Giving every child an inclusive education starts with the individual classroom. Nicole Eredics, founder of The Inclusive Class blog, is a former K-4 teacher who provides educators with the resources needed to give their students an inclusive education.
We spoke with Nicole to learn more about the importance of an inclusive education and what an inclusive classroom looks like.
Read our full conversation with Nicole to learn more about inclusion for all students:
AdoptAClassroom.org (AAC): How would you describe your blog, The Inclusive Class?
Nicole: The Inclusive Class blog is a resource for parents and teachers with strategies and tips for including students with disabilities, learning, attention, and social/emotional issues in the general education classroom.
AAC: What drove you to start The Inclusive Class blog?
Nicole: I noticed teachers were struggling to include and teach students who had extra needs. I wanted to give them a resource with strategies for helping students access and achieve the curriculum.
AAC: You’re an advocate for the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom. Why is inclusion important in the classroom?
Nicole: As a full inclusion teacher for many years, I had the opportunity to see first-hand how inclusive classrooms provide numerous social, emotional, and intellectual benefits for children with special needs. In addition, studies have shown that there are also many benefits for regular education students. Not only are there increased learning opportunities but the inclusive classroom is also designed to meet the educational needs of ALL learners. Below are some of the many ways in which an inclusive classroom can benefit not only students but schools and communities as well:
Social – All children in the class are fully active, participating members regardless of their ability level. There are increased social interactions and relationships between students, staff, and families. A greater understanding of diversity develops, in addition to improved communication skills as students learn and respond to one another’s differences. These repeated interactions promote inclusive behavior in future situations.
Emotional – Students and families begin to feel more integrated into the school community and a greater sense of belonging develops. The self-confidence and self-esteem of special needs students grow naturally from the positive support of peers and teachers.
Intellectual – All students have equal access to the curriculum despite academic ability. Accommodations and modifications are made to the curriculum to meet the student’s needs. Students become more actively engaged in learning and become more confident learners as they experience greater success in school.
AAC: What does an inclusive classroom look like to you?
Nicole: An inclusive classroom is one that welcomes all students, provides multiple ways of learning, and has supports in place to help students learn. For example, and inclusive classroom has:
- Various seating options
- Places for students to collaborate, such as groups of desks
- A class meeting area
- Spaces for students to explore and investigate with hands-on learning materials
- Classroom décor and visuals that are related to the curriculum
- A variety of reading materials
- A daily schedule
- A quiet area for students
AAC: During your more than 15 years as a teacher, how did you build an inclusive environment for your students?
Nicole: I built an inclusive environment for my students in numerous ways. First, I began with the belief that all students belonged in my classroom. Additionally, I presumed competence and gave all my students equal opportunities to learn. I provided them with multiple ways to access the curriculum, engage with it, and show their knowledge.
If my students needed more time with the curriculum, I provided learning accommodations and/or modifications. I worked with the students to create a respectful and welcoming inclusive classroom culture by holding morning meetings, teaching social skills, giving them responsibilities, and having high expectations.
Finally, I view students and their families as partners, and encourage open communication between the school and home.
AAC: How would it have affected your students if you were unable to supply them with the classroom materials needed to create an inclusive space?
Nicole: I believe in providing students with different ways of accessing the curriculum, engaging with it, and showing me what they know. Therefore, it is essential to give students the right materials such as books, supplies, and technology. If my students didn’t have the materials, then their ability to learn would be limited.
For example, if a student learns best through hands-on activities but there aren’t any appropriate learning materials, that student would not be able to learn to the best of their ability.
AAC: Did you spend money out of your own pocket on classroom materials? If so, how much did you spend on average each school year and what did you purchase?
Nicole: I definitely paid for most of the materials! I probably spent at least $1,000 each year on teaching resources, books, student supplies, art materials, manipulatives, and classroom décor. It took me 53 boxes to pack up and move all of the materials out of my last classroom.
AAC: How did you want your students to feel while they were in your classroom?
Nicole: I wanted my students to feel like they were welcomed and supported in my classroom. I wanted them to feel safe and know that they could rely on me to help whenever needed. I also wanted my students to feel successful and confident in their ability to learn.
AAC: What is the #1 thing you wish all teachers understood about creating an inclusive classroom?
Nicole: I would like teachers to understand that teaching is not just about curriculum. Focus on who you are teaching. Get to know your students and do what you can to support their growth and development. Create learning spaces that teach and support all kinds of students. Learn how to provide accommodations and modifications for those who struggle with the curriculum. There are so many resources (such as my blog) out there to help you!
If you’re an educator who wants to use AdoptAClassroom.org donations to purchase classroom materials that promote inclusion, we can help!
Login to your AdoptAClassroom.org account to see what our following vendor partners that sell inclusive classroom supplies have to offer: Lakeshore Learning, AKJ Education, Carson-Dellosa, School Specialty, and Kaplan Early Learning Company.