LATA supports the principle of inclusion adopted in British Columbia schools, a position that supports equitable access to learning by all students and the opportunity for students to pursue their goals in all aspects of education. We believe that by working together with parents and the community we can give all students the best opportunities for success.
The principle of inclusion guides education in British Columbia. Inclusion is the belief that all children are welcome in their neighbourhood schools. An inclusive classroom is one in which all students, regardless of performance level, are educated with their chronological peers. Canadians are an increasingly diverse population and, not surprisingly, student diversity is increasing in our classrooms. Picture a “typical” class in any BC school. You can expect that 10% of students have low or high incidence special needs Ministry designations (i.e., autism, chronic health, mental illness, learning disability, intellectual disability, gifted, etc.). Expect to find 20% of students in the “grey area". These students do not have a Ministry tag but are not yet meeting expectations in school. On average, 40% of students are not fully meeting learning outcomes. ESL students can be expected to make up 10% of the class. The remaining 20% of students are fully meeting or exceeding expectations. Therefore, 80% of students in our inclusive classroom have learning differences that affect success in school.
A recent BCTF study (Naylor, 2002) revealed that teachers accept the philosophy of inclusion and continue to support initiatives that make schools more inclusive. But teachers are concerned about a perceived lack of recognition of the practical teaching issues in an inclusive setting. Indeed, 43% of teachers surveyed did not feel confident teaching in inclusive classrooms. One question dominates the professional dialogue of teachers in BC: How do I teach students with such diverse learning differences?
Learning assistance/resource teachers are specialists who provide a coordinated and integrated set of support services for teachers and their students with diverse learning needs. Services include: consulting, collaborative planning, and direct teaching. They also direct teacher assistants, volunteers and peer tutors in instructional procedures. They adapt and modify curriculum and instruction. Their role includes: assessing, evaluating and reporting progress; maintaining records; and facilitating smooth transitions between school levels.
The decision to provide an inclusive educational system to which all children are entitled is not based on economics or legislation -- but on values. What values do we believe in? What kind of people are we? What kind of society do we want for ourselves and our children? What must be done to structure an inclusive educational system dedicated to the elimination of social inequalities? Learning assistance is the vital link between the belief in inclusion and the practical reality of making it happen. Learning assistance/resource specialists must not become the missing link!
As Learning Assistance Teachers, we believe that all students should have the opportunity to:
- become more independent, resourceful learners
- realize their potential
- have their individual learning needs met
- learn to set realistic goals and work toward them
- develop effective learning strategies that enable them to adapt to various learning situations
- feel successful with minimum frustration
- develop increasing confidence develop the belief that they can succeed and learn