Monday morning October 10, I left, as the only Belgian coach, with some curiosity towards Porto. The learning, inspiring and reflecting on inclusive pedagogy actually already started at the airport, where the team from Arteveldehogeschool and UCLL were waiting for me. In the evening, we met the team from the Netherlands. It was nice to be so quickly on the same wavelength about educational topics.
On Tuesday, the first official training day started at the University of Porto. We were warmly welcomed by Monica, the project manager for Portugal. Coaches and teachers from the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Latvia and the United Kingdom gathered around the table and after a brief introduction, we started right away. We got back to the "10 habits of an inclusive teacher ", we explored how to set up a professional learning community (PLC) successfully and we had a coaching workshop. Immediately I made the link to our own school: what are we doing well, where are opportunities for growth and what next step can we take. Through active coaching and informal discussions with other coaches, I found answers to these questions.
Even before we left for Porto , I knew that on Wednesday we would visit the school from the Pano documentary on inclusive eductation on the Belgian TV. By bus, we were taken to Gaia, a suburb of Porto. There we were immediately welcomed by the director of the school community and Suzanna, the senco of the school and member of the ProuD To Teach All project. I was overwhelmed after the visit, not because of the buildings, they really weren't spectacularly beautiful or new, but all the more because of the atmosphere that prevailed at the school. The teachers bring the story of love, to put it in their words: they see everything from "glasses
of empathy" and they also teach this to their pupils. A lot of time is spent on learning social skills. You notice the love for their pupils, colleagues and the school as a whole in all sorts of small actions. At this school, every pupil is given a chance, regardless of cognitive or motor problems, nor is social status important.
In the afternoon, we were guests at the day centre for +16-year-olds. These centres are set up by parents and not by the government. During this talk, I noted that the inclusive bridge between school, centres and society is still developing. After these school visits, I realised all the more, you don't need inclusive teachers, but an inclusive thinking TEAM. Together you can do more!
We ended the day on Porto's beautiful beach. Just enjoying the surroundings and let all the impressions of the day sink in under a radiant evening sun.
On Thursday, the last training day and the first multiplier event were scheduled. We started the day with a reflection on the school visit.
Then followed an intensive workshop on how to set up an inclusive school policy and what professional developments are needed for this. We also looked at the website associated with the project. During our last afternoon there was time for peer coaching around our own school priorities.
At 17.30h local time, the first multiplier event took place. We were able to share our drive, vision and developments with the visitors on site and online. For our school, I brought our process around the child conversations and talked about how we organise our PLC. The multiplier event was a strong content finale to this intensive, instructive and heartwarming three days.
Friday morning the alarm clock went off early to return home. With a grateful feeling, a backpack full of ideas, an expanded view of inclusion I return. I feel myself a richer person, teacher and headmaster.
Finally, I would like to thank Marijke Wilssens, project coordinator, for the opportunity we were given as a school to step into this project! Your drive and enthusiasm are an example for many to work on inclusion!
Saar (AHS) , Annemieke (AHS) and Hannah (UCLL) thank
you for the warm chats, the inspiration and the insights you brought on various topics shared. Invaluable.
Thank you to all the coaches, project leaders and teachers from the Netherlands, Latvia, UK and Portugal for the connecting cooperation during these professionalisl development three days.
Headmaster of VBS DE SPRINGPLANK