Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dear bloggers: Our words change minds. See?


I've been writing this blog for four years now. It's been a joy, an inspiration, a learning experience and an effort that I've loved. Every single day, I am grateful for the community here, glad to have the opportunity to share what I've learned from raising Max, and continuously revved to spread the word about why our kids rock.

Sometimes, you get comments or emails that make you painfully aware of what an uphill battle it is to get the world to respect kids with special needs, as typically happens when I write about the word "retard." Sometimes, you get comments or emails that let you know that, yes, you have made a difference. Below is one of those emails. I'm sharing it, with this teacher's permission, to show that you never know who will find your writing—and you never know who you might influence.

There's a Talmudic saying "Whoever saves a single life, it is as if he saved an entire world." That's similar to how I feel about writing here: If I have helped just one kid or parent, then I have done a world of good. If I have gotten one person to see the awesome-ness of children like Max (and quit pitying them!), then I have done a world of good. And if I've helped a whole bunch of people give people with disability more respect? Well, wow.

I hope blogging brings you that same satisfaction. I hope your words change hearts and minds and perceptions and stigmas, for the sake of our beautiful, kick-butt kids.

* * * * * * * 


Hi, 

I just wanted to let you know...

I'm a high school history teacher.  I teach a senior elective called Genocide in the Modern World.  I always start the year with the Ladder of Prejudice, and this year, as my class was turned into a full year course, I was able to spend more time on things that were related to genocide but not exactly genocide.  I spent some time on hate groups in America (KKK, Neo-Conservative, Racist Music, etc).  This gets interesting for you soon, promise.

This week my students presented their projects on hate groups.  The last two groups went today, and then I started a discussion on how to react when students hear things.

Two of my big NO words are "gay" and "retarded" and I try to explain and emphasize to students why those words are so terrible to say, and why they should stop saying those words.

Today, after the last of the groups presented, I asked the class how they stop something.  I drew the Ladder of Prejudice on the board (speech, avoidance, discrimination, physical attack, extermination).  I then told the students that there's a walkway to the ladder of prejudice and it contained two steps - ignorance and fear.

I focused on ignorance.

I said that in order to prevent things like the hate groups they just presented about from cropping up everywhere, ignorance needed to be educated.

Someone asked what would be the point, if someone said something and they spoke up, it's just one person.

And it was perfect, because just yesterday I found your blog post from March 2, 2011, "If you ask people not to say the word 'retard.'"

I pulled it up on my SMARTboard and zoomed in.  I read the whole thing to them.  I had copies of it that I printed off (I removed the picture of your son) and I passed them out to students.

They were speechless.

They were impressed with your dedication.

Some said they were going to do that tonight too. (set up alerts and comment on twitter)

I saw the tweets you posted in your blog post.  I read them all.  We saw how you were discouraged and frustrated by some responses you received.

So I wanted to let you know that your post, your campaign, was just introduced to a group of high school seniors.  And they seemed inspired by it.

One student came up to me later in the afternoon and said she said something to a guy who said something about adopted kids last year (she was adopted) that had been bothering her.  She said last year she was afraid to say something, but if you could say something to strangers, she could say something to a classmate.  She said it felt good, but frustrating, and she understood what you were going through, and she would speak up from now on.

I hope you don't mind that I printed and passed out your post.  I was touched.

Image: Flickr/yoshiko


23 comments:

  1. YAY! Oh, man. How awesome. Well done!

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  2. Wow, this made my day. I'm sure it made your week, month, year. Nice work Ellen! So inspiring. - Julie Z. Rosenberg

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  3. My heart is just overflowing as I read this. So beautiful, Ellen. Thank you for all you do to make a difference in this world.

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  4. It has a snowball effect. If one person can change the mind of one person, then that person can change another, and another. Eventually there will be too many of "us" to ignore. My husband changed one person the other day, and he has now vowed to never use that word again. I'm proud of this teacher, and her email made me happy. You are an inspiration, all of you.

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  5. Wow, I have goosebumps. We can change the world. One mind at a time!

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  6. I love this! Thank you for the work you do, Ellen.

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  7. Ellen ~ This is amazing and so uplifting and hopeful! MANY kudos to you and to the high school teacher. I am (unusually) speechless. Mega congrats!!! Melanie.

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  8. Aww... how touching! Just goes to show we never know who's reading what you write. Keep up the fantastic work Ellen you're not a perfect person but you're a great person I hope to be a version of myself that has some of your qualities :)

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  9. I love this! I have chills and goosebumps and I'm sending you a virtual high five (and hugs too). This is what it's all about. Yes!!!!

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  10. Just shared the link to this post everywhere. Thank you. :)

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  11. Awesome- I also wanted you to know that your blog is having an effect on other high school kids. I teach 9th grade English. Freshman are still kids most of the time, and they do not really think about what they say or do. I am trying to change that. I have a unit on choices, problem solving, and bullying, and within that unit, we look at the use of the R-word. This year, I found your blog and introduced my kids to Max's story. Today, one of my students told me that last night her mother used the R-word, and she tried to tell her why that was wrong. She said she felt sad because her mom didn't listen. I told her she did a great job and as long as she knew and kept trying to educate others, we were moving forward. So, thank you for your sharing your son's story and for sharing your thoughts on your blog.

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    1. Karen, thanks for sharing that. Teachers have vast powers to change perceptions and minds. More power to you.

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  12. Um yeah, that's just plain awesome.

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  13. True proof of the power of one!!!!

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  14. That ROCKED! How amazing that must make you feel and on behalf of all of us parents, we are proud. Thank you for doing what you do and inspiring so many to do more. Keep it rockin!

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  15. What a great story. Thank you for being such an inspiration to many, including me.

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  16. I am speechless with tears in my eyes. You are both a hero. Thank you!
    ~Jamie

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  17. Very, VERY cool Ellen! Those kids will go on to influence others!!

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Thanks for sharing!



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