We finally took our Discovering Disability and Diversity Teacher Aide PD day to the Gold Coast. We based our session at Southport State School hall in Queen Street, right in the centre of the Gold Coast. What a great location and a great hall and great staff at Southport SS to help us with all arrangements. The school BSM - Thanks Kylie, even helped us liaise with the Gold Coast City Council to arrange for day parking right outside the school hall. Usually it is only two hour parking, but we were able to stay there for the whole day and nobody had to move their cars. This made the day work so much easier for everybody. We had 55 people attend and we had the most amazing journey of discovery about physical and hidden disability, what they are and how they impact on everybody’s every day job. We looked at support and educational opportunities and how everybody can use the correct strategies to support students in their classroom.
We encouraged all the participants to ask questions and explore all the things they have ever wanted to know about disability and difference. I questioned everybody about what inclusion meant to them. I had some really great answers back. To list just a few of them –
“Inclusion, to give each individual the ability to be the best that they can be, to realise their potential, despite disabilities, hidden or visible. Thank you Sharon for your incredibly insightful professional development. Gave me not just food for thought but a veritable banquet! Cheers. - Joan Melloy T/A Helensvale School”
“Inclusion for me is treating every single person equal. There is no special anyone. We are all special in our own way and we all need to be treated equal. We all need opportunities in life, some just need extra ones including me.”
“I think inclusion means when you make sure that a child feels included and a part of what you are doing. – Pauline
“When every child feels they can function in their classroom. Despite their diagnosis and their home life. Where the teacher values each child. – Linda King” And finally
“An insight into students daily struggles and triumphs. – Donna Hughes”
All of the participants were asked what they wanted to get out of the inclusion day. Overwhelmingly the wanted to know more about key disability areas so they could help the students be the best they could be. They wanted to learn strategies for support and how to best work with all the students in their classrooms. We explored physical disability and looked at the many varieties of hidden disability. In one section of the workshop we spent an hour focusing on dyslexia and reading, literacy and numeracy issues in the classroom. We generated many solutions that could be used in the classroom every day. This process worked so well as each teacher aide first explores key disability areas and then brainstorms strategies that they would prefer in their classroom. This means the solutions will link perfectly across the curriculum, teaching style, support strategies and the student needs.
We explored autism and many different types of intellectual impairment and processing issues. We looked at how linked together with ADD and ADHD. We also looked at how dyslexia issues often merged across a variety of areas. We shared information over a delicious subway lunch and created many new networks across the region. The sharing of knowledge really works. Teacher aides have some amazing insights and experiences that when shared can really help create real solutions to some very interesting and complex issues that emerge within schools. When teachers and teacher aides and whole school staff work together amazing things start to happen. I came away from this workshop session absolutely inspired by the work that is happening across our state. We can have all the policy and rules in place and still not have a system that works, however, we have both we do have a strong framework that helps shape our policy and curriculum and pedagogy and we also have a great educational support network of teachers and teacher aides who share knowledge and create great educational support networks.
I hope our next PD session is as interactive and as exciting as this one was. All the activities were explored and each simulation was linked to classroom experience and the role a teacher aide plays every day. Thank you for all being a part of this and thank you for the great work you do in schools every day.