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All We Need To Do Is Change Our Aim

All We Need To Do Is Change Our Aim

Shelley Moore’s research is rooted in one fundamental question: how can we find the value in the day-to-day practices in our classrooms in terms of inclusive education?

The answer, Shelley argues, lies in the science of bowling. Yes, you read correctly, bowling. Who knew an understanding of bowling strategies could provide solutions to the limits of our existing education systems? 

First, here’s a little background on Shelley. Originally from Edmonton, and now based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Shelley Moore is a highly sought after teacher, researcher, consultant, and storyteller, and she has worked with school districts and community organizations throughout Canada and the United States. Her research and work - which is constructed based on theory and effective practices of inclusion, special education, curriculum, and professional development -  has been featured at conferences around the world. Shelley was one of five students in Canada to win the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Storytellers challenge in 2016. Soon after, Shelley gained widespread attention and recognition when she gave a TEDx talk. This success led Shelley to publish her first book One Without the Other.

Now, let’s get back to bowling!

All there is to bowling are 10 pins, 2 balls, and a single lane. The bowler has two chances to knock down as many pins as possible with their bowling ball. The beauty of bowling is that if you don’t knock every pin down in your first attempt, you have another shot. Bowling really is just like teaching, and the strategies of professional bowlers can teach us valuable lessons about inclusive education.

When amateurs like myself go bowling, we throw the ball down the aisle. We try to knock down as many pins as we can. We try to follow through by contorting our limbs in odd positions after we throw the ball because we think it will help. We aim down the middle, at those little arrows on the floor, and once we release the ball, all we can do is wait.

Sometimes we have great games, sometimes we have crappy games. If we practice and get coached, we will get better. Like anything, bowling takes skill. But even after years of practice, coaching, and skill development, a perfect game…even for professional bowlers, it is very difficult.

Unlike amateur bowlers who aim down the middle with the hope of somehow creating an angle that knocks down all 10 pins, professional bowlers do not aim for the headpin. They do not aim for the middle. They aim for the outside pins, the ones that are the hardest to reach. The reason why professional bowlers throw their balls at a curve is so that they can knock down the outside pins, then the inside pins, ultimately creating a domino effect. Simply, in order to knock down the most pins, professional bowlers aim for the pins that are the hardest to get. 

In order to knock down the most pins, professional bowlers aim for the pins that are the hardest to get. Shelley realizes that this philosophy applies to inclusive education. She writes, “what if when we teach our students, we think not about our status quo middle of the pack or the headpin … and instead, we think, who are my kids that are hardest to get? What do I need to do so they get it?

Those kids that are hardest to reach are just as smart as those that are easy to reach. Creating environments that facilitate learning for all children of all needs will make all students more successful and engaged. The supports we desire for kids on the outside of the lane are supports that all kids need. 

Applying bowling strategies to classroom-settings will change education as we know it. It will motivate educators to implement Universal Design and inclusive education teaching methods. In short, Shelley believes that all we need to do is change our aim. 

You can hear directly from Shelley and learn more about this bowling metaphor at PEAK’s 2021 Virtual Conference on Inclusive Education where the theme is Where There Is Inclusion, There is Hope this February. Reserve your spot at the conference today! 

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