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... 




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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