I have taught judo to students with Down Syndrome, mental retardation, epilepsy, visual impairment and severe learning disabilities.
Now I teach judo at a middle school. I’d say the key to inclusion begins with the instructor.
There are a few things I do:
- I have zero tolerance for any kind of meanness - teasing, bullying, and will call anyone on it in front of the class.
- I watch out for cliques. If someone doesn’t have a partner, I will assign partners. When we go out as a team, if anyone is sitting by him or herself, I have them go sit with a group of other kids. I have a good idea of those who are the most welcoming to other kids.
- I publicly praise my students a lot, both individually and in groups when I see them helping or being kind to another student. I tell them a lot at the end of practice the many things I enjoy about teaching them, and that is one of those characteristics I often point out.
- I recognize students for academics as well as athletic ability. I have friends from universities who send me college t-shirts. I give them to students who bring their grades up - these may be students who brought their grades from Ds and Fs to C’s and D’s or students who have all A’s.
When dealing with such a diverse group of students how do you address the needs of an individual while trying to advance the entire group? In other words, how do you address individual needs?
One way to make sure that you address the needs of an individual while advancing the entire group is by making productive use of assistant instructors. Generally, I have from 1-4 additional instructors in the class. While many clubs have one “O-sensei” who teaches while the other black belts stand around, I think that is silly. Any time I can get a friend to come as guest instructor, I take advantage of that, and that leaves me free to help any students having trouble. Also, you don’t need to be a black belt to help out. I have three teachers from the school who are green belts. They can help a student learn how to fall or do a shoulder throw - and they do. One silly idea we have in judo is that you need to be a black belt to teach. Look how many soccer players learn from high school kids or someone’s mom or dad.
I think it benefits adolescents to figure things out on their own and get some practice in. I’ll correct one person, then move on to the next, letting the first person practice on his/ her own.
Another soap box of mine is that I think we try to teach far too many skills in one lesson and don’t give enough practice time.
Yet another thing I do is teach a basic skill to the whole group, say, a shoulder throw, and then split off the more advanced students and have them do a combination with that throw or a counter to it, while the less advanced students keep working on perfecting the first skill.
One last strategy is to have the more advanced students help a newer one. So, if I have three advanced students, I will put one new student in their group and tell them all to help the new person. All of my students are pretty nice people so they are usually willing to do it, and since it is 3:1 , you will have two students working while one helps the newcomer, and they can switch off, so each is only teaching 1/3 of the time.