and how to use it. This is where UDL comes in and how to fit it into your lesson and not just use it as an afterthought.