Inclusive Schools Week is an annual event dedicated to celebrating the diversity of ability levels of all students in order to create an inclusive climate that promotes belonging for all. Held during the first full week of December, LEAD Southeast Middle School celebrated Inclusive Schools Week with their own unique spin. While LEAD Southeast Middle’s focus still includes the celebration of all ability levels and leveraging students’ strengths, this year they expanded to include the celebration of staff and students’ individual identities. Their theme was “We may all be different fish, but at this school we swim together.”
Students and staff celebrated in many different ways. Throughout the week, students dressed up in mismatched socks and funky clothing for “Be Unique” day, pajamas for “Come as You Are” day, and school spirit wear for “Part of the Pack” day. Additionally, students identified and discussed different ways the school is inclusive during CREW lessons, which happen weekly and provide an opportunity for students to engage on topics beyond academics. Families were even invited to get involved as well for a special community movie night.
“Students will struggle to feel successful in environments they don’t feel seen or can’t see themselves in,” said Kelly Carden, exceptional education instructional manager at LEAD Southeast Middle. “We ensure students are seen and celebrated so they know they’re valued and are part of our pack. It’s also important to lift up our students’ identities so we can create leaders that show representation for future generations.”
While this week is an important and intentional opportunity to celebrate all students, inclusivity is the norm at LEAD Southeast Middle all year round – it is even stated in their mission statement. “LEAD Southeast Middle School is the place where every student will be prepared for high school by the end of 8th grade and know they belong to the pack,” said Carden. “Everything we do is in an effort to create an inclusive environment where every staff and student feel like they belong.”
Music teacher Taylor Bradley has the opportunity to celebrate students at all ability levels on a daily basis, and she encourages her students to do the same. Right now the students are composing their own music to play for their peers on bucket drums.
“Part of the grade for this project is how the students act as audience members,” said Bradley. “They get graded on whether or not they clapped for all of their peers and if they gave every performer their respect. I do this because I want every student to feel celebrated and confident before they have to perform in front of their classmates. Every student’s performance improves when they see someone believe in and celebrate them.”
Staff buy-in for Inclusive Schools Week was not hard to come by at LEAD Southeast Middle. Teachers throughout the building wholeheartedly believe in the importance of inclusivity.
“Inclusion is what gets students to school – to know an adult or peers truly, and genuinely, care for them and want them to show up,” said Andrea Trull, a teacher at LEAD Southeast Middle. “Inclusivity gives students confidence to grow in their learning and ultimately who they are as a human. If a student feels seen or heard, they have growing intrinsic motivation to do better, ask for support, and advocate for themselves.”
Check out the video below to hear exactly what inclusion means to students and staff at LEAD Southeast Middle.