The Dragonfly Forest

They have been given names such as devil’s darning needle, ear sewer, horse stinger, skeeter hawk, and the snake’s servant. Actually, Dragonflies are beneficial, peaceful, and stunning. You are a Dragonfly if you are: ADD/ADHD, dyslexic, dysgraphic, Asperger’s, NLVD, autistic…

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dr. King & Lessons from A Class Divided

Re-sharing today (7/21/2016) because for some reason people just do not understand discrimination.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day I want to talk about discrimination.

To start watch "A Class Divided" 

Yes, Jane Elliott’s Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes is a powerful video on racism.  It gives insights in to the personal experiences of how we discriminate based on the attribute of the color of eyes or the color of one’s skin.  Let’s think outside of the box on this one and see how this is also a great lesson on how we treat people with learning disabilities (Dyslexia, ADHD, Dysgraphia, Asperger’s….) and other types of disabilities (physical, deaf, blind…) in school settings. 

To help you understand this I’m going to explain it as “Butterflies” vs. “Dragonflies.”  Butterflies are “typical” students who learn easily; have athletic and/or academic talents; and viewed by others as beautiful.  Dragonflies on the other hand are students with disabilities and challenges (with or without IEP/504’s); they struggle academically, athletically, socially, and/or emotionally; and are viewed by others as scary, not fitting in, and different.   In school environments it is often assumed that “Butterflies are better than Dragonflies.” 

The Butterflies are more likely to be given extra opportunities in school such as crossing guard or member of student council.  Teachers are concerned if they give Dragonflies positions of responsibilities they will not be able to handle the job so they can only be given to Butterflies.   

Butterflies are picked more often for awards and accolades because they are “easy to teach” and “well-liked by their teachers and peers.”   For more details on this check out my post on Stop the Shaming: why ceremonies and graduations need to change.  The Dragonflies are not often not given these awards and accolades because: they are so challenging to teach; they may be experiencing Learned Helplessness (explained in the linked post) from the years of discrimination, shame, and pain that they have just given up trying; they just don’t fit in socially.

Butterflies are given positive reinforcements in the classroom while the Dragonflies often receive negative reinforcements.  When you observe an elementary classroom room where a teacher has a Colored behavior chart more Dragonflies are on Yellow and Red than Butterflies.    The Butterflies are most likely on Green and get to run special errands for teachers or get to sit in special places in the room. 

As you can see the list of the differences can go on and on but the key point here is how Dragonflies are not just discriminated against by their teachers but this treatment is seen as acceptable to their peers as well since the students will model the behaviors of the teachers. 

So when thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. today think about how we still treat students who learn differently (academically or socially) as less than the students who are “Mainstream” learners.  Dragonflies are often excluded from classes that Butterflies receive automatically such as gym, art, and other electives because the Dragonflies need extra teacher support to learn. Schools require students to take these foreign language classes and although students with learning disabilities would benefit from American Sign Language it is too much trouble to make this happen so they just have to struggle (causing emotional pain) or not participate (excluded from a class open to non-disabled peers).  For some reason it seems acceptable to the adults to take away opportunities from Dragonfly students using the reasoning that teachers can’t work beyond school hours, it would cost too much to provide the services, or they don't want to make a specific accommodation.  For more details on this visit the following post: Dr. King’s Legacy Regarding Discrimination in Education.

So here is my question to you: What are we really teaching our children in schools?  Are we teaching them empathy or are we teaching them discrimination?  By excluding the Dragonfly students from the events and opportunities that are freely given to Butterflies we are condoning discrimination.  I am often told that the Butterflies have “earned” these privileges but the Dragonflies have not so they do not deserve them.  So you really think that because Little Johnny can’t read that he should have to be pulled from gym, art, or recess so he can be taught to read?   By the way, maybe we should go back to teaching student using the Orton-Gillingham reading program- look for this scene in the movie!

Maybe you think it is safer to not have Little Sarah as the library helper because she has impulsive ADHD and may get lost in the hallway or forget what she was doing (or is it really because it would just be easier for you to not have to supervisor her so you will send the “responsible” student).   Then there’s the student who is socially awkward and wanted to be a “student leader” but you think that a different student would be a better role model (the 'popular' student).  By denying students these opportunities you are discrimination against them and perpetuating the belief that there really is something wrong with Dragonflies.  

We need to practice lessons we have learned from Dr. King:

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Elie Wiesel - lessons learned and how to have a better world!

Spiritual Sunday~~ My heart is broken at the lost of Elie Wiesel!  In the 1980's I was in high school and learned about Mr. Wiesel and read his book "Night."  Reading his book was not an easy task because I'm dyslexic. I struggle at pronouncing unknown words and I'm an exceptionally slow reader but Mr. Wiesel's book kept me inspired to keep reading and motivated me to do a lot of self-reflection. How can I live in a world that allows such injustice?  How can I just stand by and let bad thing happen to others?  I knew I couldn't! I knew that I had to help others!  Although I was just a teenager I knew my purpose in life was to work on making the world a better place. 

Elie Wiesel's life lessons became a part of the fabric of my soul and I re-read his work often, especially on audio.  There is so much to learn about ourselves and the world around us.  I guess this is why I struggle to understand why people have hate and negativity?  I just don't get it!  How can someone intentionally harm someone else - physically, mentally, socially, emotionally...? It makes me sick to my stomach when I hear someone justify their actions - tell me that the other person had it coming, that they had to right to defend themselves, that it's the person's own fault for being poor....  How can you not see from another person's perspective?  

I work daily to live with integrity and yet see and experience so much hate and indifference.  I don't understand how some people don't comprehend that what we focus on we expand.  When we attempt to make the world a better place by fighting the "War on drugs" or the "War on guns" or "Anti-bullying" all we are doing is magnifying drugs, guns, bullying... We need to teach empathy, compassion, and HELP those addicted.  War begets war and eventually there is so much war, hatred, violence that people become immune and indifferent.  I learned from "Elie Wiesel "Indifference to me, is the epitome of all evil."  

People are so self-absorbed with material items, money, status, and number of "likes" and followers on social media that they have lost most of their humanity.  I have sat in school meetings where the staff fights hard against providing an education to a child. Often they blame the child or parents for the fact that the child is not learning instead of taking responsibility and teaching the child appropriately.  I could tell you some horrific stories about how those who are paid to educate our children attack them by blaming and shaming them.  Educators are not paid to crush the self-esteem of children yet is accepted and condoned all the time. Sports coaches often do the same things. But why is all this allowed - why do people in power think they have the right to break the spirit of another person.  

As a counselor I am helping many people overcome the traumas from their childhood.  It is heartbreaking to hear the stories about teachers, coaches, and even parents causing such damage to another human-being.    "Every single human-being is a unique human-being and therefore it is so criminal to do something to that human-being- he or she represents humanity."