If you are a parent, grandparent or caregiver for a child, tamariki, mokopuna…what do you want for them in life? What do you aspire for them? What would success look like from your point of view? What does success mean to them? What do they aspire to be or do? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Have you asked them?
Earlier in the year, I wrote a post about the development of our project “Arohnui R Us” taking action with the special needs unit within our Kura. This blog post explores our action and how this has made a difference for the students and whānau of Arohanui, but also for our ākonga, who have learned about rights and responsibilities, different special needs and how to best work with students, what a difference inclusion can make. In addition, they have planned budgeted, reflected, gathered voice. The Arohanui students also taught our students for a couple of sessions, with us all learning Makaton from them-a form of sign language that they use, and also joining in art, science and maths sessions alongside them. All of these actions and learning, has allowed for empathy and compassion to truly be shown and felt. Compassion is one of our Hobsonville Habits and these students have definitely shown this in abundance this year.
What better way to show you what the action entailed, than to share with you student, whānau and staff voice from the actions of our project.
“As a result of this Inclusiveness project, my students have developed a sense of belonging, they feel accepted and part of the HPSS school community. In fact, because peer norms are so important to teens, creating positive peer connections between HPSS and Arohanui Special School students may be one of the best ways to promote my students’ wellbeing, their sense of self, and their social development”.
Henny Arohanui lead teacher.
” I would just like to thank you and your team for Wednesday evening. It was great to see Stephen so involved and engaged. We were very impressed with the Project and the enthusiasm of all those who took part. Thank you, on behalf of all of Stephen’s family, Ann.”
I have shared your YouTube video with our parents on or digital portfolio. Your work with our students has a great positive impact on their lives at school and at home, their families are very thankful:
Malcolm Lambert Love this video and appreciate all the work that has gone into this project. Well done everyone
Here is a final reflection from Lily one of our ākonga.
At the start of the year, I chose the project Arohanui ‘R’ Us because it sounded the most interesting of all of the new choices we had for projects. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to get out of this project, but I knew that it was going to be a good choice. At first, I was a little out of my depth because I had never really interacted with the students in the Satellite Unit within our school, but I had worked with special needs students before. It didn’t take long before I got to know the students and formed bonds with them through my time on a Wednesday during Block 2 when I would work with them.
Our school had worked with the students before, but not on a scale such as what we work with them now. In the past, there had been a few feeble attempts at working with them more, but I think because of a lack of direction from teachers and students themselves, this attempt was short-lived, but now the program has taken off, and the students can’t wait for the days where we work with them. For me, the best parts of the project would have to have been getting to see all of the smiles and all of the happy faces that we get to know every time that we work with the students.
From the project, I learned that inclusion is not just a phrase or a mindset, but rather inclusion is an action. I thought I knew that inclusion was just the simple act of including someone in a game or something that you do. Working in this project has taught me that inclusion is more like a fight for these students, and people like them because every day they are being excluded from the simplest of activities just because they are different. I feel that now inclusion means to me that everyone should be able to take part, no matter if they know how to play the game or not. Inclusion is crucial not only in society but to the students themselves.
I have had a few conversations with some of the students in the unit, and they all want to be treated the same as everyone else in the ‘mainstream’ area of our school. While this might not be possible for all of them, we can certainly try and make them feel as included as possible. This is certainly the hope of the teachers and the students’ parents. After surveying the students’ parents and their views, some of the responses that I got were intriguing. When asked whether HPSS included their child enough, one parent responded with ‘Previously my answer would be no, but this year the programme has blossomed.’ When it comes to what inclusion means to them, another parent responded with ‘Inclusion is to actively include everyone in an activity by ensuring measures are in place to make this possible.’ and ‘keeping the students integrated with the mainstream.’
The response about whether their child was being included enough is eye-opening, in the sense that it allows us to see that the programme in which we undertook is benefitting the students and allows them to gain a better understanding of belonging in our school. As mentioned earlier, there had been previous attempts at making connections within the unit for the students to have some work outside of the unit, but now, the students can gain much more from having a year-long programme. Seeing this response makes it clear that all the parents and students want is to be included in activities undertaken by the school through inclusion and integration rather than being excluded from events as seen in previous years. The second response fits with a more generic look of the term of inclusion. This response is not exactly the perspective I was looking for when I sent the form out to the student’s families, but it does give a good idea into what the families are looking for within our programme. What I feel that the families are looking for through our work with them is a better relationship between the student and them wanting to come to school because there is something to look forward to on a Wednesday. The final parental perspective of simply keeping them integrated within mainstream just shows that the parents just want their children to be treated as students of HPSS, regardless of whether or not they are within the unit or labelled as mainstream. Ultimately, I believe that this shows the parents are extremely happy with what we are doing in regards to inclusion, but like anything, there is room for improvement. Next year I think to make the programme the best that it can be, it should be run with different year levels multiple times a week so that the students are able to make and form relationships with students apart from us and have more to do with the mainstream aspect of the school. If something like this is done, it would definitely qualify for what I believe the inclusion of these students should be. I feel that inclusion is not just making sure that the students feel included in the activities that we do, but rather that the inclusion is not a once off or only seems to happen once per week, but rather that it happens slightly more frequently than that. At the moment, we are doing some great work with the students, but it doesn’t quite match up to my view of inclusion yet, as there is only one group working within the unit with the students, and to be truly included in my opinion would mean that more students from within our school would work alongside them and alongside us.
When we initially started this project, we interviewed a few of the students about what their favourite part of the project that we were doing with them was. All of them love working with the mainstream and look forward to the activities that we do with them. I think that inclusion to the students means that they are going to be able to take part in activities with us and feel as though they are exactly the same as us (which they are) which is so very important not only for us but them as well. In many aspects of their schooling, they would have been separated from the ‘normal’ children which makes such inclusion just as important to them as it is to us. I think that this programme is making sure that the students are as included in school as they have every right to be. After all, it is our responsibility to make sure everyone has the right to inclusion.
Finally, after speaking to one of the teachers in the unit, we found that in response to a question of what inclusion means, it should be ‘working together and acceptance’. What I feel that this means is not only is inclusion about simply working together with the students, it also comes down to accepting their differences and our own to make sure that we can effectively work together with the students and make sure that they understand that there isn’t anything wrong with being different because in the end we are all humans, and we are all entitled to exactly the same rights (mostly the right to inclusion) and no one can prevent that. Something that would make them even more included according to this teacher would be if the mainstream students were ‘learning how to communicate or learning simple signs and stopping and listening as they [the students] need longer to respond.’ I think that if we were to learn some signs and if more people that weren’t affiliated within our project were to try and talk to them that we might have some better inclusion through our school. Overall, these responses show me that inclusion is not only the most essential part of the project, but it is also the most important right that we as humans have. Although we have the right to inclusion every day if we are ‘normal’, even if we aren’t the same as everyone else, society still has the responsibility of keeping everyone included in everything that we do. After going through this project, I now have a clearer understanding of just how vital it is to include and be included in activities and have fundamental human rights. Now what I feel is important is that society needs to work on its assumptions of people and make sure that they own their responsibility for the greater good.
Rights, Responsibilities and Inclusion
Māori Whānau Voice
This is whānau voice collected at the Māori whānau evening. This is what they said….
|Sense of self
Good communication skills
Connections to the people
Toolbelt with skills for life
Passion for life
Adapt to change
Equipped with knowledge to be world ready
Different world views
Understanding for different cultures
Love of learning
Happy to be in this school
Down to earth
Culturally confident and competent
Tū Rangatira Tū Māia
Embrace/know their passions
Be prepared for the world-academic/social skills/life skills
Have strong values-knowing them and knowing their strengths
Social awareness and able to communicate and connect with others
Coping Mechanisms-problem solving, strategies when things don’t go as planned
Self Efficacy-I am, I can, I will
Are able to challenge and have a voice
Talking with respect
Awareness of external environment factors
Learn Te Reo
Strong in Tikanga
Opportunity to learn from mistakes
Curious to explore the world-travel
Hauora-Taha Whānau, Taha Hinengaro, Taha Wairua, Taha tinana
To tell you the honest truth, there are many place within our Kura, that I would hope we are helping to develop and nurture these dispositions, skills, capabilities in our ākonga. However, I truly believe that the place in our curriculum, where these are developed and allowed to be shown in action the most, is within projects. Where we work with authentic partners and make a difference in society in meaningful and ways. I am grateful for getting to work with these awesome students this year, both from the project and also from Arohnaui.
The project did align to a level 2 standard for Taking action on social issue (inclusion), however, this was never the driver for learning. Going forward next year, there is a group that want to continue to work further with Arohanui and intend on creating policy change by sharing their learning journey, with a newly developing school, who have a satellite unit also. They wish to share their learnings on the power of inclusion and making a difference. Finally, the highlight of the project is the fact that one of our wonderful ākonga, Misioalofa, who was in Year 13 this year and is amazing with the Arohanui students, has managed to gain a job for next year as a Teacher Aid to work at Arohanui from the start of next year. This is Misialofa pictured below with Serina from Arohanui on our MOTAT visit. Authentic and powerful partnerships at their best….