February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) and this blog post will highlight how the OJCS has honoured this important initiative. Although I understand why Special Days and Special Months exist, I do want to point out that disability awareness and inclusion are topics that are paramount all year at the OJCS and not just siloed to the month of February. I do not want to give the false impression that we only care about this topic once a month in February. But, our students have engaged in some pretty incredible learning journeys this month that I would love to be your tour guide and walk you through so that you can see for yourself. For starters, Deanna Bertrand (our OJCS student life coordinator) and I, helped promote and educate our faculty on some of the resources that are available for educational purposes. We created a Padlet for our teachers and students to access while they planned their month of learning. One new opportunity that came our way this year, is we were invited by Friends of Access Israel (FAISR) to listen to a speakers series they lined up for the month. Our students in Grades 5-8 and some of our staff have had the opportunity to join zoom calls to listen to inspirational speakers this month and we thank Friends of Access Israel for extending us that invitation – talk about being inspired!
Let’s start the tour to see what our superstar students and teachers have been up to. Gan (Kindergarten) students have spent a great deal of time learning how to “sing” the national anthem using American Sign Language. Read about their journey here and enjoy their beautiful and heartwarming video. Kitah Alef (Grade 1) is learning about diversity through an activity called “Growing in the Right Direction”. They are learning about accepting other people’s differences and seeing those differences in a positive light. This is an example of a fabulous developmentally appropriate discussion to have at this grade level.
Kitah Bet (Grade 2) dissected the acronym JDAIM to find out what each letter stands for, what the words mean and why it is important. Last year’s Kitah Bet students filmed a class read-aloud called Just Ask using our new green screen technology and this year’s class watched it and engaged in a meaningful conversation about exceptionalities and disabilities. Students talked about how these disabilities can be invisible or visible. One of the more powerful moments of the discussion was when some students shared with the class about their own learning disabilities proudly. Kitah Bet also decorated a puzzle piece with colours or pictures that represent who each one is individually and then they put it together with the following poem “We are Kitah Bet, each one of us unique, but when we come together, the puzzle is complete” You can find that picture by following @2Bojcs on twitter.
Of course one of the main themes to ensuring Disability Awareness and Inclusion can happen is by highlighting kindness. Kindness is an integral yearlong theme for Kitah Gimmel (Grade 3). Although so evidently linked to JDAIM, what we love about this theme is that it is not isolated to the month of February. Check out their incredible blog post explaining their journey to date.
Kitah Dalet (Grade 4) engaged in an incredible class activity about what makes an inclusive classroom. Read about their experience here. Both Kitah Hay (Grade 5) classes spend a great deal of time and energy every single day talking about being inclusive and they have really come to understand themselves and each other as individual learners. To highlight JDAIM month, some of the grade 5 students are embarking on entries for the JOIN Youth Leadership Award challenge. One of our Grade 5 classes also read the picture book based on the novel study Wonder called “We are all Wonders” by R. J. Palacio. They did a reflection/silent meditation type activity where everyone thought about times when they were inclusive/included and times when they were exclusive/excluded. They then made lists of emotions they associated with each and brainstormed ways they could be more inclusive all the time. They also discussed disabilities that are “visible” and disabilities that are “invisible” and why they always need to have compassion for others.
- Judaism teaches us to treat ourselves and others (even strangers) with respect.
- Kavod is a feeling of regard for the rights, dignity, feelings, wishes, and abilities of others
- “All Israel is responsible for one another” (Shavuot 39a)
- It is our job to take action and inspire others to create a community in which we can all take pride
Please enjoy their two projects in progress and continue to follow their journey by reading our middle school blog.
Our Knesset (Student Council) members are planning to do a virtual read-aloud & discussion for classes about JDAIM. They are currently working with Ms. Brigitte (our librarian extraordinaire) to select books about inclusion to use, and now Knesset members need to choose a book, plan discussion questions, and will book a time for them to join other classes virtually to lead a discussion.