I was observing a kindergarten class and the teacher was reading to the children from a book about healthy habits. About half way through the book I heard a little boy call out, "Hey, that's a wheelchair!". The teacher looked at the picture and saw the photograph was of a girl using a wheelchair while brushing her teeth. The teacher said, "You're right, she is using a wheelchair just like you." The other children smiled at their friend and one girl flashed him a thumbs up. The little boy grinned from his seat in his wheelchair for the rest of the activity. - Kate Ahern, a Special Ed Teacher in Massachusetts
In our Welcoming Schools workshops we often talk about providing students with windows and mirrors: mirrors to help students see themselves reflected in a positive way and windows to help them understand experiences beyond their own.*
This might be an abstract intellectual idea until you observe a boy become delighted by a simple photograph that sends a message that who he is matters. All students, especially those who may be marginalized for any host of reasons, deserve these moments.
Check out Kate's blog, Teaching Learners With Multiple Needs, for some great resources and ideas for special education teachers. And check out our bibliographies for many great books that reflect diverse experiences.
*This concept of Windows and Mirrors comes from an article by Emily Style. You can read this article at: http://www.library.wisc.edu/edvrc/docs/public/pdfs/SEEDReadings/CurriculumWindow.pdf
Image via Creative Commons user real00