This week I had a conversation with a few classes about a student with special needs. Our students inspired me. The kindness, integrity and acceptance they demonstrated revealed the leadership and love we have within our school. Inclusion can be challenging without proper supports. However, by including all students in our classrooms despite their needs, lessons in acceptance and respect become the daily curriculum.
The curricular outcomes are important but more important is the teaching that occurs in those daily, ordinary (yet sometimes unpredictable moments) within a school. The biggest lesson of all: fair isn’t always equal and equal isn’t always fair.
Over the last few weeks, our nation has come together to watch baseball (something rare in the past few decades). Our city has rallied around a young 18 year-old hockey player with cautious optimism. And tomorrow we’ll see a country come together to cast their votes in an election. Individuals as part of a collective.
Belonging is a human need. We all long to be a part of some group or another. Whether it be a family, a team, a fan-base or a group of friends, it is something we, as humans, crave.
There is a sense of camaraderie that comes from belonging. There is exhilaration in shared joy and comfort in shared sorrow. There is support during dark or difficult days. There are life lessons.
When we belong… when we find our place… when we feel a part of larger collective… life seems a little less daunting and a lot more enjoyable. Go Jays!
Last week I found pleasure in the words of our students. As a little boy got off the bus – hair slicked back with obviously self-applied gel – he breathed into my face and said, “Smell my breath.” Although I was hesitant, I really had no choice! After a short pause, he said, “Minty, eh?” He was proud of his mouthwash breath!
On Friday I came back to my desk and discovered a post-it note: “Cup cake. For you.” I appreciated the punctuation and the arrow pointing to the sprinkle-covered mini cupcake. The note gave me more pleasure than the cupcake!
The same student who left the cupcake saw me later in the day for a reading assessment. As I read the prescribed introduction to the book, I used the phrase “fishing expedition.” He rapidly tapped the tips of his fingers together in excitement and said, “Oooh, big words!”
Now there’s a kid after my own heart…
There are people in our world that seem perpetually negative and petty: those who find pleasure in gossiping or putting others down. As I said recently to an adult (and as I have said to many kids over the years), when someone is petty or mean spirited, the issue is with that person, not the target.
And, as tempting as it is to put that person in his or her place, it’s simply not worth it. On occasion I have tried just that. Instead of feeling satisfied, I was disappointed that I sunk to that level. As hurtful as someone tries to be, we must stand tall and kill ’em with kindness.
I look to the examples of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Jesus and most recently Malala Yousafzai: individuals who were persecuted, tormented or even killed for what they believed in. What I admire most about these individuals is their conviction and integrity even in the face of cruelty.
As a wise administrator once taught me… “Stand up for what you believe in, even if you’re standing alone.”