This post was written by Amy Painter, an undergraduate student in the College of Education.

It is important for future (and current) teachers to learn and show respect, empathy, and kindness for everyone. Inclusive classrooms are common in almost every public school with students with disabilities receiving their education in general education classrooms. Thus, not only do we need to prepare teachers for the inclusive classroom, we also need to prepare students. Students in the general education class may be curious about students with disabilities who are in their classroom. Often these students do not understand why other students may require special help with their work. It is essential that we teach all of our students about persons with disabilities through class discussions, books, and/or guest speakers. Basically, we need to teach our students these three principles: (a) everyone wants to belong and be included, (b) everyone is different, and (c) everyone has strengths and weaknesses.

How can you get started? Celebrate differences through a month-long event! Here are a few ideas to plan a month-long celebration. First, plan your event in October which is Disability Awareness Month and Bullying Prevention Month. Next, line up local speakers and gather resources that could be beneficial. You could highlight a local high school student that volunteers with the Special Olympics or a person who uses a service dog, or showcase a wheelchair basketball league! Finally, don’t forget to include your school librarian by promoting stories and books that bring awareness to those with disabilities. Let’s celebrate our differences!

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