A year ago I sent off an application for a small grant. I could not envision the work or even the concrete outcomes with much accuracy then, but the premise was something I felt strongly about and that I believed I could contribute to.
Since that time, myself and my friend and colleague in this grant, Elsa, have travelled to trainings, spent countless hours researching and collaborating, even more hours off on our own working on details, creating relationships, making connections, repeatedly asking for patience from our families while we took these months to focus on this project. This work came to its culmination on Wednesday night with a cross-community conversation/symposium/networking event.
It was an absolutely exhilarating night, a beginning of so many things.
Through a specific process of progressive conversation that night, we elicited and recorded a list of ideas on how we can make our community more inclusive of those with differences, how we can ensure that these children, youth and adults are not just tolerated, not just acknowledged, certainly not separated through special services, but truly included in all aspects of what already makes our community strong.
This list came from people living and working in more than 5 different districts in my city. It came from moms, from dads, from grandparents, from school board members, from baristas, from museum staff (public museum, science museum, children's museum), from business owners, from special ed teachers, from regular ed teachers, from school board members, from pediatricians, from lawyers, from behavior analysts, from employers, from service agencies, from real estate agents, from college students, from university staff, from sales and marketing experts, from camp and recreation department directors, from people with differences, from people without differences, from comedians, from bankers, from non-profit founders, from neighbors, from all manner of citizen.
We also asked for and captured a second list: What I personally will do in the next 6 months to further these ideas.
There was not enough time during our event to hear all of the 6 month commitments people were willing to make. We have work to do to form these interest/action groups, to gather the resources - some of which were offered that night - to bring these initiatives to life. Connections are made, people are talking.
Through this forum, Elsa and I essentially asked if we could share the accountability for ensuring our children and others with differences have a place at the table, have the opportunity to develop rich relationships and make meaningful contributions to our community, thus strengthening it for all.
The community answered without hesitation, loud and clear.
Farmer John Cheese and Other Joy
Hoorah for you!ReplyDelete
As you go about your important work, know that in the far upper left hand corner of the country (Bellingham, Whatcom County, WA) near the Canadian border there is a passionate special ed teacher who happens to also passionately parent 3 children (2 of whom have exceptional needs) and is now teaching at night at a tribal college. I taught Intro to Early Childhood Ed Fall qtr. for the first time and had 5 students. The class consisted nearly entirely of Head Start teachers and young parents. We spent the entire quarter figuring out what to do with a composite, supposedly hopelessly behaviorally challenged child with many developmental challenges as well. The students left singing a new song and with a new view of what it means to be welcomed and included. They have returned this term and brought friends. I now have 12 REALLY enthusiastic students (even more Head Start) - some of whom wish to pursue special ed - who are itching to see what happens this term in "Infant and Toddler Caregiving". One class, one community at a time......... Keep up the good work!
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