As you settle into the routine of a new school year this fall, you might be traveling down a well-worn path or finding your way for the first time. Just like you are setting yourself up for the year ahead, your students are finding their own ways to and through your classroom. Some students will settle right in, while others will need some extra support and help to find their way.
Proverbs 22:6a says, “Train up a child in the way he should go,” and my colleague and school psychologist Doug Bouman often emphasizes the individualization this verse might point toward: every child may need their own way to learn about God’s path for them.
It is not easy to separate our own paths, or the path we think a child should take, from the ways they are discovering God’s path for themselves. It takes tools, time, and investment to do this for the students in our classrooms who need it most. At All Belong, too often, we hear stories of teachers or administrators who have decided they don’t have the tools or ability to explore those more unusual paths for students with disabilities, whether intellectual, physical, emotional, or behavioral.
Whatever path a student might take, we are in Christian education to make sure that students’ paths lead them to faith in Christ. Sending students with disabilities away from our schools certainly doesn’t help us achieve that outcome. Furthermore, we know that serving students, whatever path they may be on, benefits everyone. All alumni of schools that respond to student needs, whether or not those alumni used support services themselves, are almost twice as likely to report that they are currently walking with God (Flourishing Schools: Research on Christian Schools Culture and Community, page 20).
Personalizing a faithful path of learning for every student takes a wide variety of tools and resources, but you do not have to take that journey of inclusive education alone. Other schools, teachers, and leaders have walked this path and discovered the blessings of inclusive education. Having the right tools, resources, training, and network can help you respond to any student’s needs.
Every student in your classroom will have their own path, whether or not they have a diagnosed disability. You can connect with tools and trainings to help you find the best path for any student—and strategies implemented for one student often benefit every student in your class.
In order to help each student find their path of learning in Christian education, we encourage you to know each student most excellently in order to identify the best strategies for that student. After 45 years of experience in Christian inclusive education and partnering with hundreds of schools across the country, All Belong has many ideas, stories, and people to connect you with so that you can address students’ needs.
We know that inclusive education, designed to respond to the needs of individual students, is also an important part of being an excellent Christian school. Research increasingly shows its benefit to overall school sustainability, faith development, and flourishing (Future Ready; Flourishing Together). Therefore, the work that we do to help a student with a disability discover their path at your school is not optional. It is essential to our Christian school missions.
As an increasing number of the population has a disability, whether emotional, intellectual, physical, or other, it is likely that your path will inevitably intersect with students who need support to find their own paths. I hope your journey as an educator is blessed by this intersection of paths, and I encourage you to find more resources and supports along your journey. Here are a few to get started:
- Leading Insights: Special Education and Inclusion
- All Belong Resource: Myths vs Facts about Inclusive Education
- ACSI Podcast episode: Moving Forward Flourishing Series: Responsiveness to Special Needs
- The All Belong Podcast
- Leading Insights: Mental Health and Well-Being
Editor’s Note: This post is co-published by the ACSI Blog and the WLCE blog in an effort to bring innovative and relevant thinking in Christian education to our respective readerships.