The Power of Inclusion

Please use the following as a discussion guide to maximize the use of the short film here, which can serve as a tool for teachers and school staff members to better understand students’ experiences of youth empowerment.

The story told in the film is an example of students’ challenges, successes and obstacles as agents of positive change at their school. The film is not intended to demonstrate an ideal model or template for teachers or schools regarding youth empowerment in a school setting.


A student trustee talks about a special needs student in her school, sharing what she learned from him about inclusion and how that has affected her work as a school trustee and her personal commitment to make a difference in her school board.


The ways in which exclusion can be normalized and how acting as allies can lead to individual and collective empowerment for young people.


  • Barriers created by different treatment of students with special needs
  • Negative experiences such as isolation and feeling different as a consequence of exclusion
  • Breaking isolation and promoting inclusion by reaching out to people with special needs
  • Learning about inclusion from people with special needs by getting to know them
  • Student representatives listening to and representing diverse voices
  • Student allies speaking out and taking action against marginalization within their schools and board can lead to individual and collective empowerment


  • Creating a forum to prioritize, discuss and focus on inclusion
  • Including all students by ensuring classrooms meet their needs
  • Having a board-wide commitment and a coherent strategy for inclusion
  • Making sure to reach out to all students, especially those who are marginalized, through simple words and gestures
  • Getting to know all students as human beings, especially those who are perceived as “different”
  • Creating opportunities to foster peer support
  • Ensuring diverse student voices are represented

Questions for Group Discussion

  1. What are some of the messages this story offers?
  2. What are the consequences of separate education for students with special needs?
  3. How can all members of a school’s community play a role in including students with special needs?
  4. What is the importance of peer support for all young people?
  5. What is the benefit of a board-wide approach to inclusion?
  6. How can schools and boards ensure full and real student representation?

Young people from marginalized social groups may experience an increased vulnerability to violence in all forms. Gender norms further harm young people, creating unrealistic and damaging expectations or forcing young people into roles or identities they have not freely chosen. Such difficulties are compounded when students face cruelty and injustice such as bullying and discrimination, often experienced by those who are newcomers, of Aboriginal heritage, LGBTQ or have special needs, as well as many other marginalized groups

When we consider this context, it is understandable that some students may arrive at school devoid of the energy and the spark of interest necessary to engage with school life and learning.

Trying It
Knowing that others are aware of how one is feeling can help a student to be present in the classroom, even when they are facing difficulties in their lives. We may wish to do a check-in with our students at the beginning of every day or lesson. This can be done simply, with students displaying a card or a symbol placed on their desk, representing their emotional state or energy level. (For example, green = lots of energy; yellow = not so energetic; red = very low energy, not much desire to engage with others.) For younger groups, or smaller classes, we may wish to do a go-around, with each student stating a feeling or a word that expresses how they are that day.