Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Monday, February 23, 2015

Having an Inclusive Mindset


I have been having trouble with what to write about inclusion and how to incorporate into the classroom and then I came across the following article "Inclusion is Great. Now What?

I would recommend that everyone reads the article.

Here are some key sections of the article:

"Last September, my MATAN colleague Lisa Friedman wrote: “Inclusion is not a program. And inclusion is not something that we do for people with disabilities. Rather, inclusion is a mindset, an attitude, a way of thinking that opens doors to opportunities for meaningful engagement, contribution and belonging .”
So inclusion is more than a what we do or some type of program that we do but it is a mindset a pedagogy of how we relate to the students in our schools. Therefore to be honest it is hard to teach teachers how to do inclusion or what is the best "program" or way to do "it".

We need to have an inclusive mindset

"If we are honest, we’ll admit that there’s room for improvement. After consulting several individuals with special needs and parents of children who have special needs, I’ve compiled a few tips we can all follow to make our world a more inclusive place:

1. When you see a person who is different, a smile or friendly greeting can go a long way toward making that individual and their family welcome.

2. If it is a family member, friend, or community member, let them know that their presence is important to you. If they are not able to participate in some function (services, Shabbat dinner, a family picnic, etc.) because of their special circumstance, ask how you can accommodate them and adjust accordingly.

3. When you speak to a family member of a person with special needs, don’t avoid the topic. Ask about that person, not just about the rest of the family.

4. When you’re at a family or social gathering, in synagogue or anywhere else, and you see someone struggling — don’t stare. Offer a smile, a compassionate glance, and even a helping hand. They may not need help with their special needs child — and you might feel hesitant to get involved — but they might need some support for their other children at the moment.

5. Be a friend. Let the individual set the tone and follow their cues. Listen patiently and be supportive. Let them know you are there for them.

6. Don’t judge. We all have our own battles to fight and everyone is doing their best.
As parents of a 14-year-old boy with autism, my husband and I have experienced many different reactions over the years. We’ve been in situations where people greet us warmly but ignore our son. We’ve dealt with very public meltdowns where bystanders look away or worse, reprimand us. At the same time, we’ve been blessed with family and friends who love our son unconditionally, care about us, and often take the initiative and help us before we even know what we need."

I have often said that creating an environment of inclusion or that inclusion mindset will help all students and all students will gain from it.

Wouldn't we want to incorporate numbers 1, 3, 5, and 6 for all our students in our class or our school

Imagine a school where every student is greeted in a warm friendly manner and we care about our students and their families in a real way.

What is if we truly listened and exercised more patience

And finally what f we created a safe environment in which no one was judged

Not only will we create a this mindset and atmosphere of inclusion but we will create a place that all students call feel as if they matter and are important, and where that can take risks and be themselves without being judged

Wouldn't that be amazing!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Inclusion in Education

This video is a nice reminder of some of  the key points when it comes to inclusion. 

We need to remember a few things: 

Every Student is different but important - YOU MATTER 

We all are taking the same journey but the road that we take may differ. 

Fair but Not Equal 

Harmony-  Creating a Symphony

Respect all of who we are

Until know I have blogged about the importance and the culture and pedagogy behind inclusion I hope over the next two weeks to write about me practical ideas. 

Stay Tuned! 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Symphony


I want to thank Rabbi Schacthowiz of the Agudah Israel of Greenspring for his inspiring words today and for the inspiration for this post.

This week began the series of four special Torah readings related to the month of Adar, the holiday of Purim, the month of Nissan and the holiday of Passover.

Today's reading discussed the Half go Shekel given by everyone ( over the age of 20 ) to the Temple.

The following is based on the sermon Rabbi Schactowitz gave today:

What is the cause of strife and argument? On some level is has
hat they are better than everyone else and at times those are poor and less fortunate often look at themselves as worthless and don't care. 
If this at some level is the cause what is the remedy? The Torah tells us that when it came to the Temple and place that G-D presence rested and the place that unified the entire Jewish people as one every one both poor and rich gave the same amount of a half a Shekel. The Rabbis used this as a lesson that in creating a unified Jewish nation everyone had a role and an equal role and everyone had unique talents to bring and offer.  It can be compared to an orchestra playing a symphony. Which instrument or section is more important? Can you have a symphony with only winds? Rather all the parts are important and make symphony what it is.

As I was listening to this I said what a great message for educators and especially as we are in the middle of #NAIM #JDAM15

This type of "strife" occurs in classrooms all the time. I often remember hearing kids say well I cant do it, or we are stupid kids, or why am I put in this group with all the dumb kids.

Rather the message we need to convey is that a classroom is a Symphony and all the parts have something to add and each person has unique talents  that he or she brings to the class creating this Symphony.

This is truly one of the ideas and beauties of an inclusive classroom, that everyone can add and that everyone has a talent and gift that makes the class complete.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Creativity Circle

I usually don't like to use this blog to promote my own business and personal agenda. However I think this is important. As many of you know my focus has been both in many of my articles and in starting my consulting business, on meeting student needs and making sure all of our students in our classrooms succeed. There are many benefits to having an inclusive classroom and studies have shown how all students benefit from such an environment.

I  have also written about that to create this environment we need to look at other skills beyond just academics. We need to look at the social and emotional side and incorporate those life skills like Critical thinking, collaboration, questioning, and creativity to name a few.

There has also been a lot of talk about STEM and now the need to move to STEAM and incorporate the Arts into our school culture.
Let me be clear when I say Art as its used in STEAM I am not talking about an art class or music class  but rather incorporating art, music and drama into our core curriculum. Allowing that artistic, creative and innovative side of all students to shine.

These thoughts combined with the fact that its North American Inclusion brought me to the following initiative and dream and that is the creation of:



Creating an Inclusive Classroom and Meeting the Needs of All Learners Through Creativity, Innovation and The Arts 

Through creativity we can reach more of the learners more of the time. Creative thinking can be integrated into any content area - Sparking Student Creativity - P Drapeau

Creativity Circle is a project of 

If you or our school is interested in being part of this project please email me at 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Defining Success

Picture :

The majority of this post was written in October of 2012.  As we focus on inclusion and special needs I think success and is an important element. We need to celebrate our success even the small ones. We need to instill in all of our students that "failure is not fatal". 
What lessons and guidance can we provide our children to place them on the path of success?  Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks provides us some insight into this process in his recent weblog (10/13/12)  entitled “Credo: More than we have faith in God, God has faith in us”. He says:

“What makes some children succeed while others fail? More generally, what drives some people to great achievement while others languish, their dreams unfulfilled? That is the question that intrigued American writer Paul Tough. His answer is contained in his book How Children Succeed, published last month.
Tough discovered that what makes the difference is not intelligence, skill or native ability. It isn’t cognitive at all. The difference, he argues, lies in character, in traits such as discipline, persistence, self-control, zest, gratitude, optimism, curiosity, courage and conscientiousness. One dimension, though, matters more than all the others. He calls it grit: the ability to keep going despite repeated failures and setbacks. People with grit grow. People without it are either defeated by life’s challenges or – more likely – become risk-averse. They play it safe.”  

( As we focus this month on inclusion and and different learning Disabilities I want to reiterate Rabbi Sacks' words:  Success is not defined by intelligence and cognitive ability and therefore we need to insure that all of our students and children achieve success )

It may seem counter intuitive that cognition, intelligence or skill will not solely 
pre-determine a person to great accomplishments, rather, learning to deal effectively with challenges and adversity is the most important lesson of all.  We see this all the time in educational settings* and in life – children are always learning from their mistakes.    We need to teach our kids what “grit” means -  how to get-up, dust off their pants, stand tall and  prevail over limitations and shortcomings.   In my office, there hangs a sign stating “We all make mistakes.  It is what we happens after we make the mistakes that matters.”

(* I think most teachers will tell you that  the students that face the most adversity and those that seem to face it head on and succeed are often the students that have the most difficulty in class and have certain issues that make it more difficult for them to "succeed". However given our new understanding it is these students who get up every morning and come to school and face those challenges are the ones that are truly successful. We need to let them and other know that. )

Mistakes, failures and difficult situations do not cease to exist when a child leaves the protective confines of school.  Trials and tribulations continue throughout one’s life.   Many of us both in our personal, professional and even our communal lives have faced disappointments and setbacks. What gives us the “grit” or the resolve to continue? Rabbi Sacks provides some personal insight into this question as well. He says,

 “ I learned to embrace failure instead of fearing it. Why? Because at some point on my religious journey I discovered that more than we have faith in God, God has faith in us. He lifts us every time we fall. He forgives us every time we fail. He believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. He mends our broken hearts. I never cease to be moved by the words of Isaiah: “Even youths grow tired and weary and the young may stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord renew their strength. They soar on wings like eagles, they run and don’t grow weary, they walk and don’t grow faint.”
The greatest source of grit I know, the force that allows us to overcome every failure, every setback, every defeat, and keep going and growing, is faith in God’s faith in us.”

When children see their parents and teachers acknowledging, embracing and dealing with disappointment head on, they too will learn that is it OK to fail – as long as it is followed by a renewed commitment to solving the problem and learning from the experience.  As we wish and hope that our children and students achieve much success in school and throughout their lives, let us also hope that they are given the strength and “grit” needed to overcome whatever setbacks come their way. May they always have faith in G-D and more importantly remember that G-D has faith in each one of us. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Educating the Whole Child


Reposted from November 2014.  I am reposting this in honor of NAIM and JDAM15

This is my last post in my series on differentiation.  I thought I would try to summarize  some of the key ideas  with this post.

To me there are a few bottom line and basic ideas that we need to remember

  1. Differentiation is Just Good Teaching 
  2. Fair doesn't mean Equal
  3. One Size Doesn't Fit All 
  4. Know Each child's story 
  5. The Importance of having a Growth Mindset 
I am sure there are others but those are my top five. However I think this is one over arching idea or theme that encompasses all five.

We need to remember that our job is to educate the whole child. Therefore we need to know their unique needs and background and each child is unique. We also need focus on more just the academics but a child's social and emotional well being is also going to play a role in their school experience and success or failure. 

There was one area related to differentiation that I did not  write about or focus on but if we are truly going to reach the Whole Child then it need to be mentioned and that is our grading system. There is a whole group on Facebook and Twitter about Teachers Throwing out grades and I have blogged about it myself but it worth mentioning in this context as well. 

Grades typically focus only on the academic success or our students but if we are truly going to differentiate and educate the Whole student then the feedback we give needs to take into account not only growth and effort in academic but non academic areas like the arts as well as the students emotional and social well being. 

I think all of us want all of our students to succeed and at the same time many of us seem scared by the idea of differentiating. So let's not call it differentiating  but rather we are focusing on meeting the individual needs of the WHOLE CHILD

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Road to Inclusion: First Step Respect

First posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pic courtesy of

I just finished reading Diversity- Inclusion Handbook by Sondra Thiederman  Admittedly, this book was written from a more business perspective the ideas presented, in my opinion can be easily transferred and applied to education.
The book opens with the following two quotes:

"Working together is more than a good idea it is essential for success”
"Inclusion is not a problem, but a solution"

Since it is clear that inclusion is so necessary how is it achieved?
Thiederman offers the following advice. “The foundation of any successful inclusion and diversity effort lies in the ability of each leader and each team member to communicate respect for people different from him or herself”
In one work RESPECT. To achieve inclusion, we must respect diversity.
However, I believe it goes one step further which Thiederman points out as one of the myths. Too often people are OK with Inclusion and may even be respectful, but only believe that it will work if one group is held to a lower standard of performance.
This unfortunately is true in many schools. We are OK with diversity or even inclusion as long as there is still a difference between the students with special needs and the mainstream students. Nothing is further than the truth. The only way for inclusion to work is to have one class that id differentiated so that each student can meet his or her goals within the classroom.
James Gardner said it best rather than lowering standards we need to “respect people as they are (and then) you can be more effective in helping them become the best they can be.”

Respect can have many meanings, but when talking about inclusion I like the way Thiederman defines respect. She says; “In this context  “respect” means an attitude and the behaviors that accompany that attitude that everyone has a right to be acknowledged as a valuable individual capable of making positive contributions to the team (I would add classroom as well)”.
This is a much higher level than a mere lip service type of respect and takes real actions and effort. That takes leadership.

Thiederman gives us some Essentials for leaders who are truly committed to an inclusive culture.
·         Treat people as individuals
·         Listen to everyone with respect
·         Hold everyone to a high standard of performance.
·         Provide Feedback that allows for growth
·         Educate people about the differences that exists among people
·         Recognize that Inclusion is an ongoing process

Today’s students are all diverse and for our students to succeed in our diverse world we need to embrace a culture of Inclusion and diversity. I have only touched on some of the starting points and hope to explore these ideas more fully and more in depth in future blog posts. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Jewish Disability Awareness Month and North American Inclusion Month Blog Challenge

This month is the North American Inclusion Month and the Jewish Disability Awareness month.
For those that have followed my blog know that I am big believer in inclusion and meeting the needs of  our diverse learners. I would like to focus my posts this month on  the topic of inclusion and meeting the needs of  our diverse learners.

Please add your comments below for future topics to this challenge and invite others to join.
If you join please use the #JDAM15 and #NAIM hashtags. Please also post on the 30 day blog challenge on Facebook.

Here are some videos to kickoff this new challenge: