Who runs the world? Zombie cows... Gemma Quirolo shares five uplifting moments of everyday celebration of diversity in her classroom. Just because...
I've always been an advocate of inclusion and supporting all students within my classroom. I try my best to understand the individual needs of students and what I can do to improve their education, not what they can do to conform to the typical classroom environment. One cohort of students changed my mindset forever for the better.
Dubai 2015. Child Z was a year younger than her peers in Year 3. She was average academically but stood out like a sore thumb socially and struggled to 'fit in' with the other students. She taught me to appreciate the beauty in the world and to love the job I do everyday, even when living in Dubai and the for-profit school system was a challenge for me.
Several beautiful moments made me appreciate the differences in individuals and encouraged me to begin learning more about SEN and how to support students. I've listed my top 5 moments below:
5 After watching a Class Dojo video about The Power of 'Yet', students began using the growth mindset language. During maths, one student turned to his friend and said, 'Child J, I'm in the dip!' To which Child J replied, 'Don't worry Child H, take my hand and I'll help you out of it!'
4 Coaching Football. The girls team worked extremely hard over the course of the year to develop from a team who were afraid of the ball hitting them to a fearless group of athletes who worked as a team and encouraged each other win or...well, mainly lose. During one of the last games of the year (we'd lost all previous games), the opposition took a shot on goal. Child L ran across the goals with a Courtois-style confidence and parried the ball away. The entire team were elated at Child L's efforts and ran out to congratulate her. There were cheers of jubilation, high fives all around and tears of joy...until they realised the game was still in play and said opposition were about to tap the ball into the net. Child L, once again, steam rolled over to the striker and, with one fell swoop, kicked the ball (and some of the opposition) into touch. High fives all around once again...
3 I stood at the front of the class with my fake judo suit on and hands poised to being Kung Fu punctuation.
Child R cries, 'Master Sensei Quirolo, we are ready for your teachings'.
I'm about to begin when I notice Child Z has her hands covering her face. 'Child Z, I need to see your face to know that you are poised and ready for action...'
Child Z replies, 'No thank you...'
'Child Z, why do you cover your face in shame?' (we don't break character during Kung Fu punctuation)
'No thank you,' Child Z calls out once again.
After some prompting, Child Z takes her hands away from her face. She had used a felt-tip pen to 'draw on lipstick'...in typical first-time lippy fashion, half of it was on her teeth.
2 Child M came to the class part-way through the year after moving from another class. He could speak very little English, had clear ADHD, dyslexia and showed many ASD tendencies. Across the second half of the year, I worked very closely with this student to give him outlets for his frustrations, build a rapport with him and spent many a break-time talking to him and his peers about why it was ok that Child M was 'different'.
It was almost at the end of the year and, whilst Child M had made progress and had even started sitting down at a table for formal lessons, he still had his own personality and was a quirky character in the classroom. A new student came to our class. Immediately, she questioned, 'Why is Child M doing that?' Child D replied, 'because it's Max.' The child mused again, 'But why is he doing that when we're all sitting down.' A chorus of dissappointed students called, 'BECAUSE IT'S Max.'
The beauty of that moment will stay with me forever. Students understanding and appreciating the differences of others without questioning it or comparing that student to themselves. They understood that Child M was doing the best that he could and they loved him for it!
1 Child Z worked well during the school year to make friends, learn how to introduce herself to a conversation and even attended a few of the birthday parties of the other students. It was the end-of-year class party and Child Z was singing, dancing, talking and generally being an absolute socialite! Her mother beamed from the corner of the room as she watched her daughter interact with her peers.
I stopped the music to give the obligatory end-of-year 'I'm so proud of you and will miss you all' speech (this time, I really, REALLY meant it).
Speech over, I turned to Child I 'let the music play!'
Child Z screamed, 'Wait!' as she got up on the table. 'Do you know what time it is everyone?'
They all looked confused. 'Time to play the music,' called Child I.
'No!' She hit the lights and showed us her glow-in the dark tattoo on her wrist...'It's zombie cow party time!'
The other students laughed, cheered and clapped as Child I started the music as our year ended as it started...with a bang!