February is Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month (JDAIM) and OJCS is again excited to celebrate, especially in our first post-COVID year, which will allow for a wider range of expression.
“Inclusion” is not simply an issue to discuss once a year, of course, and as part of our formal discussions of how we would celebrate JDAIM this year , we began where our Director of Special Education, Sharon Reichstein, always encourages us to – with a shift in our mindset about what “special needs” really is and what it means:
For teachers, it’s important to always be thinking with a lens of inclusion in order to support and meet the needs of all learners (Shift the Spec Ed Mindset!!) It’s important for our students to be open, understanding, and inclusive to ALL members of our community.
There is a bit of a delicate dance we do with issues like “inclusion”. To the degree that we state that “everyone has special needs,” you run the risk of only focusing on who you presently serve and you forget to look to see who you do not / cannot and to explore why. To the degree that we state “every month is about inclusion,” you run the risk of missing a critical annual opportunity to reflect, to learn, to grow and to change. We want to acknowledge the daily, weekly, and yearly work that we do to incrementally become better able to meet the needs of current students and to increase the circle of inclusivity. But we also want to use JDAIM each year as a measuring stick and an inspiration – to have our thinking challenged, our minds opened and our hearts stirred. We are blessed to be part of an interconnected Jewish community with partners to lovingly push and support us on our journey.
Here are just a few examples of how we are gearing up to make JDAIM a special month at OJCS…
…Sharon Reichstein, along with our Student Life Lead Lianna Krantzberg , rolled out a set of “choice boards” for both Lower & Middle Schools, as well as a Padlet to our entire faculty that includes all the links and ideas that have been collected, thus far. As they put it, “While we spend time each day fostering kind and inclusive communities in our classrooms, it is our hope that you can add a spotlight to JDAIM in your classrooms throughout the month of February- pick and choose from the choice boards, the Padlet activities and/or create your own.”
…Brigitte Ruel, our Librarian, has a post on books that focus on “inclusivity”.
…we will again participate in Jewish Ottawa Inclusion Network (JOIN)’s “Youth Leadership Award Challenge” with an eye towards not only goosing individual participation but group and class participation as well.
…teachers are invited to work with our School Social Worker, Quinn Rivier-Gatt, to lead a workshop with their students on inclusion, kindness, and diversity.
It bears mentioning that our ability to meet existing needs is supported thanks to generous supplemental grants from Federation that provide flexible furniture, assistive technology, and diagnostic software to benefit learners of all kind.
This Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month, let us be reminded that to truly believe that each is made in God’s image requires that we apply the filter of inclusivity whenever possible. The work of becoming more inclusive has no beginning and has no ending. Inclusivity is both a process and a journey, one that OJCS has proudly been on for a while and one that we intend to keep walking with our community into the future.
Ken y’hi ratzon.
Want to see the first images from our $1.5 million school renovation?
Please be sure to join us for our third and final Critical Conversation, “The ‘Future’ of OJCS” on Thursday, February 9th at 7:00 PM.