Hi! I’m Jill Jaworski, the Inclusion Specialist here at Woodland. As the school year is getting underway and our first parent-teacher conferences have you all considering your children’s progress, I want to introduce myself and give a little insight into the inner workings of Woodland’s initiative toward supporting an inclusive environment.
That term “inclusion” can mean many different things to different people, but we use it to describe the way we support ALL students to be engaged with the work we do. Woodland’s Inclusion Statement says it best:
“At Woodland Montessori School we work to adapt environments and support all students with different physical, cognitive, or behavioral needs. WMS puts the lens of inclusion on all decisions we make at Woodland to ensure all people are always included in the work we do here at Woodland.”
As we look at how society has evolved in our understanding and acceptance of people with all ability levels, we are at a stage where we not only invite difference in, but begin to challenge our own notions of normal. In order to ensure inclusion of all students in our community, we work to adapt our practices, mindsets, and environments rather than expecting children to adapt to our mold.
Every staff member at Woodland is undertaking this work of inclusion every day in their classrooms. I am filled with pride to see the ways they create intentional welcoming environments, help students develop empathy and understanding of each other’s lived experiences, and support each student in their unique knowledge and goals.
My role as inclusion specialist is to provide support and guidance to ensure inclusion at every level of our organization. Sometimes this means I’m helping to adapt materials in the classroom or purchasing tools such as noise-reducing headphones; sometimes I’m supporting teachers by observing certain students or difficult times of day to offer additional strategies or resources; and sometimes I’m meeting with parents to support them through the process of evaluation for special education. I also help to coordinate outside therapists who provide services to our students, lead professional development opportunities for our staff, and advise on policies and procedures.
One small way you can help your child at home to develop a greater understanding of our differences is by reading books! There is so much great children’s literature available that gives kids indirect contact to people who are different than them and gives language surrounding those differences. Here are some titles we’ve purchased for the Woodland library:
- The Barefoot Book of Children
- I Can Do Hard Things
- The Black Book of Colors
- Listening to My Body
- Pedro’s Whale
- What Do You Use to Help Your Body?
- The Handmade Alphabet
- Wilma Jean the Worry Machine
- Just Because
- The Alphabet War
- My Day is Ruined
- Ian’s Walk
- Sosu’s Call
- Six Dots
- Each Kindness
- A Screaming Kind of Day
- Armond Goes to a Party
- When My Worries Get Too Big
- Food Signs (board book)
- Mind Bubbles
- Silence by Lemniscates
I am always happy to sit down and chat, and welcome any questions or comments you may have! If you’re available I’ll be leading a parent education session at Lakeside Street Coffee on December 6th to discuss meeting sensory needs of your child as winter approaches.