Nothing Goes to Waste

Inclusion is a mindset; Removing the Stumbling Block

I have had the good fortune of connecting with many wonderful bloggers who care deeply about the inclusion of people with disabilities. I am always honored to write guest posts for and collaborate with these amazing advocates. So I jumped when such an opportunity came from Snappin' Ministries. I have said often that to be truly inclusive we must model it in all aspects of our lives. And so I think it is wonderfully significant that a Christian ministry, dedicated to supporting people with disabilities, eagerly shared a teaching from a Jewish educator. We need more of this in our world. 
 
“But Moses said to God, ‘Please, God, I have never been a man of words, either in times past or now; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ And God said to Moses, ‘Who gives man speech? Who makes him dumb or deaf, seeing or blind?  Is it not I, the Eternal?’”
(Exodus 4:10-11)

It might have been easy for God to say, “You know what, Moses, you’re right. I am asking too much of you.” 

It might have been easy for God to say, “You know what, Moses, give it a shot and if it’s too hard, we’ll find someone else.”

It might have been easy for God to say, “OK, Moses, your brother, Aaron can do it.” (Instead)

It might have been easy for God to underestimate Moses’ abilities, but he didn’t. God believed in Moses and reassured him by reminding him that God’s choices are perfect. In fact, God designated Aaron to speak for Moses when he was unable, as his aide, and thus demonstrated the first formal act of true inclusion seen in the Bible.

Too often we underestimate others abilities. Too often we fail to presume competence.

Haven’t you done it? Given in too easily when someone in our care complains that what we are asking is just too much? How often is it easier to just let a sibling complete the task? How many times have we given up due to our own frustrations? How often have we neglected to even ask?

Inclusion is a mindset. It is a way of thinking. It is not a program that we run or a classroom in our school or a favor we do for someone. Inclusion is who we are. It is who we must strive to be.

To be inclusive we must presume competence. To be inclusive we must recognize each person’s right to belong. To be inclusive we must recognize the gift that each and every person brings to the world. 

The moral of the story: Each of us has our own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots. In this world, nothing goes to waste. Each and every perceived flaw is truly a blessing in disguise. 

To read the original article, please visit Comfort in the Midst of Chaos

It Is NEVER Ok To Use Disability As An Insult



words matter disability semantics

Our words matter. 

Remember the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me."? Not true. Not true at all. 

Words can hurt. A lot. And there is real potential for lasting harm. It's not just semantics.

So when I learned that an official in the Obama administration referred to the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu as "Aspergery", I was relieved to see this statement from Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation:

“While it is perfectly acceptable for people to be critical of each other, it is unacceptable to use a term of disability in a derogatory manner,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “The term “Aspergery” was used in a manner that is insulting to the millions of people around the world with Asperger Syndrome. It is never OK to insult someone by referring to them by using disability in a negative manner.”

The full statement from the Ruderman Family Foundation can be found here and on Businesswire. The original article by Jeffrey Goldberg can be found here.


Making Sense of Behavior: Girls, Boys, Attention Deficits and Stereotypes



My friends at The Inclusive Class posted the following visual on Facebook:


ADD ADHD Girls Stereotypes Behavior


It resonated, but I found myself thinking much more about stereotypes than disabilities. 

You’ve done it, haven’t you? Referred to girls as “chatty”, categorized their behavior as “drama” or blamed the way she is acting on “hormones”? I certainly have. And there may well be truth to each of those descriptions. But we do our children a disservice when we simply use stereotypes to explain away their behavior. 

Reflecting on Inclusion - A High Holy Day Writing Round-Up



Saying that the high holy day season is a busy time of year for Jewish professionals is a little like suggesting that a school teacher has a “few things to do” in the week leading up to the opening of school; it’s truly a profound understatement. The holy days require many hours of thoughtful preparation in writing, teaching, cooking, cleaning and so much more. We work to prepare our children & families, our teachers & students, our many congregants; not to mention that we must somehow find the time to prepare ourselves.

Participating in #BlogElul was my personal preparation. And yet, as I look back on a month of daily writing, I must admit that some of it feels like a blur. At times, I found myself struggling to meet self-imposed deadlines, let alone also managing to keep up with some of the wonderful things written by my colleagues.

So today, as we head into Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish year which brings opportunities for deep introspection, I share a short round-up of the pieces that I feel are most worth reading (or re-reading) as you finish your preparations:

The Inclusion Confession by Rabbi Rebecca Schorr




And one more thought from my wise friend and colleague, Rabbi Ken Carr:
"Fasting on Yom Kippur is a call to a higher level of ethical behavior. It is a signal to recognize the responsibility we bear to other people. It is a shofar blast awakening us to our ability to improve the lives of those who need our help. This true fast is not easy, certainly not as easy as simply not eating and drinking. If our fasting is easy, then the fast will not have served its real purpose. So let us not wish each other a tzom kal, an easy fast; instead, let us wish each other a tzom tov, a good fast, a productive fast, a meaningful fast that leads us to action on behalf of those less fortunate than ourselves."

I wish each of you a tzom tov, a good fast. May this be a meaningful holiday for those who observe.

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.
 
Removing the Stumbling Block intention action disability inclusionRabbi 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 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 

 

What Are Your Hopes for the Year Ahead?




What Are Your Hopes for the Year Ahead? Removing the Stumbling Block

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?



This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 

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



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 

Dare to Fulfill Your Obligations to Yourself



I’m a “finish what you start” kind of person. When I set a goal for myself, I see it through. But I am also realistic, and the goals I set for myself are typically appropriate and manageable, with just enough “reach” to push myself a little further.

#BlogElul is more ambitious than that. I am not a daily blogger. While I genuinely appreciate this opportunity to tune in and become more mindful as I prepare for the holy days ahead; if I am really honest with myself, completing #BlogElul fully is a bit of a personal dare. I feel a sense of obligation to myself, and that, in and of itself, might just be the point.
Honoring an Obligation to Yourself, Removing the Stumbling Block, Lisa Friedman

Like many, I spend much of my time honoring my obligations to other people. There are parents and caregivers who give so much of themselves to others that they lose sight of their own needs. There is something really special about honoring a significant obligation to myself. It’s freeing, in some ways. Certainly challenging in others. And absolutely worthwhile.

So I will see #BlogElul through to the end; and with it will come both pride in accomplishment and a deep sigh of relief as I greet the new year with a full heart and an open mind to the possibilities that lie ahead.

#BlogElul 2014


This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 

We Judge One Another



We judge one another.  

When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself; Removing the Stumbling Block
 
To judge is “to form an opinion or conclusion about.” Straightforward, right? We need to form opinions and draw conclusions in order to make sense of our world. We do this every day.

There Is No Shame in Asking For Help


There is no shame in asking for help.

We live in community. And at the core of a successful community are relationships built upon networks of interdependence. Why then, is asking for help hard for so many? 

There Is No Right Way To Pray


There is no right way to pray. Some feel most comfortable in a communal setting while others prefer solitude. Some speak to their God regularly, while others only once in a while. There is no right way.

Spirituality is a part of us as human beings, although there are those who would choose to deny it. Some have struggled with this idea their whole lives while others are completely in tune to their own internal voice. Still others may choose to ignore what they know is there.

Awaken to Inclusion



For me, the idea of awakening conjures images of heightened senses and an appreciation for the gift of life.


inclusion will happen awaken recognize each is a gift from God faith

To awaken can be to gain a spiritual awareness, to have our eyes symbolically opened to the beauty that is all around us. 

Inclusion will happen when we awaken to the recognition that each of us is a gift from God; that each of us has a gift to share with the world.



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 

A Lesson to Build Relationships

There is significant value to building relationships when seeking to foster inclusion. And yet, even when we understand the importance of cultivating authentic, meaningful relationships, the practicality of helping students actually do it can be daunting.

Here is a lesson specifically geared for older children and teens:

1.      Have a conversation about the power of words. Discuss how easily words can hurt a person and how it is just as easy to use words to lift someone up.

2.     Brainstorm together positive words that might be used to describe a friend or someone you care about. Consider steering children away from generic words like “nice” and “fun”.

3.     Have one student sit in front of a white board. Gather the other students around him/her to write positive phrases. No peeking! Take a photo of the student and the board when it is complete.

A Lesson to Build Relationships, Removing the Stumbling Block, teens, teach

                                         Photo and lesson idea credit: Melissa Farnsworth

Variations:

  • Do this activity once a week until every student in the class has had a turn.
  • If you have a white board that is rarely used, consider turning it into a display. Keep the original activity up along with the photo and encourage students to add to the board throughout the week.

I was sitting on a beach one summer day, watching two children, a boy and a girl, playing in the sand. They were hard at work building an elaborate sand castle by the water's edge, with gates and towers and moats and internal passages. Just when they had nearly finished their project, a big wave came along and knocked it down, reducing it to a heap of wet sand.
 
Building Relationships; Removing the Stumbling Block, Lisa Friedman
I expected the children to burst into tears, devastated by what had happened to all their hard work. But they surprised me. Instead, they ran up the shore away from the water, laughing and holding hands, and sat down to build another castle.

I realized that they had taught me an important lesson. All the things in our lives, all the complicated structures we spend so much time and energy creating, are built on sand. Only our relationships to other people endure. Sooner or later, the wave will come along and knock down what we have worked so hard to build up. When that happens, only the person who has somebody's hand to hold will be able to laugh.”  ~ Rabbi Harold Kushner



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 


Everyone Can Learn



Everyone can learn. That’s it.

So go ahead, include everyone.




BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 


It’s Time to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward


Forgive Yourself and Move Forward; Lisa Friedman, Removing the Stumbling Block

If you read a lot of education blogs, particularly those focused on disability inclusion, it may seem like there are a lot of “shoulds”.  This is how you should treat people with disabilities, this is how you should speak about people with disabilities, this is how you should teach and include people with disabilities.

When I write, my goal is to get you thinking, not make you feel guilty. I hope I lead you to think about what is possible. This is the time to forgive yourself and, as you move forward, find ways to add new elements of inclusion into your daily practice.

Maybe you haven’t yet found a way to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities in your school. Forgive yourself, and move forward.

Maybe you have not yet integrated the strategies of teaching a child with more complex disabilities in your classroom.  Forgive yourself, and move forward.

Maybe you haven’t yet found a way to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities in your congregation. Forgive yourself, and move forward.

Maybe you are not yet consistently using inclusive language.  Forgive yourself, and move forward.

Maybe you shy away from people with disabilities for fear of saying the wrong thing.  Forgive yourself, and move forward.

And, as you forgive, know that you can do more. In this month of Elul, in this period of teshuvah (returning to one’s self, repentance) you have the beautiful opportunity to reflect on what you are already doing and what challenges still lie ahead of you. It is a chance to change, to grow and to do more than you already are. It’s ok if you are not there yet.

Forgive yourself, and move forward.

BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling BlockThis post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation...  


Will You See My Soul?



There is an image that I first encountered on Twitter that instantly captivated me: 

 “If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies, how very different our ideals of beauty would be.”

If only…

Here is another image that I discovered on Pinterest:

How You See Yourself; Removing the Stumbling Block

“How others see you is not important. How you see yourself means everything."

And while I love the potential that this image represents, I also recognize the challenges. This could represent pushing ourselves father than we are truly capable. This could mean giving in to the dangers of eating disorders or other self-injurious behaviors because we are never satisfied with what we see...

Yet, when we combine the two images, and teach our children and ourselves to see souls and not physical attributes; how stunning the potential.

And finally, there is this image:

See the Able, Not the Label; Removing the Stumbling Block
"See the able, not the label."

How might you use these images?

Photo credits to nationalautism.org, themetapicture.com and pinwords



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 

Each Of Us Yearns To Be Heard



Each of us yearns to be heard. 

But how many of us really listen?

How often do you say, “I hear you?” Is that the same as listening?

Do you only listen for what you want to hear?

Can you really listen, to that which you can hear and that which you can’t?


“We, the one's who are challenged, need to be heard. To be seen not as a disability, but as a person who has, and will continue to bloom. To be seen not only as a handicap, but as a well intact human being.” -- Robert M. Hensel

Each of us yearns to be heard.



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 




I Believe in Inclusion



In 2013 I participated in BlogElul for the first time. Now I find myself wondering if it's “cheating” to look back at what I previously wrote for any given prompt. On the one hand, there is something significant to be said about authenticity. And yet, on the other hand, I am an educator, and my most successful lessons are those that I build upon from year to year. I don’t scrap what worked and start over just for the very sake of “new”. Rather, I capitalize on a lesson’s success and fine tune it to increase student engagement.

And so I share an updated (but not reinvented) post for the BlogElul prompt “Believe”:

I Beleive in Inclusion - Removing the Stumbling Block 
I believe in inclusion. 

I believe that each of us is created b’tzelem elohim (in the image of God).

I believe that inclusion is possible in every congregation, in every religious school, in every day school, in every Jewish organization.

I believe that we can work together to ensure that every child and every adult has an appropriate opportunity to learn Torah.

I believe that it is the responsibility of every educator, every teacher and every school leader to learn the strategies necessary to make inclusive education possible.

I believe in inclusion. 

I believe that all Jews have a right to live a meaningful Jewish life and that no one can determine what meaningful is for anyone else.

I believe that every person has a gift to offer to society.

I believe that it is incumbent upon us as families, as congregations, as a society and as human beings to help each person with and without disabilities bring his/her gift forward.

I believe these words from Pirkei Avot – As Rabbi Tarfon taught: "It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but neither are you free to desist from it" (2:16).

I believe in inclusion.



This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 

Search: So I Went to Google...




The word search immediately makes me think Google. I am sure I am not the only one. I know that it’s Elul and this prompt is intended to inspire reflection and introspection, but I can’t quite seem to get my brain past the notion of an online search for ideas and images.

Maybe one reason for this is that I have finished reading the book “It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens” by Danah Boyd. To be honest, I have done little more than think about this book’s impact since setting it down. Yes, it really was that significant.

So I went to Google. I figured that if I was going to write a post about using Google to search, I should go ahead and do it myself.  I googled (yes, it is a verb) “inclusion” and the first hits were, as I expected, mostly education focused. I was also pleasantly surprised to see one of my own posts as the second hit. And yet, I realized that from the moment I pressed “enter” I was thinking more critically about what I might encounter online. I recognized that this search was tailored to my own biases based on my own past search history. Boyd elaborates on this in chapter 7 where she explains that, “most parents, teachers, and teens express reverence toward Google” and “many of the people I met believed that Google was neutral.” She further explains that most of the people she encountered failed to recognize that Google, a for-profit company monetized through advertising, is far from neutral.

This isn’t a bad thing, and it doesn’t mean that we should stop using the search engine. Rather, it illustrates that we have an obligation to teach our students and our children how to view and think critically about the information they access online.

That message is one of this book’s most significant takeaways. As Boyd states in her closing chapter, “Networked publics are here to stay. Rather than resisting technology or fearing what might happen if youth embrace social media, adults should help youth develop the skills and perspective to productively navigate the complication brought about by living in networked publics. Collaboratively, adults and youth can help to create a networked world that we all want to live in.”

As a Jewish Educator this speaks to me of tikkun olam; working as partners to repair and perfect the world.

As a teacher this speaks to me of directly teaching the skills of critical thinking and digital awareness.

As an advocate for inclusion this speaks to me of opening new doors and embracing new possibilities.

It’s Elul, so I am still processing, still reflecting, still searching for the ways that this book can and will impact my work and my students. I believe that this book is an important read for anyone who works with, lives with or cares about teens.

And if anyone has read “It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens” and wants to discuss, please let me know! 



BlogElul 2014 Removing the Stumbling Block
This post is a part of the month-long series #BlogElul. The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... 
 
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