Monday, May 11, 2015

Cap & Gown

Micah walking across the stage with a big smile.
On Thursday, May 7, 2015, Micah wore a cap and gown, he crossed a stage when his name was called, received a pin and certification for his work toward earning a noncredit certificate in Disability Studies, his name was listed in the Syracuse University College Graduation program, his classmates, friends, trainer, college professors, and family cheered when he walked. In the official remarks opening this commencement, Dean of University College, Bea Gonzalez, confidently and enthusiastically acknowledged the significance of Syracuse's InclusiveU program (the program Micah completed) and the students' participation in this commencement. 

Micah returning to his seat with his friends and family. 
I have spent a lot of time this school year trying to unpack the social and academic elements of inclusion -- in a classroom where what I want, what I can do, and what may be "possible" conflict and meld together. It has been exhausting and rewarding. I have worked hard to figure out and think through what it takes to ensure that "all means all" -- from recess, friendships, counting, story problems, reading, telling stories, making mistakes, having consequences, and celebrating successes. 

 As I sat at Micah's graduation, I couldn't help but wonder about some of my own students. How do all families know what is possible for their child? How do peers know what their classmates are capable of? How do my individual students learn to dream, build determination, and constantly advocate for what they need to show what they are capable of? 

Micah with me (his sister!). 
After Micah's graduation, I went to a house party where dozens and dozens of people flooded the home. I knew maybe a handful of people. This was Micah's world. This was Micah's community -- his friends, his professors, his students he had when he co-taught courses in the School of Education. These were people he cooked with, people he went to bars with, people who he had mock dates with, people he stayed with when he was worried about his heart surgery last winter, people who felt loved, supported, and respected by Micah. No pity. No "buddy." No charity. Simply friends and community.

Micah reminds me over and over again that this work -- this work of creating the beloved community -- must involve intentional and authentic inclusion. Micah is who he is because inclusion (and Micah!) is working at its very best. 

Micah at his graduation party, looking at his phone.
His inclusion has authentic age-appropriate experiences like wearing a cap and gown (he wasn't allow to wear when he attend Oakland University), like walking across the stage (some students with intellectual disabilities aren't allowed to walk across the stage for their high school graduations because they can't get the diploma until they age out of the system), like drinking alcohol to celebrate his accomplishment. These moments are not necessarily about an IEP Goal or about growing academic or job-related skills. These are moments that allow Micah to see himself as a valued and respected member of his community. These are moments that allow his community to see his full participation.

His inclusion has intentional experiences like attending an inclusive university program that facilitates academic and social interactions on campus, like creating circles of support since he was in elementary school so that when Micah moved from Michigan to New York he knew what he needed to feel supported without his parents nearby, like having parents that constantly, lovingly, and fiercely keep expectations and possibilities high so that phrases like "he's not capable of that" or "that's not within his IQ" doesn't limit him, like using technology so that he is learning what he wants to learn about both possibilities and injustices in the world. These are moments that allow Micah to travel interdependently in his community. These are moments that allow Micah to see that learning is truly a life long process. 

Micah with his parents who are smiling and laughing.
They both just received "Syracuse Dad" and "Syracuse Mom" shirts.

So as I continue to work at better understanding inclusion, now as a teacher and not just as a sibling to Micah, I hold Micah's story. 

I hold on to the moments where my students need opportunities to grow academically as mathematicians, readers, scientists, writers, and artists. They need intentional academically rich experiences. 

And equally, they need opportunities for authentic experiences. They need opportunities to wear their caps and gowns and cross the graduation stage. They need opportunities to "get in trouble," to learn how to annoy and not annoy their classmates, they need to learn how to stand on stage with their classmates and perform at the music concert, they need to ride a bike (however they do and whatever their "bike" looks like), they need to go to nurse when they fall and go to the nurse when they're bored in class, they need to eat school lunch and sneak in the lunch line to grab a second slice of pizza,  they need to share their writing in front of the class, and they need to have friends and community members who constantly help them and their family know what possibilities exists (and have yet to be imagined). 

What happens if we don't make inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities intentional and authentic? We limit possibilities and potential for people and deny their (and our) humanness. That's a lot of power. 

I don't know what the world will look like for my 1st & 2nd graders in 10 years when they are leaving high school. My hope, like my hope has always been for Micah, is for them to surround themselves with people who challenge them -- people who believe that a sense of safety, confidence, and growth comes from taking risks -- people who see that inclusion must both be intentional, authentic, and always, always on-going.  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Gift of Snow

Boston has had record snowfall this year. At this point, we’ve already had 6 snow days (and now 2 more for this week!), the city is running out of places to put all of the snow, and people fight over parking spots. I haven’t had a full of week of teaching in weeks and I feel worried about how this inconsistency has impacted my teaching and the learning of my students.

There is a gift that snow brings.

After indoor recess and lunch, my students come back to the classroom and start their independent reading. It is magical to watch young, new readers get invested in their books. Some of my kids are reading aloud and I have to remind them to make their voices quieter. Some of my kids are reading with an adult, talking about what they see in the pictures of the book. Some of my kids are enthralled in their chapter books that they don’t even look up when another kid tips off of his chair. Some kids are making letters with play dough. We are all reading. 

It is evident that my students are all different. Sometimes the differences seem to be screaming out. There are interruptions in teaching. Things get thrown. Pauses in speech seem to be everlasting. Bodies run out of the classroom. Learning seems to be forgotten. Unkind words are exchanged.

I have an inclusive classroom. I have students with and without disabilities in the same classroom. I have students who represent the economic, racial, and linguistic diversity of Boston. It is a practice I believe in and feel committed to. It is also something that can stress me out, make me feel inadequate, and make me worry about the learning of all of my kids.

I’m all about honoring differences and helping children (and adults) learn how to talk about what they notice and how to support each other given our differences.

And there are moments where sameness is beautiful too.

After independent reading, we have outside time. I believe that kids need many opportunities to play, especially outside. Our district and school has policies about what the temperature has to be in order for kids to go outside. There is no policy for the amount of snowfall, though. Even with indoor recess, I took my kids outside. It was warm enough.

They all pile outside of the classroom. Putting on snow boots. Borrowing gloves from the lost and found. Zipping up snow pants and coats. Soon the kids say, “I’m hot!” while they wait in line for their classmates to join them. I even change my shoes to boots. Our playground has practically 3 feet of snow on it.

We walk down the stairs and as I open the door, the kids start running out. Smiles consume their faces. All of them.

I hold one kid’s hand who says, “Emma help!” as she puts one hand on the railing to walk down additional stairs to the playground.  Our feet and legs slide deep down into the snow. We laugh. Soon she starts running and slipping deep into the snow. Just like her classmates.

All of them slip deep into the snow and laugh. All of them. Right now, no one is different for how they walk or the speed of their bodies.

I look across the playground and they are crawling on their knees. Eating snow and licking icicles. I tell them, “It’s dirty!” They keep eating snow. That’s what kids do. All of them. Right now, no one is different for putting something in their mouths.

The slides are a hit. Jumping is exciting. There is a safety snow seems to give my kids. If they fall, they fall into snow.

The kids take turns sliding down. I hear, “excuse me” and “watch out below” before they zoom down the slide. All of them. Right now, no one is working on their social skills in isolation.

They laugh as they land into the snow face first. All of them. Right now, no one is crying.

The differences in my students make me a better teacher, a better person. But right now when all my kids dive into the deep snow, and smile with satisfaction, I am loving their sameness. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dialogue in Family

I have been blessed with grandparents who have lived long, connected lives to their grandchildren. Recently the first of my grandparents passed away. Grandma Pearly lived in Florida for much of my life and while I loved her deeply, we didn't always get along. At times, I did not feel respected by her for who I am. I share the following story and accompanying details because one of the deepest lessons I learned from her came out of this struggle.

My hair was always too short for her. In middle and high school, the first thing she'd say to me when we talked on the phone was "Do you have a boyfriend?" (or at least that's how I remember it). She was annoyed with my baggy t-shirts often saying, "That should be ironed." Sometimes before I went to visit her in Florida, I would strategically go shopping looking for more "feminine" clothes (a tighter shirt, less baggy shorts). And even when I would wear these clothes -- I would hear the same comments. These comments wouldn't anger me -- they were just annoying. Once I came out as gay and had a girlfriend, I wondered when or if I would talk to her about this identity of mine. I remember thinking, "Did she know this about me all along and think she was going to change me with her comments? Or will she be relieved that I finally started dating? Or is she homophobic?"

One of my last visits with her in her Florida home I decided I'd come out to my 90+ year old grandma. It is a conversation I hold on to so dearly now.  "Grandma, there's someone I want you to know about," I said as I pulled out a picture of me with my girlfriend, at that time. "Nooo," she said shaking a bit. "I don't want to know." She didn't say this in a stern way. It sounded to me like she didn't want to know this truth about me. I continued anyway. "This is my girlfriend" and preceded to tell my grandma about her, what we did together. She asked me if I was sure I was gay and I said yes. Then she wanted to know if I just couldn't find a boy. I said I wasn't interested in men. She continued to search for clarity about why I "turned out this way." I asked her why she didn't want me to be gay. You can't have kids, was her reply. I dispelled that myth for her. She wanted to know if it was because I went to an all-women's college. I dispelled that myth for and I told her I came out in high school. She talked about the Holocaust and the discrimination I would face as someone who is gay. She talked about my liberal "hippie" parents. I said it wasn't about them. She shared some of her other fears with me. I can't even remember them all anymore. Our conversation remained calm--it was a quiet dialogue about stereotypes, differences, identities, generations. Almost an hour passed and the conversation ended with her telling me about another relative in our family that is gay and how supportive she was to this family member. And then she said, "Okay, Emma. Your grandfather and I used to invite my school principal over for dinner when I was a teacher. He used to bring his partner over." That's how it ended. For me, I said what I wanted to my grandma. I wanted her to know more about her granddaughter. And by the end, I saw her final comment as a way to say, "Emma it is okay that you are gay."

It wasn't perfect after that conversation. But after some gentle reminders from my dad to "ask Emma about her partner," she did (although often asking, "How is your friend?"). I would smile upon hearing this because to me it showed me that people can change.

Change is slow and requires that we be open to dialoguing with others -- sharing insecurities, questions, stories. We must share our vulnerabilities with others. Sometimes we can plan parts of the dialogue, as I had done. Sometimes dialogues come at unexpected moments, catch us off guard and we can respond with anger and hurt, as some moments had felt with my grandma. In the end, I am so honored and blessed to have had a grandma who at 90-something was willing to sit with her 20-something granddaughter and talk. I could be honest with what I needed and wanted from my grandma and say confidently, "I am not changing." And she could eventually hear this and say, "Okay and I love you."

In my last visit with her, I showed her some videos of my teaching. She was a teacher in New York City. It was a beautiful last visit that I will forever cherish, especially when she said with excitement, "You can wear pants as a teacher!" We ate some Jewish baked goods and Noodle Kugel. And without any prompts she asked me about my girlfriend. Change is possible at any age, indeed. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Reflections from Elementary Educators

It has been challenging for me to find a way to reflect on the year -- in a way that encompasses the range of emotions and experiences I have had. The elementary residents came together and wrote small reflections on our year. Then we each selected one sentence, one phrase, and one word from our own writing to highlight from the year. The poem below has all of our voices and together, I think, showcases the incredible journey we took together. 

Reflections from Elementary Educators

This was one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life.
I never imagined the lessons I would learn from a class of ten year olds
As this year began, I didn't realize all the ways that learning with such dedicated, vibrant students and teachers would shape me. 
But at that moment, and in this one, this year was also about us – how we held one another up and learned to teach, together.
I learned more about myself than I could imagine.
This was a year I did almost everything I vowed never to do - yell at kids, teach from unfinished lesson plans, and tell myself that I wouldn't make a good teacher.
Call it a community, call it a family, me I call what we had a strong foundation for the success and support of each other as teachers and people and also the students we have served and have yet to meet.
“Those are your coworkers? That’s awesome!”
We share a bond of understanding and support - played out in hugs, in laughter and biting sarcasm, in detailed conversations about student work and lesson plans, in tears, in speaking the foreign language of "school" and "BTR", or just in the comfort of another person working late into the night after everyone else has gone home.
When I began this program I had no idea that Connie would not only be my literacy CTE [Clinical Teacher Educator] but also my therapist!
Teaching is the most challenging thing I've ever done. 
It's all about the kids.
The same kids that make us want to pull our hair out during our lessons could make us feel better after a horrible debrief.
My students quickly became my inspiration.
I am so glad to be done.
This year, I learned how teaching is public and personal.
After years of searching, I found exactly what I was looking for.
“Teachers should feel like they are doing a great job” this is advice that was given to me by one of my students.
I have never cried so much in my entire life.
We have laughed, cried, giggled, swore, hugged, worried and persevered, and somehow we have made it through. 

reaching an "ah-ha" moment

story time with Nancy and Liz
Boston into a home away from home
rubrics and data projects and binders and exhaustion
Change was inevitable
That's ableist
the never-ending sound of forward thinking minds
Let’s unpack that
a deep plunge into the struggles and the joys of life in a school
a community of dedicated, passionate, kind, supportive, generous and intelligent teachers
Appreciate the connectivity and constant laughter among elementary residentsfriends and collaborators
a teacher's dream - three snow days in a row!
Go to the power chair
respect for myself, my colleagues, and my students
pregnant lady
constant questions and unexpected assignments
makes me believe in something bigger, deeper
erase moments from my mind and from egnyte
after this year, BTR just let me go 


13 months
1st grade scholars

(Apologies: I couldn't find a photo that has all the elementary residents)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Through the White House Door

Today I found out that Micah was invited to take part in the ADA Celebration on the White House Lawn later this month. I couldn't help but marvel at the incredible journey he has taken our family on. As I head into my first year of teaching in the fall, he continues to remind me of the power of making sure all students are given opportunities to share their dreams, build community, and strengthen their self determination skills.

Recently our family wrote a number of articles for the National Gateway to Self-Determination ( You can read them here on pages 20-25 :

My Brother’s Journey: A Sibling’s Perspective About College and What Comes Next 

I love telling people that my parents, who reside in Michigan, live at least a day’s car ride away from me (in Boston, MA) and my brother (in Syracuse, NY). This is a BIG deal. My brother and I visit each other in our different east-coast states without our parents. This is a BIG deal. My parents talk to my brother and me, at most, a few times a week. This is a BIG deal. Never could I have imagined that this would have happened. Instead, sometimes, having a brother with an intellectual disability, I grew up wondering things like: Who are Micah’s real friends? Will he ever live on his own? How will he live a dignified life when most of society doesn’t value him (and his label)?

In many ways, Micah had a picture perfect inclusive K-12 education experience (this doesn’t mean it was easy to create or actually perfect in execution) – he had a circle of friends, he ran on the Cross Country team, he was elected to homecoming court, he played on the local soccer team, he won the social studies department award. Inclusion has always been a foundational belief and practice in our family. It was an essential part of Micah’s education experience and unlike some special education students, his inclusive journey continues well beyond grade school.

However, it wasn’t until he and I both went to college that something finally clicked for me as his sister. Inclusion became real and practical. Up until this point, inclusion made me feel good. In grade school, I felt safe knowing that Micah had things to do on the weekends, like his peers. It felt good knowing that Micah’s peers cared about him. In the back of my mind, I had always wondered if people really wanted to be his friend (or did it just make them feel good)?

As we moved into college, inclusion felt more complex. I saw Micah being valued and I actually saw others grow in genuine ways as a result of having a relationship with him. I began to see people develop relationships with Micah because they saw the worth in who he was—not just because being his friend made them feel good. I saw Micah make decisions about who he wanted to be friends with. Suddenly everyone didn’t have to be his friend; he and they could choose to become friends.

I saw Micah grow academically from the rigor of college. There were times when we were both taking similar courses and we’d talk about what we were both learning. He didn’t “get” everything in the textbook (neither did I) – and that was okay. Not understanding everything is part of his
disability. This does not mean that we lower our expectations; it means that we don’t all have to understand everything.

College meant that Micah had to negotiate what his paid support-staff peers would do with him and unpack the tensions around “paying” a peer to support him. Inclusion in college meant that it wasn’t always easy for him; the path was not paved for him – he had agency and self-determination in creating his future. He faced institutionalized discrimination; the college would not allow him to live in the dorms. He sued, eventually won, and spent his last semester living in the dorms. Micah’s learning did not just happen in the courses he took. Like most college students, he also grew leaps and bounds
from the social interactions and genuine experiences outside the classroom. For example, as a result of his legal battle, Micah now knows lots of legal jargon. Inclusion meant he grew as a result of his (real) life experiences, not the simulated life experiences in a classroom.

Like me, Micah got to test the waters of “independence” (or at the very least, had the opportunity to see if he could make it without our parents) and develop the courage to continue to take risks. When he returned from a conference and told my parents that he wanted to move to Syracuse, this short statement seemed to reflect his entire history of being immersed in all aspects of life. As a result of his college journey, Micah had learned to create networks of support and advocate for his needs. Today, he wants to live away from our parents, create new communities, and be immersed in a community that he believes just “gets it” (disability, inclusion).  He knew (and I knew) moving to a different state in an apartment with roommates without disabilities was not going to be easy. But he had the tools to make it successful.

I was excited when Micah moved to Syracuse in January 2012, but I was also worried. And as he continues on this exciting journey there are a few things I continue to worry about. Micah has lots to share with the world and especially educators. I hope that Syracuse finds a way for him to share his stories--what he has learned, not just about inclusive education but also about disability culture and disability pride. I think what makes his story unique is that inclusive education for him has been tied to learning more about his disability and becoming part of the disability justice movement. I know he can do more than be a go-to person at Syracuse--I think he can show his PowerPoint and teach segments of disability studies and education courses. This is going to take work on so many levels so I’m excited that he’s surrounded by people who care about him and totally “get” him.

My worry is that his just being in Syracuse will be enough for Micah, that he will be so happy to be around people who respect him that he (and his community) will forget that genuine respect comes from being challenged to continue to grow. I am afraid that we will get complacent. That’s my fear, my nightmare. I hope that he is able to find ways to connect, grow, and learn from the Syracuse community. That he is able to develop, to be challenged on his PowerPoint and speaking skills. That he is able to learn more about social justice issues. That he is surrounded by people who challenge him--who tell him when he’s talked too much about himself and when he hasn’t asked enough questions about others--when his ego is gotten a bit too big (I say this with the most love in my heart). I hope
people can continue to be real with him.

While supportive, nurturing communities that help people grow as people and as professionals is something many hope for, it is particularly important for people with disabilities. I think because the struggle to create inclusive communities is challenging, it is easier to be satisfied when we think we’ve finally done it (create the community); in reality, though, creating inclusive spaces and communities is always ongoing. Efforts to include Micah didn’t stop once he was attending the neighborhood school, they didn’t stop once he was playing on the local soccer team, and they didn’t stop after he moved in the dorms at college. Micah continues to find more ways to make the world more inclusive for people with disabilities. It is process that forces him, our family, and our communities to grow and constantly strive to do better.

We’re still figuring out this new chapter in his inclusive journey through life. I can tell Micah that it’s not always perfect, that he shouldn’t get complacent when it feels safe, and that he should continue to dream. And that he’s got a community around him to help make the unimaginable imaginable and tangible for him.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

First Grade

My kids are 6 and 7.

My kids work really hard to hear all the sounds in c-a-t. They work hard to rhyme cat with mat and not map. even though /t/ sounds a lot like /p/ when you’re just learning the language.

My kids like climbing on the stairs to gym or art or lunch like they are mountain lions. their hands reach far above them and their bodies slide all the way up. sometimes they’re like frogs jumping down 2 or 3 stairs. I always hope they don’t fall.

My kids moving their bodies makes stillness seem like a threat to their existence. they like stretching their uniform shirts…hiding their arms inside their shirts and pulling it over their knees. My kids cover their mouths when they talk. Do they not know that their words are magic? My kids tap pencils when I talk to them about their stories. My kids lean back in their chairs. I always hope they don’t fall. Sometimes they get really close to tipping. My kids wiggle, consistently. I think if there was a track in the classroom, they would run laps.

My kids count. They are learning that 100 is a big number and that means they can use 100 snap cubes to make a tower (well, after they count one by one to 100). Making towers are way cooler than writing 10+10=20. And they are just figuring out that 5=2+3 is the same as 2+3=5. How can just a simple equal sign and its placement be full of so many opportunities for learning?

My kids read. One kid learned the word “snowman” yesterday. She read the word once. Then she said, “Wait” as I walked away and read me it again. and again. Her face lit up. Today she found a book with snowman in the title.

My kids like reciting the poems in the morning. They learn to memorize them so quickly. They say them so loudly. I wonder why they feel the urge to scream some of the lines.

My kids like holding my hand, resting their heads in my lap, giving me hugs.

My kids make me laugh, tears fall down my face. Sometimes they don’t know why they make me laugh. They stare at me for a second and then they just start laughing.

My kids like telling us their birthdays. It doesn’t matter if it’s in December or May. They already have plans for what they’ll do on their birthday.

My kids want to be caught doing the right thing. Like when they’re helping a classmate and they look up to find a teacher. Their eyes saying, “Look! I’m being good.” 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Theory & Practice

I came into education, not only because schools were the places where I thrived and at many times felt at home, but also because I believe education can and must work for more students (more than just the Emmas). I came into my student teaching experience with the theories and values of the type of teacher I want to be and the type of classroom I want to build. I leave this experience recognizing the intense tension between theory, ideals and practice. It is really hard to be the teacher I want to be. And it is also possible to find ways to be that type of teacher.

Here are some of my top learning moments—experiences where I “messed up” and either had the opportunity to try again or plan to do differently next time.

1. Students need a purpose for everything they are asked to do. If it’s handwriting, why is it important to write legibly? If it’s writing a book summary, why should we know how to talk about the books we read? If it’s developing automaticity in math, why is that an important skill? When students are told “why”, their dedication and effort increases exponentially. When I had students turn and talk to their partners, I started asking them to share what their partner said. They suddenly had a reason to listen and they knew what to listen for. [It also encourages the teacher to make the lesson/activity purposeful and thus meaningful for the students.]

2. Differentiating is vital, necessary, and should be done without excuses or complaints. That being said it is challenging to differentiate well. How do I differentiate so that all children are involved in thoughtful, engaging work—not just those at- or above- grade level. If there is a culture of equity (instead of equality) in my classroom, students respect each other’s needs, accommodations, and know how to celebrate the accomplishments of their peers. This is fundamental to create a classroom community.

3. Be surprised and then don’t be too surprised. I got caught up in being so proud of some kids when they finally just did the work that I put aside the expectation that the work should be done legibly or that they could actually write more and more thoughtfully. I am still not sure how to participate in this dance—how to praise, celebrate and still push kids because I know they can do more.

4. Give structure, model expectations then let kids dance, make them laugh, and challenge them to be creative. In the early graders there is an inherent tension between respecting the youngness, imagination, curiosity, and immense energy they bring into schools and teaching them independence skills and needing to explicitly “teach” them particular skills/knowledge. I saw the power of a simple energizer in the middle of the day to refocus the kids. The routines the classroom had were SO important for kids who needed to have a predictable day. Making kids laugh, showing them that I could be silly too, was an essential way I was able to build relationships with them. Modeling what a summary should look like or giving examples of more descriptive language kids can use in their writing gives them a foundation to be creative—and it’s okay if the first parts of their sentences all sound very similar.

5. Addressing behavior in the classroom is extremely challenging and at times very draining. I found out quickly how important it is to be consistent and firm when dealing with students who have particular behavioral challenges. I also need to be okay admitting to students that I’ll make mistakes when it comes to quick discipline decisions but we’ll work together to fix them up. I want to make the classroom work for each child so I look at root causes and underlying problems when trying to figure out what will be the best solution to a problem. There are many general accommodations that can be made in a classroom and that are essential because every child is different. General accommodations should be made so that children can feel successful throughout the day (not just in one particular subject area). I often need to ask myself, “What is the big idea” or “what is it that they need to learn here.” If a kid loses focus when it comes to handwriting or if reading comprehension is particularly challenging, what do I need to do so that they are still able to practice their math skills without being overwhelmed by the story problem or the need for a long written math description? While creating universal community/classroom expectations are important, raising a classroom of respectful, considerate, thoughtful, and honest kids is more challenging, but ultimately very rewarding.

6. Kids can handle tough stuff, but it’s going to look and sound a lot different than how I talk about it. I want young kids to have serious, thoughtful conversations where they are asked to think about complex problems. And I also need to be age-appropriate and respect what it natural and comfortable for first and second graders. Students read emotionally charged stories of migration—slaves migrating from the south to the north to find freedom, Vietnamese leaving Vietnam because of war, Chinese migrating to the U.S. to build the railroad where they work in racist and dangerous environments, migrant farm workers in California—and they were able to talk about them. Did they get the complexity of U.S. foreign policy? No. Even though I wanted to talk to them about those issues, I had to learn that these stories are stepping stones for them to eventually recognize that connection. Right now they are recognizing that people move—sometimes because they want to and other times because of dangerous conditions. They are learning that it’s hard to leave everything you know and move to a brand new place. They are learning that not everyone wanted them to be living in this new place and that doesn’t seem nice. This is why I know I can teach in the early grades.

This was a beautiful experience and I’m honored to have been given the opportunity to have had multiple mentors, weekly seminars and reflection, and the chance to apply what I am learning over the course of many months. Time and experience really does teach.