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A Child, A Family, A School, A Community

A Tale of Inclusive Education

Series:

Diane Linder Berman and David J. Connor

This book is a true story of one family’s journey into inclusive education. Having previously been told that her son Benny had "failed to function" in two exclusionary special education classrooms in New York City, Berman’s family set off in search of a school where Benny would be accepted for who he was, while having the opportunity to grow and flourish academically, socially, and emotionally alongside his brother, Adam. Connor’s interest was piqued when Berman shared her desire to document the ways in which the new school community had supported Benny throughout the years. Together, they thought, surely other teachers, school and district level administrators, parents of children with and without disabilities, teacher educators, and student teachers, could learn from such a success story?

The result of their collaboration is this book in which Berman skillfully narrates episodes across time, describing ways in which children, teachers, educational assistants, parents, and a principal came to know Benny—developing numerous and often creative ways to include him in their classrooms, school, and community. Connor’s commentaries after each chapter link practice to theory, revealing ways in which much of what the school community seems to "do naturally" is, in fact, highly compatible with a Disability Studies in Education (DSE) approach to inclusive education. By illuminating multiple approaches that have worked to include Benny, the authors invite educators and families to envision further possibilities within their own contexts.

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Chapter 2. Climate

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CLIMATE

September 2012 brought in the last parent evening I would attend for Benny at The Boulder School. Even though I still would have Adam there for two years after Benny graduated, in June 2013, I had already sensed that the intensity of the experience had begun to weaken, stretched thin by the forces which moved me to look ahead to the next few years and begin to imagine him in middle school, switching classrooms, and choosing electives. I enjoyed the evening, especially hearing Clark, principal extraordinaire speak. I remembered, early on in my experience at the school, sitting in the audience trying to make sense of his words but feeling confused. Finally, once Benny had grown so, I could listen with pure pleasure, finally understanding the goals of the school, ultimately feeling like we belonged, that we were not outsiders trying to impose a child with disabilities upon a classroom of typical peers. He spoke to both to us, the parents he knew so very well, and the novices to Boulder, new to an educational approach that is different than any they have experienced to date. I knew that to some of the new folks, his words seemed far away, perhaps not even real. Standing up in front of the parent body, Clark told us that he wants his students to enjoy their days in elementary school, he wants them to develop all sides of themselves, not merely the academic....

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