Promoting Inclusion in a “Struggling School”: Supporting Co-Teachers Through Critical Appreciative-Inquiry Based Professional Development is a well-researched Education Thesis/Dissertation topic, it is to be used as a guide or framework for your Academic Research
This dissertation explores the extent to which the beliefs and practices of teachers who work in a “struggling” school can be shifted towards inclusiveness through an action research based professional development program.
The school was struggling in that it was charged with the education of children who are marginalized by a range of social forces while simultaneously accountable to institutional priorities.
Broadly speaking, these institutional priorities preferred behaviorist punishment and technocratic approaches to meeting student needs, devaluing and decontextualizing students’ proficiencies as test scores and special education labels, in turn impeding inclusive change.
Over the course of four months, an action research project invited four co-teaching pairs of general and special education certified teachers to inquire into their students’ positive experiences in school, as a way of reimagining inclusive education such that it was authentic to their context.
Using case study methods, this dissertation is an evaluation of the outcomes of that project. Broadly speaking, teachers’ beliefs and practices significantly shifted towards inclusivity, though our attempts to promote school level inclusive changes were limited.
CHAPTER 1- INTRODUCTION
Who Am I In This Work?
In this chapter, I try to give context for this study by explaining who I am in this work and what specific issue this dissertation seeks to address. I begin this with an acknowledgment of my positionality with respect to the work that I wish to pursue. Patel (2015), in particular, urges novice researchers working in communities that are historically marginalized to carefully consider their relationship to that which they hope to research from the outset.
In the first place, I consider my relationship to dis/ability, a social construction imbued with heavy subjectivities. I then consider my relationship to students in urban settings, as an often-unwitting oppressor—surely well-intentioned, but also clearly complicit in deeply problematic educational practices situated well above my own individual locus of influence or even awareness.
Finally, I consider my co-teaching relationships with other urban educators. In foregrounding my positionality, I hope to give the reader a sense of how I approach this work that it is deeply connected to both who I am and how I have come to understand what it has been possible for me to do in this Dissertation project.
My Own Dis/Ability I have a complicated personal relationship with dis/ability. Following the lead of Wait older and King-Thorius (2015), as well as many others, I am opting to use a slash to separate the two parts of the word in this chapter, in order to indicate that disablement is not a simple individually located process, but rather is the complex and problematic product of structural factors intense
conversation with individual differences that often produce marginalization and exclusion.
Following this tradition of understanding dis/ability as a situational process means also recognizing that ability, and the things that individuals have the capacity for are placed at the forefront of how we understand people with dis/abilities, instead of their subjective deficits which are often the focus of they are understood by a society that values individual achievement (Dudley-Marling, 2004).
I was as much of a draftee as you might ever find in a volunteer army – I never had much inclination towards joining the military but needed to find a way to pay for college. When I graduated high school in 2001, the National Guard was offering free tuition at public universities in New York.
I enlisted for a six-year part-time commitment, and after a summer of working in a convenience store, I began basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in early September. I had expected a difficult few months of training as a medic followed by a few years of weekends that would teach me discipline and pay my way through school.
The National Guard had rarely been called to active duty since World War II, so I thought the most action I would see would be sandbagging or shoveling snow. The events of the following day, September 11, 2001, would change those plans dramatically.
I was sent to Iraq less than three years later, withdrawing from the classes that I had joined the army to pay for. As a front-line medic in an infantry unit, I cannot say I have any fond memories of my time in that country. I do not, to this day, know how to express the sadness and pain that I carry with me from that time, and I would far rather leave it to the reader’s imagination to conceive of what might have happened there than I would to insufficiently explain.
Nevertheless, two months after I returned to New York from Iraq, I bought a studio apartment across the street from Brooklyn College with the money I had saved during my time on active duty. I had hoped to finish my schoolwork and become a teacher. The day after I got the keys, I took a break from painting my new place to grab lunch in my desert camouflage uniform, which I was more than happy to ruin with the leafy green color I was putting on the walls of my new home.
Walking just around the corner, I remember a group of teenage boys from the high school nearby running past me, one yelling, “That shit’s fake—That’s a BB gun!” followed by a series of very real gunshots. Without thinking or even acknowledging what was happening, I tended to the wound of a middle schooler shot in the leg and an older boy who had been shot in the abdomen until ambulances arrived. I walked away from the scene and began to feel an intense itch in my shoulder. Realizing that I too was bleeding, I asked the ambulances on-site to take me to the hospital.
In the coming months and years, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree and tried to start looking for work that would support me while I gained teacher certification. However, I no longer ever felt safe outside my apartment, so I hunkered down inside for days on end, sleeping as long as I could to avoid being awake.
When I finally found a job working in human resources at a university, I was unable to hold on to it, as at least one of my co-workers found my body language to be threatening. At the same time, the Veterans Administration had determined that my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was a severe enough barrier to full employment that I should receive financial compensation.
Yet I still felt the need to work, not exactly for money, but for myself. I found comfort in knowing that human resources had not been the work I desired to do anyway. I wanted to teach kids, as I always had. Having been shot by a Black teenage boy had made me generally reclusiveand fearful. Paradoxically, the same experience made me want to teach in an urban setting even more. In this time, I learned a great deal about myself – that I have, even in the darkest times, a deep care for children and for learning.
I am wary about framing the transition from my situation at that time to where I am now, healthy and happy, as a story of overcoming dis/ability. I did not “pull-through” because of any great strength or merit of my own. Instead, I attribute how different things are for me now to the love and patience that I have been lucky enough to receive, the sense of purpose that I have gained as an educator, and to concrete changes in the context of my life.
More than any other single thing, my current well-being is due to the love of my wife, Barbara, who never allowed me to feel unworthy or broken. As I am unable to fully articulate the value she continues to bring into my life, I will again leave it up to the reader’s imagination.
Beyond that, I owe my current well-being to the profound sense of purpose that being an educator gives me, a hope to improve lives through learning. However, even those powerful factors were not enough to drive away from the nightmares and panic attacks.
It took actually moving away from the place where I was shot to feel better. These three factors, love, purpose, and concrete structural change drive the way I think about educational change, especially for students with dis/abilities.
So my relationship to dis/ability is complicated. While I certainly have experienced physiological and cognitive changes as a consequence of my time in combat, the expression of those changes is broadly mediated by context.
While I once certainly thought myself to be a disabled veteran, I now hold a much more complicated view of my own abilities as well as their relationship to the world around me. Most critically, though, as a white, heterosexual, cisgender man, whatever experience or identity I have around dis/ability is distinctly unidimensional, and does not lie at any intersections with other markers for structural oppression.
Therefore, I cannot claim that my experience is remarkably akin to that of any of my students, who do exist at the intersections of multiple vectors of oppression; however, I do think that it helps me frame a potential avenue to help them.