Teaching, Disabilities & Diversity – Disabled staff in schools
In her blog this week, DYT consultant teacher Nancy Gedge reflects on the concept of inclusion, and the lack of disabled teachers within our schools…
I’ve been busy out and about giving a talk about inclusion. In it, I explore what inclusion is and who it is for through the experience of one child (my own). I talk about inclusion as a political concept, and the importance it holds for parents like me in reclaiming a part of their child’s humanity that was lost through the process of diagnosis. I talk about how inclusion isn’t all about parents though, although this is a valid interpretation, but also about the student, and their entitlement to an education, and I talk about how this entitlement benefits us all, on a societal level, through acceptance and understanding of difference and diversity.
I quite like it, although, because I frame it in my own, and my child’s experience, I find that I get emotional, and, so do a lot of other people. Tissues get passed surreptitiously around the room. People connect with what I have said, and I know that this isn’t just that they have recognised the truth in my words, but that they have experienced it too. They come and tell me afterwards. It never fails to surprise me, when you get talking to SEND professionals, how many of them work in the field because of a loved one. They become interested in the field because of the connection, or they become determined to be the change they want to see and work to make a direct difference.
In many ways, though, it’s easier to say that you are working in the field of SEND because of a family member, than because of yourself and your own experience. It is a stigmatised thing, after all, no matter how we try to dress it up with sugary language and heartfelt platitudes. But this is exactly what you find, when you get the chance to share experiences on a more personal level, and it is, I believe, especially so in the field of dyslexia.
I found myself wondering recently, when I led a training event on dyslexia, what it is and what you can do to support dyslexic students, what we do, as school leaders, to support dyslexic staff? It’s not as if we can ring Occupational Therapy and get them a special chair, as if they have a bad back, after all. Do we think to ask – and equally, do we think to say if that dyslexic person is us?
Dyslexic staff represent a huge resource in schools – after all, they are the ones who have come up with solutions to learning problems that clearly work – are we doing all we can to make their lives, in terms of their dyslexia, better? (I’m thinking of all the reading and writing we do as education professionals – especially SENCOs) or, and this is the question that made me really stop and think, do we somehow assume that once a person has gone through the education system and popped out the other end, that’s it? Job done?
I’m not sure I know the answer to that, so, here at DYT, we’d love to hear about your experiences.