Inclusive Experiences for Teens are Necessary, Important and Entirely Possible

An inclusive teen program benefits everyone.

A teen community is stronger when individuals feel a sense of belonging and their value is celebrated; Removing the Stumbling Block

Building an inclusive program for teens will be challenging if you don't personally embrace a philosophy of inclusion. Unless you truly believe in the value of inclusion across every experience, you are bound to get stuck in notions such as, "Having her there takes something away from the other teens," or, "They shouldn't always have to look out for him." Such fallacies will persist until teen educators embrace the value of inclusion and recognize that an inclusive community is a stronger community for everyone. 

A highlight of my work in Jewish educator is leading informal experiences with teens. I relish each opportunity to teach, guide, mentor, counsel, and support this age group. And I am exceptionally proud of the unique model we have built in our congregation. We have created a structure that affords all students, regardless of ability or need, the opportunity to participate fully. Including overnight experiences. And it works.

Synagogues across North America continue to lament a significant decrease in engagement with Jewish life after bar and bat mitzvah, but when you ensure that the post b’nei mitzvah program is fully inclusive, you maximize opportunities to continue learning, growing and engaging with Jewish life experiences for all teens. Further, there will be opportunity to socially engineer relationships between teens, and you will help to maximize their potential for developing strong Jewish friendships. 

Professor Steven M. Cohen states, “Jewish educators should have an explicit mission to bestow Jewish friendship networks on children and adults who are increasingly unlikely to find them on their own.”

Teens with disabilities are entitled to the same Jewish opportunities that their peers experience. Inclusive teen experiences are necessary, important and entirely possible. 

Contact me to learn more about how to build an inclusive teen community.

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Recognizing Ableism - And Clear Ways You Can Work to Eliminate It

Recognizing Ableism And Clear Ways You Can Work to Eliminate It; Removing the Stumbling Block

I was reading a well-known and highly regarded book about a significant Jewish spiritual practice when I stumbled onto the following passage:

The Hebrew term for gratitude is hakarat ha’tov, which means, literally, “recognizing the good.” The good is already there. Practicing gratitude means being fully aware of the good that is already yours.

     If you’ve lost your job but you still have your family and health, you have something to be grateful to be grateful for.

     If you can’t move around except in a wheelchair but your mind is as sharp as ever, you have something to be grateful for.

     If your house burns down but you still have your memories, you have something to be grateful for.

     If you’ve broken a string on your violin, and you still have three more, you have something to be grateful for.

I was instantly struck by the ableism in this passage. I really wanted to be wrong, so I quickly snapped a photo and sent it off to a trusted friend/colleague/disability advocate who confirmed what I already knew. Her words, “That line is so problematic. People are so quick to pit physical and cognitive disabilities against one another and to create an arbitrary hierarchy of disability. There were so many other examples the author could’ve used. I agree with you - that one misses the mark entirely.” Sigh.

A Powerful Metaphor for Inclusion - Ubuntu

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wood background, frame with quote My humanity is bound up in your, for we can only be human together; Removing the Stumbling Block
Deep, meaningful lessons about inclusion can pop up in the most surprising places.

Although, I suppose you might also argue that such lessons become obvious to me because I am open to them, or even that I am looking for them, but that's a whole different conversation.

Anyway, I was reading a novel - the seventeenth in a cozy mystery series that I have enjoyed over the years - when I stumbled across this line:

Ubuntu is a deep-seated belief that humanity is something we owe to one another. How I act toward you is what defines me. Not what I have or what I wear - but how I treat you, how I interact with you.

My "inclusion radar" immediately on high, I decided I need to know a little more about this South African concept.

Teach the Way They Learn

“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”
~ Ignacio Estrada

It sounds so simple, doesn't it? 

And yet, if we look closely at our classrooms, we will see that this is just not always happening. There continue to be teachers who expect all of their students to move at the same pace, teachers who rarely vary their teaching style, and teachers who continue to struggle to meet the needs of diverse learners.

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