Thursday, January 19, 2012

~ The Smiling Moon~

Too often we have seen a child's disability or diagnosis used as an excuse for his/her behavior. Mike Kersjes held his students with disabilities accountable for their behaviors as they competed against students identified as gifted and talented at NASA Space Camp in Hunstville, Alabama; probably for the first time in their lives.He details the challenges and triumphs in his book Smile as Big as the Moon, which has been made into a motion picture for ABC Family. It is amazing what high expectations can do for children  - their confidence, their achievements, their social relationships, and their goals.
I have taught many Teacher Preparation Courses where I used his book as a required text for participation in literature circles throughout the semester. The undergraduate students truly connected with the story , the teachers, the students with disabilities, the high school peers, and Mike. I was fortunate that Mike spent 3 days on campus for me - where he shared his inspirational, motivational story with the undergraduates, with students at a neighboring high school, and faculty members. He touched so many pre-service teachers those days; ones who truly want to make the same kind of positive difference in the lives of students with disabilities. He is a phenomenal speaker!!! Many students chose to attend his presentation more than once and wanted to meet with him one-on-one. They were beyond impressed with him, he is enthusiastic, charismatic, down-to-Earth, a 'real' person who walks the walk.

This story is truly multifaceted and can be the springboard for professional dialogues on education, collegial relationships, goal creation, plan development and implementation, academic curriculum development, thematic teaching, creating classroom community, diplomacy, teaching math and science to children with disabilities, family and community relationships, peer relationships and the general trials and tribulations of being a special education teacher.

One of my students created this video montage for her final project : 
I was pleasantly surprised,as this is one small example of how a college freshmen interpreted the text.

Smile as Big as the Moon is a great starting point for staff professional development; all teachers regardless of specialization teach children with disabilities - this is just one interactive, engaging way to start those sometimes difficult conversations about inclusive practices.

I do hope you have an opportunity to read the book, if not, at least see the film - you will be touched and inspired to do great things for children, and for yourself.

It’s a Great Day!

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