The importance of belonging...
Updated: Jul 17, 2019
Welcome to the Stepping Stones Blog! My name is Mary Stone and I am so glad you have taken a moment to visit my site. In my blog I hope to share ideas, tips, and strategies with you in how to create learning and social opportunities for children of all abilities.
Today I would like to talk about the importance of belonging. I love this image of a group of beautiful and colorful birds, each one special and unique, sharing a branch together and enjoying nature. This image made me think about students with disabilities and differences and how important it is for all children to feel a sense of belonging and community. Throughout my time in the classroom, I felt that we often emphasized kindness when teaching about friendship and belonging. But kindness was not enough. Kindness might have a child say "hello" to another student, but in my experience, it often did not teach the children how to truly include, celebrate, and understand a classmate with a disability or difference. To do this, I believe we need to talk about disability and differences. Not once a year, but include these conversations throughout the school year. In my special education teaching practice I thought that we sometimes underestimated the ability of children to have honest and open conversations about disability, differences, inclusion, and friendship. The longer I taught, the more I realized that having these conversations was a critical element in helping students of all ages learn to talk about and begin to develop an understanding of a classmate that communicates or expresses themselves in a unique or different way. It also is a step in teaching a student with a disability or difference to be able to share and advocate for themselves and begin to build the self-determination skills they will need throughout their lives.
I was curious of the symbolism of birds and found that in some cultures birds are a spiritual symbol that represents the wings of possibility, freedom, perspective, vision, and individuality. Those are all things I wish for my own children and my students. I want them to know they can soar and overcome challenges. That life is full of possibilities and if one does not work there is always another possibility just waiting around the corner. Most importantly, I want them to know I honor and respect their individuality and I hope through Stepping Stones to create and support programs that foster community, friendship, and belonging for all.