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Relational and Responsive Inclusion

Contexts for Becoming and Belonging


Mere Berryman, Ann Nevin, Suzanne SooHoo and Therese Ford

Socially unjust circumstances continue to perpetuate inadequate classroom, school and system-level responses to longstanding social justice imperatives, shutting out power-sharing solutions to educational disparities and marginalizing populations of Indigenous and minoritized peoples. To address these educational disparities, this book proposes a relational and culturally responsive framework, from within a critical and indigenous paradigm that is designed to foster one’s sense of becoming and belonging in the world with all people, and thus promotes inclusion. Praxis such as this challenges traditional paradigms that marginalize or dehumanize those with whom we seek to work. Social justice in education must be concerned with recognizing, respecting and being inclusive of the diversity of all students. Social justice is about valuing and including all children for the potential they arrive with and for the families that stand beside them, rather than on what we might aspire to change and mold them into being.
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Chapter Fourteen: Reflecting on Inclusion through a Culturally Responsive Lens


← 258 | 259 → CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Reflecting on Inclusion through a Culturally Responsive Lens



I still remember the five-year-olds in the first class I taught nearly 40 years ago. They quickly taught me how passionate I was about learning and teaching. What I remember most was the light in their eyes, the sparkle of confidence, curiosity and excitement at starting school. Sadly as the year progressed I noticed how quickly that light dimmed in some children’s eyes. I heard children labeled as ‘slow’, ‘failing’, even ‘backward’ by teachers. I felt alienated from my colleagues who I observed normalizing this othering so that, by and large, it went unchallenged (Shields, Bishop & Mazawi, 2005). I did not know how to name, much less challenge, the pathologizing discourses around me that suggested the situation would improve, if only the child or the child’s family were different. They should ‘try harder’, ‘concentrate better’, ‘sit still for longer’, ‘listen more carefully’, ‘care more’, ‘be better role models’, ‘help more with homework’. When a senior member of staff hauled a little boy with attention difficulties out of my class and loudly chastised him for not sitting still I felt utterly powerless! Without the wisdom to know what, or how, to do anything to change it I began to feel compromised by participating in a system I saw as inherently flawed. Thus began a search for a different way to engage in education...

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