TIC TALK Podcasts

Exploring personal experiences of inclusion

TIC TALK 25: Dr Heike Tiemann

A podcast with Dr Heike Tiemann
Dr Heike Tiemann

Dr Heike Tiemann

University of Education, Lufwigsburg

Heike Tiemann is a Professor, teacher and a true advocate and practitioner for inclusive physical education in Germany. She’s experienced, passionate and well travelled. If inclusion on physical education is your thing then this is a must listen podcast.

Transcript of the Podcast with Heike Tiemann

Peter:

Okay, today’s Tick-Talks. It’s a great pleasure to welcome Heike Teman, who I’ve known for a long time. Now, Heike, twenty years or so, we started together in Belgium many years ago. And we’ve bumped into each other over the years and twenty years later, we’ve bumped into each other again, which is great. There’s lots of things we can talk about which I think are going to be interesting, but maybe we start, Heike, just say what’s your role now and where do you work in Germany?

Heike:

I’m working in the University of Education in Lufwigsburg in the south of Germany and I’m a professor in Physical Education and one of my main topics that I’m working is the topic of Inclusion in Physical Education. So I’m teaching students who will be teachers sooner or later in special schools and inclusive schools or in regular schools, which should be inclusive schools sooner or later. But it’s not like this right now, so we’re working on this.

Peter:

How long have you been there?

Heike:

In Ludwigsburg, I’m working there since three years and I’m working as a professor at another university or all together between five or six years as a professor. Because before I was working also in university and before that as a teacher, also in a special school and also in a regular school. And I’m a teacher for special education and a teacher for regular education and a PE teacher. So I have both sides and it’s the reason why I’m very much into inclusion because both sides are not good for me. I want to bring it together.

Peter:

Yeah. Now there’s lots we can talk about in terms of inclusion, but you’ve got a long experience now. So where do you think we’ve come from twenty years ago when we first met and that. Where do you think we’ve come in terms of inclusion of kids with disability to regular school physical education time programs. How far do you think we’ve come?

Heike:

Not far enough. Not far enough at all but it really depends if you look under scientific world, scientific discussions, or discussions which are held in Germany in school settings. So because in Germany it just started to take it serious in the aspect of the inclusion thing.

Peter:

Why do you think that is? Sorry to interrupt you, why do you think they’ve just started to take it seriously now?

Heike:

Ah, because of the UN convention. Because now they have to.

Peter:

Kind of the wrong reason, don’t you think?

Heike:

Oh yeah, it is. It’s horrible. I mean there are few schools and scientists and people who are talking about it before, but now it’s really big, big discussion because they have to. And now everyone is kind of moving other pertitions start to think about it and discuss about it and before it was a bit marginalized discussion. So it was only for the special people who are thinking about this. They weren’t taking for granted enough, I think.

Peter:

That’s not a good basis, is it, to start the discussion really when you feel forced to do it because of legislation.

Heike:

Yes, and that’s the main problem because teachers in schools, they feel forced. They’re not educated. They are not prepared and for pertitions, it’s also a model of saving money and that’s what teachers feel. So that’s a reason that a lot of teachers feel very uncomfortable with the concept of inclusion. It’s very bad. I have a feeling the students I teach, when they deal with the topic and they work within the field and I take them with me with this idea, they are really open. They really want to do it.

Peter:

For kind of human rights reasons?

Heike:

Yes, yes, that’s much better. But when I’m doing a lot of in-service training and these teachers are very frustrated. They are not open and I can’t understand them. That’s the other part. I can’t understand them and I really have to work with them to open up their mind again.

Peter:

That kind of changes the sorts of training that you might want to provide, isn’t it? Do you adapt your training to cater for that– they’re kind of forced to be there? Where do you start to convince them, “well, this is not being forced. This is a human rights issue. These are moral issues, ethical issues”?

Heike:

What I try to do is to show them that there are no recipes and it’s a question for everyone. It’s not a question of inclusion and looking at people with disabilities. And I try to show them that what is the question is- what is disability? So it’s not a concept we can really– We’re just not helpful in school. We need to look at the individual. I talk to them more on the scientific point of view but then I’ll go into the gym and I start to do a lot of movement and games. They can experience.

It’s much better and much easier to look at diverse learners and it’s not helpful to categorize. It’s helpful to look at people and to find out what do they need and then to find the whole way around them. And then when they feel it and they feel, “oh, it’s not a problem. Just do it.” and it’s possible. And when they feel it’s necessary to have a way of thinking then they start to open up. But when they always think, “What do I have to do with a child with Down Syndrome?” They have to relax first and they have to find out that people with Down Syndrome are very diverse too. And then we will find out what can we do? So they have to relax and they have to get to know about it, but not on this deficit point of view. Just look at the person. This person has a name. This person has a life behind it, has socialization, gender, ethnicity– all this stuff.

Peter:

Just very interesting to hear you talk but did a podcast with Marty Black. He’s very experienced in the inclusion physical education and he was saying almost exactly the same thing. It’s not diversity training really and trying to support teachers to see the diversity of children that are now in their classes. I suspect that that’s easier– kind of you guys, easier said than done and you are looking at a very big picture and impression of a very big picture. Are there some other solutions that will help on a broader scale in some ways? What I’m trying to get at is kind of a policy, how can we convince people that this is not forced on you because of a convention? It’s something that is in the world and the world is diverse and that’s the way the world is.

Heike:

But I think the idea of diversity is the basis, because when they see the category disability is not working at all. They need to know that the heterogeneity in their school classes since every. But they have to realize that disability or what we call disability or certain disability is just perspective on people who are different from their personal point of view. And I have to open up this idea first and I think that’s for teachers that’s the only way. When I teach courses I usually don’t call them inclusive or whatever, PE, I call it diversity in PE and then, of course, the concept of disability, gender, ethnicity is a topic but it has to come together. At the end of the course, I try to combine it and it’s all the question of intersectionality and all this. So I think that’s a pass and also politicians have to go. But they are not educated in this area, in this field of work so they– Sometimes a colleague of mine at university, we try to take them with us. Politicians, we invite them and we go to schools with our students, which try to invite politicians to come with us and to join seminars that they can follow our ideas.

Peter:

That’s a good way of doing it, I think. They become part of that movement, so to speak. Now, can you refresh my memory, but I think I’m right. Your PHD and Masters– Was it the Masters that was around gender issues?

Heike:

Yes.

Peter:

Masters was around gender issues. I came to ask about the similarities, common elements of what you found around inclusion of women into sport and inclusion of people with disabilities in the sport, some of the commonalities of that.

Heike:

Well, it’s like gender is a social category like disability. So it’s a point of view, you look at human beings and the way we make person to be looked at as a woman or man is the same like we look at people and we decide, “Oh, this person is disabled or not” because when I look at a person I know till 20 or 30 years and there’s missing whatever. There’s only one leg, not two. This person’s not disabled for me. So it’s just my glasses that I have on and I decide is this person disabled or not? But I have to find out about it and that’s the same way. I look at the person and I decide “oh do I understand this person as a woman, a man? Or am I irritated because of something in between?”

At the end, I have to not only know this social construction of disability of gender. I don’t only need it to be scientific phenomenon. It has to be something I really understand. I need to understand my personal influence on what I see as reality. So it’s very close, because I make other people disabled by looking through my personal glasses. I make them foreigners or not foreigners, disabled or not disabled. So it’s very, very close, this concept.

Peter:

Because some people the origins of gender discrimination are not so much women’s issues as men’s issues, to do with men’s attitudes towards inclusion of women into sport. It could be any aspect of society, but we’ll talk about sport. How can we get more men involved do you think? Do you think one of the answers is getting more involved, more men involved in highlighting these issues and being advocates? Men being feminists almost, to have that role, to say and to challenge other men, particularly those who are from traditional male dominated sports, as an example.

Heike:

Yes. Well, I think it’s, from my point of view, it will come very naturally when we really look at the question of gender. We look at it in the equal opportunity point of view. It’s not something around men and women, it’s something about gender. And we need to look at gender and then we can open up the minds. Then we can like in a certain fields of sociology, we can already a lot men coming in talking about gender because they’re looking at gender, not on women/men. And for example, I’m an equal opportunity officer also in my university and actually I should be part of all commissions in university. It’s not possible and I have no staff. So I ask colleagues of mine to do my job in certain commissions. I’m asking women but I’m also asking men because I think the way of thinking is important. Doesn’t matter if they are men or women. And if they are gender aware, then it’s fine. And I think that’s the way it should be and a lot of men, a lot of colleagues of mine are open for this topic.

Peter:

Do you sometimes ask men to do roles or jobs that are traditionally or might be perceived as being female roles and jobs?

Heike:

Actually, yes, because this job of replacing me in certain commissions, years ago it was only question that women, female colleagues should do it. And now I start to ask men because “well, some of them are so aware of this topic.” A lot of times they are much better than I am doing. They are more critical than I am because I’m quite relaxed and they are aren’t. So it’s really great. So, yeah.

Peter:

The first thing I was thinking about other than that, is one role that you can is start to ask women to do a traditionally men’s roles and men to do traditionally women’s roles.

Heike:

Yeah. Definitely.

Peter:

That’s quite a good way.

Heike:

Yes, then we have this role models and other male colleagues see men doing certain jobs. Well, they are open to do it too because they think, “Oh, well, it’s not so differential anymore.” It’s open.

Peter:

Did you see Emma Watson’s talk at the United Nations? Did you see that?

Heike:

No, I did not.

Peter:

Okay. She talked about– She’s the lady from– I don’t know how to report her, she’s the lady from Harry Potter.

Heike:

Yes.

Peter:

I think it’s Emma Watson and she talked very, very powerful speech a little bit about men having those roles and being comfortable in those roles and men being in non-traditional male roles. Is that part of what you’re doing? Part of what you think will make a difference?

Heike:

Yes, it makes a difference. Of course, looking at gender, it makes a difference but at the end it’s a humanistic way of looking at human beings. It doesn’t matter what kind of characteristic is put upon them. I’m looking on the individual and the way this person is thinking, acting. What are the abilities of this person? What are the challenges of this person? And that’s the most important thing.

Peter:

And that applies going back to the classroom, going back to presentation of disability. Exactly the same thing, isn’t it?

Heike:

Right. Yes. So this part-time job for, like I just talked about, fits together perfectly with the idea of inclusion. It’s the idea behind it.

Peter:

It’s the idea of diversity, isn’t it, in that way?

Heike:

Yes.

Peter:

I’m sure there are parts I’m thinking of our own experiences that’s not straight. But I’m sure there are parts in Germany too where in certain settings that would be quite easy to do and quite fruitful. And in other settings, it will be challenging to do. Do you think again part of the role in the future is to take it to the challenging environments and not preach to the converted? We tend to in various- preach to the choir quite often and it’s easier, in some ways. So is the challenge to say, “no, this is the hardest environment”. Let’s have to go with that?

Heike:

Yes, definitely. In Germany, because we have this horrible school system divided in all this different types of schools, like is it for high school? Is it for differentiated into different types of high school. So it’s so many separated school system and then you look at this one type of school which is called Gymnasium where you can finish the highest degree from school. So this teachers and this type of school are quite elite, not all of course. Some have a very special way of thinking that they educate the elite of the country which will study soon. Sometimes it’s very difficult to convince them that inclusion is also something they have to deal with. But the good thing because I’m was educated as this type of teacher for this type of school and I was working this type of school. I cried, even as it’s quite a long time ago now, I still have a good feeling how this type of school works. So when I go there I try to convince them also by telling them that I’m experienced in this field and I can understand what they’re problems are. A lot of times I try to go this way to first tell them, I know, not from the books, I know from working here. But that’s a challenge and it’s really hard because a lot of times they think, “Well, these people are not coming to our– they’re not in our classrooms so we don’t have to deal with it.” But it’s rubbish because when you look at diversity, everyone will comment.

Peter:

It doesn’t help, does it when you’ve got a system that’s so structured?

Heike:

It’s contradictory. Totally.

Peter:

It’s not affecting the community.

Heike:

Yes. I can understand when they say, “how does it fit together?” And when students come to me and ask me how the idea of diversity and inclusion– how does this fit together with the school system?

Peter:

It doesn’t reflect the community.

Heike:

Not at all. Two different universes.

Peter:

Cause schools should be reflecting the community. They should be schools.

Heike:

Yes. Yes, but they are not. So it’s really difficult to work in this field. But I like to do it because I think that’s a real challenge.

Peter:

You’re fighting the system, really?

Heike:

Yes, I am.

Peter:

It’s not so much– partly individuals obviously but it’s fine in the system. The system is structured in such a way that makes it quite hard because it’s so structured.

Heike:

Yes. Of course. But the system of primary schools is much easier and they have diverse learners from beginning on because in primary schools they are all these different children. It’s easier to open up.

Peter:

Then they start to structure it up a bit.

Heike:                     Yes.

Peter:

Yes. Heike, Thank you very much.

Heike:

You’re welcome.

Peter:

It’s been another opportunity which I’ve had a few of those recently, which is great. Wonderful to catch up and I’m sure we’ll do a number of years yet.

Heike:

Yep. Thank you very much, Peter. My pleasure.