8 months ago

hkaVOICES - Spring 2018

A bi-annual magazine for the Hong Kong Academy community.

Inclusive on Every Level

Inclusive on Every Level by Nicole Aschenbrenner, Sarah Konopka and Maggie Taggart Central to the HKA mission and programme is the belief that all children deserve the opportunity to fulfill their greatest potential and that all children can learn in a shared environment to their mutual benefit. As a part of that inclusive perspective, the school takes a multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning. Drawing on their specialised knowledge and skills sets, our faculty teams collaborate across disciplines to enhance student learning. The sum is more than the parts, and this extends beyond the walls of the classroom or a particular grade level. The result is an intentional, inclusive environment that ensures that children are learning together in a community that reflects the world at large. This intentional inclusion and diversity is supported by teachers with training in special needs education as well as language acquisition support. Who Makes up the Team? Typically, a multidisciplinary team, such as a Child Study Team, draws on individuals working in several specialities or disciplines to explore challenges and solutions. A multidisciplinary team will likely include teachers, co-teachers, specialists, learning support teachers, an Education Specialist, a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA), an Occupational Therapist and a Speech-Language Pathologist. In addition, at HKA, any member of the staff and community may also be called on to take part in a multidisciplinary team. For example, parents may be asked to share their expertise during a class’s Unit of Inquiry. What are the Benefits of a Multidisciplinary Approach? The benefits of a multidisciplinary approach are plentiful. Each member of the team brings a diverse professional background and skill set as the team works together to achieve the same goals and support a student’s learning. Different perspectives enhance existing approaches and encourage new ideas that are adapted to the situation. Because of the clear benefits, multidisciplinary collaboration has become integral in education design and practice. What does a Multidisciplinary Approach Look Like? If you walk the halls at HKA, you’ll see this multidisciplinary approach in action. No matter the location, both classroom and learner support teachers are constantly working together to develop differentiated activities and strategies that take into account language, motor and sensory perspectives. Classroom set up and design also support our multidisciplinary approach. When you walk into an HKA classroom, take a moment to observe the intentional and varied seating options, visual schedules, and fidget tools in place for the students. Mutual Benefit: the Value of a Multidisciplinary Approach and Inclusion at HKA At HKA, we believe in the mutual benefit of an inclusive educational environment, and central to effective inclusion is a multidisciplinary perspective. The benefits of this approach transfer to staff, students, and the community as a whole. Inclusive learning strategies may be designed for one student and taught in a one-to-one setting, but they can often be generalised in class as students learn with their peers. Through collaborative planning, staff learn from each other as they manage a classroom of individualised and self-directed learners. This ongoing sharing of expertise nurtures creativity and confidence as faculty support students and each other. 4

supporting student well-being and safe learning environments by Kristel Solomon-Saleem Hong Kong Academy’s commitment to student well-being comes in many forms. We educate the whole child, taking into account such factors as developmental readiness, socio-emotional wellbeing and physical health. In this day and age, child well-being also includes child protection. We all see the headlines in the newspapers about incidents that can impact children’s safety, and we all seek to ensure our children’s welfare in this complex world in which we live. they know their students particularly well and can be especially responsive to students’ needs beyond classroom learning. The overall goal is to ensure that students possess the tools of self and social awareness to developing and sustain appropriate interpersonal relationships. When students possess these skills, they can move forward confidently as self-directed learners who make responsible decisions. When thinking about child safety, we recognise that we need to take into consideration a number of factors. Research shows us that being an effective self-advocate is an essential component to children’s safety. Therefore, as we look at our commitment to child well-being, we work proactively to teach students ways to stay safe and effectively advocate for themselves. At the same time, we as adults do our part to create a safe and captivating learning environment. To be effective self-advocates, students must be both selfaware and equipped with the skills to express themselves and seek appropriate help. To that end, in our Primary School, our counsellor and teachers draw on Conflict Management programmes to teach children how to assess problems and ask a trusted adult for help when necessary. They also learn to apply their own strategies to fix problems. Being able to problem-solve on their own has the added benefit of building self-esteem and self-empowerment. Relatedly, students spend time with social skills programmes that support and develop their skills for building healthy relationships with those around them. Across all age groups at HKA, our commitment to empowering learners to pursue their individual pathways to success includes a celebration of differences and self-identity. In the Secondary School, self-awareness is a particular focus of the Advisory Programme. The Advisory Programme is also a key part of our helping students to feel comfortable with approaching an adult for assistance. As Advisory teachers meet with students every day, The digital age further adds to the need for this self-awareness and understanding of digital wellness. Within the school environment, our goal is to work together with students and families to identify ways in which we can utilise technology in a safe and beneficial way. To shape this conversation, we draw on leading resources, such as Common Sense Media,, which teaches students about their online presence and helps students and parents alike navigate the seas of the cyber world. In addition to proactively equipping our students with the most effective tools for making decisions, it is also our responsibility to create a safe and captivating learning environment. HKA has developed a number of processes and protocols to support all of our learners. Over the last two years, we created Child Protection Guidelines that outline expectations for working with all children. We continue to train and provide professional development for all faculty and staff who are affiliated with HKA. Most recently we engaged an external consultant from the JANE Group to review our protocols and documentation to ensure we are putting all the appropriate structures in place to keep our children safe. As we move forward on this journey as a school, we recognise that our work will always be ongoing to ensure that we are responding appropriately and effectively to our changing world. We look forward to not only working with our HKA families but our community at large, so that we might set a standard for protecting and empowering all of our learners. 5

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