Just wanna give a quick shout out to Brandyliciousxo for her fab blog piece that inspired me to do my blog after a 9 hour work day :)
For starters, I really loved the way Kliewer set up this book. He did not just say "This is what I think and it is your choice to believe it or not". He gave us real stories, real people who wanted to fight for the equality amongst students. He gave us first-hand accounts from students with down syndrome who exposed exactly how they felt and how they lived their lives. And it was great to see how many schools and teachers were so inclusive, respectful, and welcoming to these students. Because, as Kliewer points out many times; there is no reason to see these people as different. They value freedom of expression, creativity, happiness, love, and real feelings just like we do. In a way, they express it with such courage; something many people are not able to just do.
I also found the teacher named Shayne so inspirational. She is the type of teacher I want to be when I have a classroom of my own. She embraced each and every part of every student in her classroom. She accepted their faults and was comforted by all each of her students were interested in. She made her classroom more than just a place to learn; but as a safe place for her students. Professor August would have loved to step into her classroom and see all she has done to create mirrors and windows for all of her students to come together as a community and respect each other for who they are.
I would have to agree with Brandy when she says this quote sums up the entire article. "Diversity is viewed as normal, people are considered of equal worth, relationships are of a mutual benefit, and belongings is a central societal theme" (95). We should never ever look at anyone in an negative light because they have a disability or are different from us. We should EMBRACE these qualities; because there are always positive aspects to any situation. In a way, we are all disabled in some aspect of life. I can tell you that I consider myself disabled from coping with stress. I need structure, organization, and simplicity. When my life lacks this; I feel disconnected from the world. So, even though I don't have down syndrome or a disability; I can feel how they feel when people do not treat them equally. And if you really think about it, so can you.
Brandy made some great connections so I will go into explaining what she said along with adding some personal touches :)
Before even hearing this story, a quote we should all focus on is this. "Communication is built on one's ability to listen deeply to others. It is an act through which each of our lives comes to be defined by those around us as "precious and irreplaceable" (73). John was a student who was shunned by his community and school system because they labeled him as "uneducable". The reason why children did not welcome him with open arms was because they did not have people around them to teach them to love and cherish everyone. They saw John as different; and in turn they were not able to open up to him and learn about who he is. When John and his family moved; his life took a complete 360 degree turn. Everyone saw who he really was and made him feel welcomed! Stories like these give me hope. This story also reminded me of August and the "Safe Spaces" reading because John could freely be John. He will never be able to change the fact that he has a disability; but he can simply show people who he is. When he did after moving; he was accepted by all.
I also loved how Brandy chose to highlight Christine's story. All she wanted to do was be in classes where she felt included with the rest of her classmates; beyond just the students who were children with special needs. The reading states that she had "extremely poor motor control, low-level cognitive skills, low-level communication skills...(etc) (92); but she wound up having her own column in the newspaper. She was accepted and heard by all. She even spoke out about another student who had special needs. In response to the school not allowing this student to go there, Christine said "I have down syndrome, but I am not handicapped"(93). Even Christine recognizes her worth; as her peers did. This is another amazing story that should be embraced by all of us as future teachers. Brandy's connection from this story to Jeannie Oaks article about tracking is great! Oakes stated that students in lower-classes were deprived from the knowledge and skills needed to move up into higher classes and to be successful in them. For 14 years, Christine was deprived from an education where she was included amongst the rest of her peers; regardless of the fact she had down syndrome. This started to affect her emotionally and she made a change! This proves to all of us and to Oakes that even though a student may start in a lower-level class; they can be just as successful as others if they work hard.
Lastly, the article Brandy found from NBC was truly eye opening. I cannot even believe that anyone would discriminate like this. We have clearly learned (and hopefully all understood before this reading) that someone with a disability or special need is not any different from us. They just have different ways of expressing themselves and learning. That would be like someone paying people who are different races pennies while all white people received minimum wage. It is crazy to think that this article is factual. Even though it is 2014 , big changes need to be made in society and the way we see and value others. If so, the world will be a much better place.