Finding Joy - One Word 365

Joy - One Word 365; Removing the Stumbling Block

As a blogger, sometimes I need a little inspiration. It’s not that I don’t have a lot to say, but there are times when it feels as though I have already said it, multiple times, in post after post. I guess that’s what they call writer’s block.

So, a couple of years ago, in searching for some inspiration, I stumbled across a project. The concept is pretty simple: Rather than making a long list of New Year’s Resolutions, you choose one word as your focus for the year. This concept feels far more real to me than resolutions. Quite frankly, I think most resolutions become wishful thinking pretty quickly.


There are many different ways to bring this project to life, but for most it is a way to sharpen their focus, attend to what really matters and bring a new level of intention to their writing and to their lives.

I let my choice for 2015 be guided by my commitment to inclusion. (My word for 2015 was intention.) I think I could have just as easily chosen the word reflection. I spent much time over the past year thinking deeply about my own personal practice of inclusion and seeking ways to merge that which permeates my professional life with my personal life. I feel proud of what I have accomplished.

Now, looking ahead to 2016, what jumps out at me is to focus on joy. I want to bring it into my life and my work with greater intention (I’m not leaving 2015 behind so quickly). I want to find the joy in the every day and I want to truly savor those joyous moments.

My “one word” for 2016 is JOY. What’s yours?

Teaching Fairness vs. Equality – A Classroom Activity

Teaching fairness vs. equality; Removing the Stumbling Block

The most popular posts on this blog are Fair Isn’t Equal and Teaching the Difference Between Fairness and Equality. With good reason. These are challenging concepts for children (and let’s face it, many adults) to fully wrap their brains around. Even when we understand the difference between these concepts, many find ourselves reverting back to the age-old whine, “It’s not fair.”

To review:

Fairness means that each person gets what he or she needs to be successful.

Equality is giving each person the exact same thing.

Further, fairness continues to be one of the most commonly used arguments against inclusion. “It’s not fair to hold some students back to prevent others from falling behind,” is just one of many myths that continues to be perpetuated by those who do not fully understand the concept of fairness. Therefore, for a classroom (or a school or an organization) to be truly inclusive, it is critical that the difference between fairness and equality be both understood and embraced.

A Classroom Activity:

  1. Place two rewards high up on a shelf, so high that only the tallest student/participant can reach them (even if it takes some stretching or a little jumping).
  2. Ask for volunteers. Say, “Anyone who can reach one can have it, no strings attached.” When the hands go up, choose the tallest person first.
  3. Ask for a second volunteer. Ignore the hands and select the shortest person in the room. After a few unsuccessful attempts, he will often go for a chair or table. Say, “You may not use a chair; that would be unfair. So and so did it under her own steam. You must do the same.” Participants will likely complain: “That’s not fair! He can’t help that he’s small.”
  4. Ponder their argument and say, “Okay, give me your best reasons for allowing him to use a chair or any other kind of assistance in reaching the reward when so and so had no help. How can that be fair?!?”
  5. Listen to participants argue their case, relent (which is what you were going to do anyway) and let the student use the chair to grab the reward.
If it is even necessary, refer back to this demonstration to explain why you do certain things in your differentiated, inclusive classroom with different students at different times in order to help each of them find success. They will get it. Fair isn’t always equal.

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Walking the Walk - Make Inclusion a Reality

Inclusion isn't always hard; Removing the Stumbling Block

Last week, in preparation for a four-day seminar on social justice for teens, I spent an hour and a half with one of the thirty students I would be bringing to Washington DC for what I knew would be an amazing experience. This is a student with dyslexia, so I wanted to ensure that she felt prepared to encounter the content and would not feel overwhelmed by the pace of the program and the often chaotic nature of the various activities.

I didn’t think twice about it, really; at least not until she reminded me. She told another member of our staff who popped in to say hello that I was “so great” for “giving up” my time to make sure she was ready. Gave up? Trust me. I gave up nothing.

What a gift to watch her eyes light up when I explained that one of the goals of this weekend was to teach teens to advocate. “You know,” I said, “like the way you tell someone that you need them to go slower or read something again because you have dyslexia. You advocate for yourself all the time.” I explained that our weekend would be focused on learning all about what it means to advocate for those we care about and for those who may not be able to advocate for themselves. “So you will be in a place surrounded by people who will be proud of you for speaking up for yourself,” I reassured her. She glowed.

you will be in a place surrounded by people who will be proud of you for speaking up for yourself; Removing the Stumbling Block

While I realize that this kind of work doesn’t come naturally to everyone, I often take my own efforts for granted. I am always surprised when I hear stories like this one: The program director and I were chatting on the first morning and he shared that another congregation sent a student, who is typically provided with an aide for support at regional youth events, to this program without support. Why? It wasn’t in their budget. And they didn’t share this with the program staff in advance (who would have readily offered financial support) but rather mentioned it as an aside once the program was under way when it was clear that the student needed additional support.

I was again reminded of the significance of our inclusive approach when a friend and staff member shared something she had said about me: “Lisa doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk. She spent an hour an a half with one student to prep just days before she had to be “on” for four days straight with thirty of them.” Ok, it’s lovely to receive such a compliment. But more importantly it’s just so critical to me that others know that inclusion isn’t always hard. We just have to do it. We just need to have the conversations, ask the questions and try our best to anticipate the “what ifs”.

I believe deeply in inclusion, so I make it a priority. You can make inclusion a priority, too.

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