Inclusion in Schools

“Better than…”, “More gifted…”, “More flexible…”, “More friendly…”… do these terms sound like advertising?

There are worse labels though:

“Less able…”, “Less sociable…”, ADHD, Aspergers, dyspraxic, dyslexic…….

Apparently these endless labels “help” teachers and parents to differentiate learners in a class, categorising and measuring outcomes, people, products. They may however just oversimplify the diversity.

As OfSted looks at “inclusion”, and we take side glances at Finland’s non-streaming, all inclusive, successful and happy school system, I wonder how these categories really help, and how they may relate to yoga.

Are we not all looking to belong, to connect, to be part of a whole? Where does this longing come from? It comes from within, yoga says, it is your birthright, it is the truth, this connection, that you may feel on a forest walk or in the midst of a giggling fit with your best friend, or in a big group of friends, on a roller coaster, as you scream together. This is the truth of human existence.

Our educational system, however, seems to go in the other direction, understanding by division and by competition. Competition is important for people to do better, I hear you say. And I ask myself, is it really? I notice kids working together, the ones who get it, teaching the ones who don’t, and noticing how much more they get out of the class by teaching others and by engaging in teaching themselves. I notice how this group work enhances the sense of unity, friendship and cohesion.

Some say yoga is a sport, it can be seen as such, but it is primarily a toolkit to expand consciousness,  a philosophy, it provides an emotional toolkit to help any child through school, whether they are in the top stream or in the lowest stream for maths, whether they play in the rugby team or on Xbox, or whether they are overweight or too thin. Yoga is inherently democratic.

Obviously, even in yoga, the teacher needs to be able to differentiate in a class, there are those who can touch their toes and there are those who cannot! There are those who have strength to hold their body weight and there are those who do not. Each requires different attention.

However, there is no competition, and no labels. The concept of competition is anathema to yoga, which aims to bring a class to a state of harmony, acceptance of themselves and others, unity within themselves and with the outer world. Honouring differences, and celebrating diversity, we are more able to see a group as a unified body. With compassion and understanding, we can bring people together under the banner of mindful yoga for teens. And that is perhaps the only label we need!

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