Research conducted by Jansen, Otten, van der Zee and Jans (2014) suggests that an inclusive learning environment is one where a learner has a sense of belonging and feels safe to be their authentic self. Yet we hear over and over again, from learners, their whanau, educators and through research, that finding a good fit for gifted learners can be a major challenge. When an environment fails to be inclusive for gifted learners and results in a mismatch between child and environment, it often comes at a serious cost, for the child and their family.
TRUE INCLUSION IS WHERE A LEARNER HAS A SENSE OF BELONGING AND FEELS SAFE TO BE THEIR AUTHENTIC SELF.
"So what?", I hear you say. "You say all this but what does this mean in practice, for us, and for our students?" Well, to start with it means getting to know your students; who they are, where they come from, relationships and connections, what their interests are, their strengths, their struggles. So you already do all these things? Awesome!! That is fantastic, and provides a great solid foundation on which to build further. Let's step from this, to consciously creating opportunities which invite students to talk about: what is important to them; what works for them, and makes them feel safe and secure in themselves. Find out how they would like to take more ownership of their learning (content, processes, products and expressions of their growth through reflections) and ownership of their learning spaces, empowering students to work with us in bringing about inclusion.
The New Zealand Ministry of Education (n.d) promotes the need for all centres and schools to value diversity, with an explicit expectation that a sense of belonging and safety is created for all. This implies that we need to know what a child is sensing - not just infer, assume, judge or guess - and what is impacting on this.
MA TE WHAKAATU, KA MOHIO. MA TE MOHIO, KA MARAMA. MA TE MARAMA, KA MATAU. MA TE MATAU, KA ORA.
With discussion comes understanding. With understanding comes light. With light comes wisdom. With wisdom comes well-being (Maori whakatauki/proverb).
Thinking about your mission, why you are in the work that you are; how do you think we might achieve this admirable goal of inclusion for all? What might you ask of your students when you next see them? What wonderous possibilities await!