The following article details how one of our teachers, Baghael Kaur, is integrating inclusion work into her classroom.
By: Baghael Kaur, Grade 2 Class Teacher (2022-2023 School Year)
I've been reflecting on the meaning of inclusion and its role at our school, and want to share about the ways that I have, as a Waldorf teacher, sought to create a classroom environment which is inclusive. Inclusion for me, in this context, means that every child and every family connected to that child, feels in my class and in the school community in general, that they are at home, and that they belong to an extended family where each member is celebrated and held in love. This is a tall order, and I acknowledge that it is an aspiration that will always remain incomplete and partial, in part because of my own blind spots and shortcomings, as well as the broader social context that sometimes serves to isolate and demonize certain identities and groups of people.
All that being said, I look upon my class as a small, but not insignificant space, where (with the help of my class parents) I can strive to create safety, validation, and celebration. In these early years, this is done primarily through deeds, although I do (in an age-appropriate way) affirm these ideas when I speak with the children as well. What do I want for them, and for all children in the Waldorf school movement, and beyond? I want them to be told stories, to see pictures, and to partake in celebrations and artforms that reflect who they are, and the communities that they are a part of. I don't want any child to have the experience that they are on the outside looking in, separate from the whole. To me, this means that in the course of a school year each child has seen who they are reflected back in our work as a class, so that it's taken for granted by all the children that everyone belongs. There are many ways that this can be accomplished! The following are some ways that I have done, (and plan to do) this work. In the early years of the grade school, this means:
main lesson bookwork drawings of people that reflect a wide range of identities
stories, of whatever theme that year, that draw upon multiple traditions, from multiple places in the world
in-class celebrations that reflect some of each child's home celebrations
an emphasis on the inclusion of others in our work and play
in-class visits from parents to share a culturally/religiously significant aspect of their lives (to continue throughout the grades)
Beginning in grade three, this means
visits to religious places of worship, and a range of other culturally significant locations.
As we approach adolescence, this means:
exploring the lives of modern era changemakers, who worked (and work!) to create freedom and equality
supporting thoughtful and robust discussions about these issues
learning to read texts and media critically, in order to support the children in forming their own judgements about the world
opportunities to work for the betterment of others, whether through food drives, awareness-raising campaigns, volunteerism, and more
The aspiration of a place that reflects back to each child who they are is only possible through the concerted efforts of us all. I hope that we can continue to meet the future, and support all of the children in our care to meet theirs, with fearlessness and awe, as we work towards a world where each child's identity is valued, acknowledged, and celebrated.
Ms. Baghael Kaur is the current Grade 2 Class Teacher and has completed the Waldorf Grade School Teacher Education Program from the Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto.
Ms. Kaur brings her love of Waldorf Education to our children and community along with a diverse professional background, with experience in consensus-decision making, conflict resolution, and organic farming.
Ms. Kaur holds a Master of Arts in Social and Political Thought from York University, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Peace Studies and Anthropology with a minor in Religious Studies from McMaster University.