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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 8. Communication: Balancing High Expectations with Acceptance

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· 8 ·

COMMUNICATION: BALANCING HIGH EXPECTATIONS WITH ACCEPTANCE

Second grade began for me with excitement and trepidation. The success of Benny in grade one put him in a position where the depth of his earlier delays was not so apparent. He ended grade one with great pride in his ability to function within the classroom. I had been intrigued with Barbara, Benny’s second grade teacher, for years before he entered her classroom. She was involved with coordinating the district wide math program and led the math club. My experiences as an adjunct at the City University of New York taught me that few elementary school teachers had a passion for mathematics. She also had a reputation for transforming her students through the course of the year. Since Boulder has an open door policy, where parents are welcome and invited to come in whenever they want, I was often walked through the halls. Whenever I passed Barbara’s class I was conscious of the distinctly different atmosphere that permeated her room and seeped into the hallway right outside her door. Somehow from the first few minutes before the school day began until well after the bell ended the day, her students were actively pursuing their education. While other classrooms teamed with morning activities, kids jumping around taking off their winter hats, putting their lunches away, and sharpening their pencils, Barbara had already begun to teach. She might be huddled with a few students going over...

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