One of the things that we most want for our children is for them to become self-advocates. We want them to develop the skills and have the confidence to speak up and share their needs in meaningful and constructive ways. So we teach them. We model and we coach and we encourage.
I have said it before and I will say it again – it’s all about relationships.
At the core of a truly inclusive classroom, school, synagogue, church, camp, or organization are relationships which are built on love, respect and trust.
I have written about building trust and earning or inspiring trust before. This is significant and not something to be taken lightly. Bringing intention to each and every interaction we have with others is hard work, but it is the way that we demonstrate our commitment to open, honest and meaningful relationships. We must also show kavod (respect) for one another’s differences and genuinely appreciate that gifts that each person has to offer.
This is the time of year when teachers are busy setting up their classrooms and preparing for the new year ahead. The focus is on designing welcoming spaces and thinking about ways to create a positive learning climate. In addition to the content preparation, student background and decorations, teachers need to focus on ways to develop positive, healthy relationships both with and among their students. These relationships are at their best when they are built on a foundation of trust.
Noun - firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
Verb - believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of.
Trust is the foundation for every meaningful relationship. As Martin Buber taught, “human relationships, at their best, involve mutual knowledge and respect, treating self and others as valuable human beings”. Trust is a critical building block for successful inclusion.
But trust is not automatic. The seeds of trust must be planted, grown and cultivated. Trust must be nourished and allowed to flourish.
For inclusion to truly thrive we need to build trust between teachers & students, teachers & parents, parents & administrators and between students.
So, how do we do it?
There is a quote you may be familiar with (or at least some variation of it):
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
This should be our reminder to pause, to think through our words and our actions. But sadly, most people are quick to judge. They believe they know situations or people well enough to be right, and believing one is right has been enough justification for many.
The reality is that we judge one another.