Inclusion is like a veggie garden
I’ve always wanted to grow a veggie garden. Planting, picking, harvesting and eating my fresh produce would be a dream. So why haven’t I taken the leap?
To grow different veggies you need to understand what each plant needs to thrive and change the growing conditions accordingly. Perhaps more water or sun, maybe some extra fertiliser or weeding?
Some of the plants don’t take. You don’t bother to give extra care to the ones that seem to be wilting. Some plants are doing okay (at best) but many are struggling, some even die. Of course, that doesn’t make those plants weak, they just didn’t get the attention they needed.
And then at some point (around about now) we start to sigh, ‘it’s just too much work, I really can’t be bothered’.
Inclusion is a lot like growing a veggie garden. It’s a great idea in theory but it’s hard in practice because, like veggies, every child and their needs to succeed are different.
But we can’t give up. Even if it’s hard. Even if your child is the perfect shiny tomato plant that produces fruit wind, hail or shine. At some point, we all need extra help to thrive and that is okay! We can all grow together if we create an inclusive environment.
How to build an inclusive garden
Let’s prepare to build our garden. What do we need to do to create an environment where every child can thrive?
Let the plants grow their way
We don’t tell plants how they must grow, we simply nurture the soil in which they live with nutrients, water and sunlight and they fulfil their destiny.
In the same way, we don’t pigeonhole our kids. We provide them with opportunities to try new activities they might like to help them find their strengths. Nurturing those strengths is like nurturing the soil. You are giving them every opportunity to grow their way, and are celebrating the unique way they grow.
Give each plant what it needs
Some plants need extra tender loving care to thrive. Let your child know it’s okay to need to make adjustments so they can succeed in doing what they love.
It doesn’t make them any lesser than the kids who don’t and the kids who don’t might need extra help in a different activity.
We are all different and that is marvellous.
Get some help with the gardening
Even after making some adjustments, a plant might still be struggling. Don’t be ashamed to bring an expert gardener in to help you with your plant – after all, that’s their job.
Whether professional help is in the form of a support worker or even an encouraging coach or teacher, needing their expertise doesn’t make you any less of a parent.
We are all working together to raise children that excel.
A game to explain it to the kids
A game we can play with our kids to teach them about diversity and inclusion is to give them an activity to do with set materials and instructions (e.g. paddle pop sticks to build a cube), in a competition to see who can complete the task first.
However, in this task, we give all but one child a limitation (e.g. instructions in another language). Frustration will build among children with the limitations who should quickly exclaim that the task is ‘unfair’ and that their task was ‘harder’ due to the limitations you placed on them.
This is a great way to open up a conversation about diversity and inclusion because everyone has different limitations and it would be crazy to expect the parties who had limitations, to complete the task in the same way as the ones who didn’t.
What’s made clear by this activity is that we all have different strengths and weaknesses and can learn so much from accepting and celebrating each other.
When you go to the effort to keep such a beautiful garden where every plant can thrive, you yield the most amazing fruit.
You should be so proud of the little champions you are raising.
Claps to you MaDs!