This summer, a team of 34 educators from North Penn received a grant to attend the Syracuse University Summer Leadership Institute on Inclusion. North Penn's team of special educators, general education teachers, reading specialists, ESL teachers, principals, supervisors and directors, joined hundreds of participants from both national and international circles to learn more about inclusive education. The theme of the conference was, "It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness," and focused on how to use student strengths to leverage positive outcomes.
In reflecting on the theme of lighting a candle, it occurred to me that many of the institutionalized practices we employ in special education "curse the darkness. " This is nobody's fault - we are
required by law
to label and classify students by disability and the corresponding support needed. But, what if a document followed me around listing all of my deficits? The needs in Dr. Jenna Rufo's IEP might look something like this:
Procrastinates when presented with a non-preferred task
Leaves dirty coffee cups and trash in car (she DOES know how to clean it)
Runs late to meetings despite her best intentions
Sensory processing needs - overwhelmed in loud, crowded environments
Low tolerance for her children's whining
Can be impatient and bossy
Well, you get the picture...
The point is that when we define individuals by their weaknesses, we are presented with an incomplete picture that fails to recognize the potential inherent in their unique gifts. This installment of the Special EDition focuses on educators in North Penn who embody the idea of lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness. Some of the individuals featured have been in education for decades while others have just started out. Regardless, everyone featured focuses on what they and their students CAN do, rather than what they can't. They are true "lights" for North Penn.
Jenna Mancini Ruf
Director of Special Education and Student Services