#BlogElul 27 – Intend: Move From Intention to Action

In Judaism, intention (kavanah) is an essential component of meaningful action. Kavanah comes from the Hebrew root meaning to direct, intend, or focus. Living a meaningful Jewish life involves combining our actions with the intention we bring to those actions.
Rabbi Yaakov Yitzhak of Pshi’scha, taught, “Good intentions alone, if not accompanied by action, are without value, as it is the action which makes the intentions so profound.”

Nowhere is it more essential to back up our words with action than with the inclusion of individuals with disabilities. Each of us must move from intention to action.  

Some additional thoughts to get you started:

For your congregation - Ten Steps to Make Your Congregation More Inclusive

For your classroom - Teaching the Difference Between Fairness and Equality

For your family - Teach Your Children to be Accepting of Disabilities

For you -  Inclusion is NOT social action


#BlogElul 26 – Hope: What Are Your Hopes for the Year Ahead?

The New Year is upon us. I hope for us all that this will be a year of inclusive opportunities, filled with meaningful relationships, laughter, fun and lasting memories.

I hope that this can be a year of lighting sparks rather than filling vessels. I hope that we will explore, discover, engage, debate, struggle, persevere and grow.

I hope that we can embrace learning for its own sake and recognize that learning is life-long.

I hope that this is a year filled with joy and wonder for our children and that we are able to step back from the hectic routines to let them experience it all.

What Are Your Hopes for the Year Ahead?

#BlogElul 25 - Begin: Create a More Inclusive Classroom

When it comes to inclusion in Jewish supplemental schools, many well intentioned educators want to become more inclusive, but are just not sure where to begin. Until teachers feel confident, they often shy away from taking those first steps. They don’t need added inspiration, but rather to acquire the skills necessary to make their classrooms truly inclusive spaces.

At the core of creating inclusive learning environments are two significant concepts to keep in mind:

First, accommodating isn’t the same as inclusion. Don’t get me wrong, making appropriate accommodations is an essential strategy in working with all students who have special learning needs. But there’s more to inclusion. Inclusion is about belonging. It is about every student being fully integrated into the life of the classroom. Making accommodations is an integral part of the process, but it is not sufficient in and of itself. I share a great video to illustrate an activity that was reframed to be inclusive in A Powerful Example of Inclusion.

Second, inclusion and disability awareness are NOT the same thing. Teaching a lesson or leading a conversation about disabilities does not mean you are inclusive. It means you have taught about disabilities. It can be important in is its own right, and a valuable component of inclusivity, but quality awareness-raising is only one aspect of inclusive practice.

There are many practical “how-to’s” to help you create more inclusive classrooms and schools. Special Education is Good Education and Ten Things to Know About Jewish Special Needs Education are terrific starting points.

Additional resources to consider:

The Inclusive Class – A wonderful podcast and website rich with tools and strategies for secular classrooms that can be easily adapted and used in faith-based schools. I urge you not to shy away from secular resources “just because” you teach in a Jewish school. They have articles such as Top 10 Websites for the Inclusive Classroom and The Top 10 Blogs About Inclusive Education

Think Inclusive – Another wonderful website rich with content to support you at any place along your inclusive journey.

In the end, where and how you begin is far less important than just doing it!

#BlogElul 24 – End: You Are You

Over the years I have grown in my appreciation of Shabbat. Where once I saw it simply as the end of my work week, I now respect that Shabbat brings an opportunity to relax, reflect and reenergize before the new week ahead. I have experimented with different ways to observe, creating my own personal boundaries in ways that help me to connect and recharge. 

As we approach the final Shabbat of 5774, I am thinking about the ways in which I might grow my personal practice in the year ahead.

We can apply this same principle to our efforts to become inclusive. We can grow over time as we take opportunities to slow down, reflect and make new commitments.  No one ever said you have to do it all at once. No one ever said that inclusion has an "end date".

So here is a thought to consider as you slow down and reflect on how you might want to grow in the year ahead:

“Accept everything about yourself – I mean everything. You are you and that is the beginning and the end – no apologies, no regrets.” ~ Henry Kissinger