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Becoming a Great Inclusive Educator


Edited By Scot Danforth

Inclusive education continues to grow in popularity and acceptance in the United States. However, most teachers – general and special educators – are poorly prepared to be successful in inclusive classrooms and schools. Undoubtedly, the challenge to professionals involves the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. But inclusion requires far more. It calls upon educators to trouble everything they think they know about disability, to question their deepest ethical commitments, to take up the work of the Disability Rights Movement in the public schools, and to leap headlong into the deepest waters of the rich craft tradition of inclusive teaching. This book offers educators the guidance and resources to become great inclusive educators by engaging in a powerful process of personal and professional transformation.
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Chapter 12: It Takes a Whole School


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It Takes a Whole School


I began my career as a special educator in what some would describe as a kind of hell. To me, it was an extraordinary experience, just exactly the place in which I wanted to be—but I have kind of a skewed perception of what is important in the world. I started teaching in Highland Park, Michigan, in 2005, working with elementary students with intellectual disabilities. Highland Park is a small, 2.97-square-mile city completely surrounded by the much larger city of Detroit. Many do not even realize that Highland Park exists until they see a news report about a murder or an abandoned building that burst into flames in the early morning hours. The 2010 census reports that the city is made up 11,500 people—95% black, 4% white, and 1% other. In the city’s schools, though, the student population is 100% black. In 2005, there were around 3,000 students in the district; in 2012 there are under 1,000. The city is poverty stricken, drug ridden, and some would say corrupt.

In spite of this, the community of Highland Park is pretty amazing. The folks who live there identify themselves as Highland Parkers, not Detroiters. They love their little city, even as they wish it could function properly to meet their needs. Everybody knows everybody in Highland Park—it’s like a small village in a...

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