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Text Transcript: Peer Awareness and Understanding in Inclusive Classrooms (Webinar 1)

I'm thrilled to introduce to you this afternoon, Sam Drazin.

And Sam is a nationally recognized educator, a change maker.

He's a founder and executive director of Changing Perspectives.

And the mission of Changing Perspectives, and also Sam's mission is to strengthen school communities through social emotional learning, disability awareness, empathy development and inclusion.

Sam was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare congenital disorder resulting in both facial anomaly and hearing loss.

His experiences as a student with a disability and as a teacher, working in an inclusive classroom, helped him recognize the importance of supporting students in developing the essential life and relationship skills that underpin equity, inclusion, and social change.

The students and educators with whom Sam works and others around the nation are a constant inspiration for him.

And I'm really looking forward to having him share his experiences and his expertise in this area with you this afternoon.

So I will turn it over to Sam, and let him take it away.

So thanks so much, Sam.

Thanks, Shelly, for that introduction.

Thanks everybody for being here.

I'm really excited to spend this afternoon with you.

One of the things that I wanna say before I jump into the presentation is I really hope this isn't the end of my relationship working with all of you.

As Shelly said, this is a two-part series, and I hope many of you will join us for part two in a couple weeks.

But I'll also make sure that my email address and website goes in the chat right now.

And I encourage you to reach out if there's something that sparks a new learning for you today, or something else that you wanna connect with me outside of this webinar on, more than happy to schedule a time to do that, so don't hesitate to reach out to me.

I also would like to create an environment this afternoon where we feel like we're a part of a learning community together.

So, I've asked Shelly to help me monitor the chat in the Q&A session while I'm going through today's presentation.

And I invite you to share questions, I invite you to share aha moments, I invite you to share resources, I invite you to share stories, but really feel free to use those Q&A and chat button at the bottom of your screen as a way to connect and communicate with the other attendees today in the webinar.

I will designate some time at the end for Q&A, where I'll have Shelly read out the questions that were submitted via the Q&A section, or functionality, and we'll make sure there's some time for that as well.

So with that, I'm going to pull up today's slide deck.

I'm just throwing my email address and website in the chat for your reference.

So give me one moment here to make sure I pull up the right window.

All right.

So today's presentation is titled "Peer Awareness Understanding & Inclusive Classrooms Part 1." So really the goal for this afternoon is to help us all leave with a foundational understanding of what is this concept of peer awareness and why it's important in helping to cultivate more inclusive or authentically inclusive classrooms and learning environments.

Part two in two weeks, is going to be the kind of the how, how do we do it, and we'll be giving more strategies.

But today it's really focused on the what and the why of this thing called peer awareness.

As Shelly said, my name is Sam Drazin.

I am a former elementary educator.

I taught third grade and fifth grade for a number of years, supported students in a variety of other ways.

Left the classroom about eight years ago to take the work to a larger level.

So since then, I travel nationally and I present to teachers, I present to parents, I present to students, I present to administrators, and I'm also the executive director and founder of Changing Perspectives.

As I said earlier, I hope this isn't the end, but rather just the beginning of our working relationship together.

So I'm more than happy to have you email me and set up another time to talk.

In addition to coming from this work from a professional lens of being in the classroom, trying to create an inclusive learning environment as a gen ed mainstream teacher, I also come to this work from my own personal experience of living with a cranial facial anomaly called Treacher Collins syndrome and having a bone conductive hearing loss.

So the way that I like to describe my perspective to this work is I come from both sides of the desks, this side of the desk is a teacher with a difference, and this side of the desk is a student with a difference.

Little bit more about Changing Perspectives.

We are a 501(c)(3).

We're in the United States, so our designation is 501(c)(3) for the United States of America educational nonprofit organization.

And really our work focuses on partnering and collaborating with schools and districts and other organizations to help support and promote social emotional learning in an effort to cultivate more inclusive and equitable learning communities with really our focus and our lens on students with disabilities.

We do our work in a variety of ways.

We provide schools access to pre-K through high school social emotional learning and disability awareness curriculum resources.

We provide educator professional development opportunities like this one today.

And we also support schools and districts in engaging families and parents in family engagement workshops to really ensure that we are educating, empowering and inspiring all of the stakeholders within a learning community.

Our website is up here on the screen, and I also encourage you to follow us on various social media platforms.

But now that you know a little bit about me and who Changing Perspectives is, I wanna talk about what we're going to cover today in today's agenda.

So the first thing that we're going to jump into is, what is peer awareness?

I think one of the challenges sometimes in education is that we jump into talking about concepts before we take the time to define what that concept means.

What does it look like?

What does it sound like?

What does it feel like?

So I wanna start by really just kind of unpacking and perhaps maybe pushing against some misconceptions around peer awareness.

So we're gonna talk about what is peer awareness, why peer awareness can be an effective strategy for enhancing inclusive classrooms, 'cause again, this is somewhat of a different slant on creating inclusive learning environments, right?

This idea of helping peers better understand themselves and others is really an extremely powerful proactive tool for helping students today become the change makers of a more inclusive tomorrow.

And then lastly, think about this from more of that university design for learning perspective, and recognizing that peer awareness efforts, programs and supports support all students both with and without disabilities.

So those are really the three main questions that I'm hoping that I can answer for you today: What is peer awareness?

Why it's an ineffective strategy?

And how does it support all students?

So to get us started, I wanna share with you a short video clip.

This video clip spotlights an 11-year-old boy, Cole Blakeway, who shares his TED Talk called "We Are All Different and That's Awesome." And I don't wanna say too much more about the TED Talk, but the one thing that I am gonna say is, as you watch this, I want you to think about why do you think I chose this to really kickstart and spark this presentation on peer awareness, 'cause ultimately, what Cole is demonstrating is peer awareness and the impact it has.

And again, feel free in the Q&A to jot down any questions or in the chat feature to make any observations, aha moments, anything that you might be thinking about as you watch this video.


(upbeat music) My name is Cole.

And over the next few minutes, I'm going to teach you that it's okay to be different.

Since a young age, I've worn different colored socks and two different shoes.


Because I am unique.

A standout from the crowd.

I feel best when I am being me.

This summer, a funny thing happened.

I was in a bookstore with my mom when I realized everyone was strangely quiet.

And so I did what needed to be done.

I started singing.

As a joke, my mom pointed to a book and said, "Hey Cole, this book is for you." I pulled it out and read the cover.

Here's what it said, "You're weird." (crowd laughs) "A creative journal for misfits, oddballs, and anyone else who's uniquely awesome." It's the best book ever.

It tells everyone it's cool to be different.

Today I'm going to tell you about a friendship of mine that is a little different than you might expect.

This is one of my best friends, Steven.

He is the happiest person I know.

Steven is 44 years old and has autism.

Let me start by explaining how we became special friends.

When my mom was just 13 years old, she was in the high school cafeteria about to have lunch with her friends.

Then she passed a table of kids with special needs.

Steven was a boy at that table.

He shouted out, "Hey, what's your name?

Come sit with me." My mom sat down, and in that moment, a special friendship began.

Steven asked my mom three questions.

He wanted to know what she was having for lunch, her phone number, and if they could be friends for 40 years.

(crowd laughs) As my mom gave him her phone number and said yes, he clapped with excitement and said, "I will call you every day." Ever since that day, in 1988, he has kept his promise and called our house every single day.

When I was born, Steven was a special part of our family, and I've grown up calling him Uncle Steven.

Steven is included in family dinners, he comes to my soccer games, he loves watching movies with us, and every couple of weeks, he has a sleepover.

Steven has had autism his whole life.

Autism spectrum disorder refers to a range of conditions, characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communications, as well as by unique strengths and differences.

My friend Steven is not able to drive a car, but he is able to memorize every phone number he has ever heard.

There is no cure for autism, but I think Steven is perfect the way he is.

One of my favorite memories with Steven is whenever a firetruck passes us.

He shouts out, "When I grew up, I wanna be a firetruck." (crowd laughs) That always makes me smile.

He likes the idea of being a fireman, but he loves the idea of being a firetruck.

Another thing that always makes me laugh is how much he likes to eat.

Have you ever met someone who can eat a steak, a slice of pizza, french fries, apple pie, ice cream, and they are still starving?

While, Steven eats all that almost every time we see him.

Finally, one of my favorite memories with Steven is when we play hide and seek.

He always hides in the closets.

I love playing hide and seek with Steven, it always makes me smile.

But not just me, he makes everyone smile.

I don't think we need a cure for autism, just like we don't need a cure for freckles.

Autism is not a disease, just like brown hair isn't a disease.

You don't need to fix something that isn't broken.

I look up to my Uncle Steven as he is the happiest person I know.

Steven doesn't try to be like anyone else, he is exactly who he was meant to be.

Imagine a world where we all live like Steven.

Find out what makes you different, don't be afraid to stand out, wake up, jump out of bed and be exactly who you are.

We are all a little different, and that's awesome.

Thank you.

(crowd applauds) So I hope you enjoyed that TED Talk as much as I do.

And I think it's such a great introduction and just kind of way to spark this conversation.

It's so inspiring, and it just shows how we can just talk about difference in a varying natural way.

So thanks, Catherine and Nicole, for your thoughts in the chat.

Yeah, keep them coming.

So, throughout today's presentation, I've included some little quotes that I think are very relevant to this topic.

And I think quotes can be incredibly motivating for folks to really think about these topics.

So, the first one comes from Catherine Pulsifer, and it says, "We are all different, which is great because we are all unique.

Without diversity, life would be very boring." So, let's jump into addressing the first question on today's agenda, which is, what is peer awareness?

And for me, to know where to begin with all of you, I'd like a moment for a quick pre-assessment.

So if you can think about to yourself, what does peer awareness mean to you, and drop that in the chat.

You don't need to worry about spelling.

It doesn't need to be a whole paragraph, it could just be a couple words if that's all you're thinking.

But I'm gonna give you about 30 seconds, and I'm gonna go on mute.

And I'm gonna ask that in the chat, the bottom of your screen if you click the chat button, you just type right now, what is your current definition of this concept, peer awareness?

And as people continue to type in their current definition, I encourage you to open up that chat window and see what your colleagues on today's webinar are writing.

So you're welcome to add to that as I continue to the slides.

But again, thinking about what we already might assume or how we already might define peer awareness.

So we all kind of have our own definitions.

And one of the things that I would really strongly advise if you're going to be rolling out any sort of peer awareness programming or opportunities in the school that you work at is make sure that all the staff members, all the teachers, all the educators at your school site have a common definition of peer awareness.

I found that in some schools that I work with, we have different teachers with different definitions, and then the students are getting a different experience and it's not consistent.

So I definitely advise taking time to engage your staff that you work with in coming up with a common definition prior to engaging with students.

So this is just one definition.

This is one that I like, and it reads, "Peer awareness is the opportunity to engage in safe and vulnerable learning opportunities to gain empathy and understanding of how others experience the world." So that's the definition that I've written, that I like to share.

Again, there's really no right or wrong definition in recognizing that a definition of peer awareness may vary school by school, right?

Each school is its own micro concept.

Each school has its own defined culture and community.

But I definitely advise folks to really think deep and take the time to come up with your own definition.

And if what I've put down here on the screen is helpful, feel free to take a screenshot of it right now, you are welcome to use this definition however you please.

But again, peer awareness is providing the opportunities to make sure that we have safe and opportunities to engage in vulnerable conversations with really the outcome of developing a greater sense of empathy and understanding of how others experience the world.

So let's start to unpack this a little bit more.

So, we've got kind of a definition.

Let's start to think about what are the components to peer awareness that really help us to create this definition.

So when we engage in peer awareness opportunities, the safe and vulnerable learning opportunities, we are educating all students about disabilities or differences.

And I emphasize all students, because I think sometimes when people think about this concept, they assume that it is having all the kids with differences in one room, talking about their differences.

Or, it's all the kids that are maybe neurotypical, or without a difference, in another room, talking about those kids over there in that room.

Peer awareness is really about having all students together engaging in these learning opportunities, students with and without various differences and/or disabilities.

And I like to think about the sign language sign, or at least the American sign language sign for family when we do this.

So peer awareness is about providing opportunities to have those safe and vulnerable learning opportunities as a family, together.

Peer awareness, or what sometimes I call disability awareness, is not advocacy work.

And I think that's really important to stress because oftentimes when I explain this work to folks, they go, "Oh, you do advocacy." And I'm like, "No, no.

This is not advocacy." Now one could argue that if we're more intentional in our peer awareness programming and opportunities, we will strengthen our advocacy efforts.

But peer awareness or disability awareness is not advocating for equal opportunities or equal rights, et cetera, it's really building that foundational awareness, that empathy and that understanding about how each one of us has strengths, has needs, experiences the world a little bit differently.

And when we engage in this peer awareness activities all together as a family, both with and without various disabilities present, we are stronger because we're learning and talking together.

Peer Awareness doesn't happen if you're talking about a group of kids in another room.

Peer awareness happens when you're all together.

The other thing is the opportunity for all students to discuss and build connections.

One of the things that I found in this work is that when we start talking about our differences, which is really how we start with peer awareness, we start talking about our differences, the conversation typically ends by us talking about our similarities.

So now that we've taken some time to define peer awareness by you sharing in the chat your current definitions, by me sharing my definition, and unpacking a little bit about the components of peer awareness that make up that definition, I wanna talk more about kind of the why.

Why invest time?

Why invest resources in doing this work?

Just as a reminder, for those of you who might have joined a little bit late, Shelly is going to be monitoring the Q&A as well as the chat.

If you have any questions about anything I share today, please put them in the Q&A box.

And if you have any thoughts, aha moments, resources, stories you wanna share related to this work, again, feel free to keep a conversation going in the chat.

So, why peer awareness?

Well, one, empathy is being noted as one of the most important 21st century skills that kids today need to be successful in the global marketplace for which they're entering.

The reality is that students today don't need to memorize facts and figures like we used to when we were kids, 'cause students can look anything up on their phone.

The skills that students need today to be successful are skills around communication, collaboration, problem solving, recognizing multiple perspectives in a given situation.

And all those skills that I just mentioned can be rooted in this concept of empathy.

So if we want students to be prepared, to go out into the world, interact with diverse individuals, engage in a global marketplace, we need to ensure that they have the ability to look at any situation through an empathetic lens.

We know that much intolerance, whether you wanna call it intolerance, social isolation, social exclusion, instances of bullying, disrespect, whatever you wanna call it, most of that, that happens in schools from one student to another student is a result of ignorance.

It boils down to student A not understanding student B, or student A not having any empathy for student B.

And therefore, student B is a prime target for social exclusion, isolation, bullying, intolerance.

So if we can invest in time, if we can invest strategically in peer awareness learning opportunities, hopefully that will decrease the amount of ignorance 'cause we're building awareness.

And as a correlation, decrease the amount of intolerance, disrespect, social isolation, bullying that we see in schools.

We know that not just our school communities, but communities at large, are more diverse now than ever before.

Not all differences, not all disabilities are visible.

They're not all obvious when you look at someone on the outside.

And I would argue actually coming out of the pandemic, we are noticing that many, many students now are struggling with mental health issues, emotional behavioral disturbance, trauma, and that a lot of those conditions are invisible.

You don't know that just by looking at somebody.

So not only are our communities more diverse than ever before, but a lot of that diversity is invisible.

We found that students are much more naturally empathetic to the visible differences than they are the invisible differences.

So this work is even more important now than ever before because we're asking students to develop empathy, we're asking students to understand how others experience the world when it's not always obvious just by looking at somebody.

Just wanna pause there for a minute.

I just wanna check the chat here and the Q&A if there's anything that anyone has brought up.

So, disability awareness or peer awareness really benefits everybody.

And that's what makes me so excited about this work and this topic, is that this is not a opportunity that is just supporting one small group of students in this school, but really investing in this work has this really magnifying ripple effect to supporting everybody and helping to really create organically a greater sense of an inclusive culture for all.

So one of the things that we found is that peer awareness supports students with disabilities and differences, because what we're saying to those students is, "It's okay to be different." We're moving away from the model of someone coming in the classroom, an interventionist of sorts, and tapping that student on the shoulder and quietly whisking them out in the classroom, like there's something they have to be ashamed about that they can't talk about their difference, like, "Ooh, we have to be quiet about it.

We can't talk about it, you just have to come with me." And so when we engage in peer awareness, we're telling those students, "It's okay to talk about it." We're giving them a platform to share about themselves with others.

And when we do that, we find that we support students with differences and disabilities in gaining greater awareness of who they are, which turns into greater confidence in who they are, which then turns into students being able to better advocate for their needs.

We also find that engaging with peer awareness helps to support our students that maybe don't have a diagnosed disability or difference, because when we engage in peer awareness, we're really opening up the doorways and conversations for really self-awareness.

And several of you in the chat, when I asked you to write down your current definition of peer awareness, wrote down learning about ourselves and learning about others, and they really are married in this work.

Because when we're opening up this dialogue, when we're engaging in these learning activities and opportunities to talk about awareness of differences, it also gives students the opportunity to just reflect on themselves and recognize that whether there's a diagnosed disability or not, we all have strengths and we all have needs.

So what helps students without disabilities better understand themselves, but it also helps students without disabilities become the change makers for a more inclusive tomorrow.

As adults, we don't always wanna be the ones outside on the playground or in the classroom helping to facilitate inclusive play, right?

We want our students to take the initiative.

And when we engage in peer awareness and we help students understand about themselves and others, we see that they're more likely to take that initiative in engaging with others and including others in less scripted, more authentic, and more genuine ways.

Peer Awareness also supports new perspectives and new insights from resource teachers.

'Cause oftentimes what we find is that resource teachers are very academically focused, right?

It's about ensuring that our students are meeting certain academic benchmarks by the end of the quarter, by the end of the school year, et cetera.

And so when we engage in these peer awareness activities, it gives resource teachers, I think, sometimes a new lens, a new perspective on really tapping into what are the social and emotional needs of the students.

What are their strengths in becoming a member of that school community with a sense of belonging and a sense of role in that community?

It's a way that I can really start to help resource teachers better understand how these individual students perceive themselves as members of the school community, how they compare and contrast themselves to their classmates.

And also, it can be an eye-opening opportunity for resource or teachers to better understand how the classmates, maybe without disabilities, perceive these individual students who might have more apparent differences.

All right.

I know there's a lot of talking on this slide.

Last one.

Peer awareness also supports an understanding for general education teachers.

I know for me, when I went through teacher training, we never actually learned about a lot of specific disabilities.

It was more having students in your class with disabilities 101.

And I think sometimes general ed teachers take a backseat to this work 'cause they just kind of go, "Oh, it's the resource teacher's job. They'll take care of it. That kid's on their caseload, it doesn't really affect me."

And so when we engage gen ed teachers in this work, it helps general education teachers better understand and build their own awareness for all their students.

Because whether a student is categorized as a student with a disability or not, we need to ensure that all teachers in all schools see all students as their students.

Just 'cause a student is on a particular caseload doesn't mean that we don't have to deal with it, right?

So, peer awareness really supports all these various stakeholders within a school community.

Now, I'm a big fan of reiterating the same fact a few different ways.

And hopefully that doesn't bore you, but rather engages you.

And I do that intentionally in my presentations 'cause I never know exactly what model is going to resonate with each of the participants.

So, another way to think about this work is through the model of this house.

When you build a house, you build your foundation first, and then you build everything on top of that.

So if we want our students, we've established in the "why", that empathy is a vital 21st century skill for all young people, we need to make sure that we provide them the opportunity to build, and dig, and solidify a foundation of awareness of differences.

So this is how I explain this house model.

If you're more of a visual learner, you'll like this illustration.

The foundation supports all the stories on the house.

If we can, at a very young age, start providing opportunities to build a solid foundation of awareness of differences for our students, and again, differences could be disabilities, could be gender, it could be race, whatever it is, and even within disability, there's such a span, provide that deep solid foundation of awareness of differences.

As students move up the stories of the house, or I like to think about kind of the chapters of their lives or they go out and they have new experiences, they interact with different people who might be different than them, they'll have a roof of empathy to support their actions.

In other words, that roof of empathy is supported by an understanding and awareness of differences.

So if I have an awareness of differences that's deep and solid, just like we would want on the house, a solid foundation, that's gonna ensure that our students have that roof of empathy.

So they'll be able to go out into the world and they'll be able to communicate and collaborate, and authentically include others who may be different from themselves, who may have various life experiences that are different.

So, another way to look at this.

So we've done kind of the bulleted list for those of you who might be verbal learners or language-based learners.

We did the illustration of the house for maybe those of you who are more artistically inclined.

So here's another model here.

The goal of peer awareness, at the end of the day, is to change behavior or action.

So I'm starting on the salmon color, we're gonna work backwards.

So, the goal is to change action or behavior, whether that's behavior of students with disabilities, to be more empowered about who they are and be more independent in self advocates, whether that is students without disabilities to better understand themselves, to be the ones that are going and have the intrinsic motivation to include others, whether it's gen ed classroom teachers to facilitate more inclusive practice, whatever it is, right?

Action, behavior change.

That could be behavior change of students with and without disabilities.

That could also be behavior change of adults.

In order to change behavior, we need to first change our mindsets.

We need to first change our attitudes.

We need to first change perhaps our biases or stereotypes about others.

In this case, we're really focusing on disability.

So we wanna change our action around disability and create more inclusive environments, we need to first change our mindset around disability.

We need to challenge our own and challenge others' preconceived notions, beliefs, biases, stereotypes about their students or their peers with disabilities.

And in order to change the mindset, we need to first build that awareness, that understanding, that foundational knowledge kind of like how I started today's webinar with, "What is peer awareness?

Let's create a definition.

Let's have that solid awareness." From awareness, once we know what we're talking about, once we're speaking common language, that's when we can then start to push our preconceived notions, our preconceived beliefs, and really starting to push, what do we already know?

What do we think we know?

How do our past experiences, or how do our biases influence our behavior in this work?

And then from that, we could start to think about, "Okay, so how do we change? How do we change our behavior?"

So I've been talking for a while.

I've thrown a lot at you.

We started by defining what is peer awareness.

From that, we explored a little bit about why peer awareness is beneficial for all the stakeholders within our school communities.

And then we really ended on this idea of this awareness to mindset to actionable shift, behavior shift.

What I'd like to do, 'cause I've been talking for about 40+ minutes now, what I'd like to do is take a few minutes to pause and reflect.

So, there are 4 reflection questions that I would like you think about.

One, what ways could you see bringing peer awareness to your school?

If you don't work at a specific school, your district or school sites that you consult or support.

If you wanna maybe think for purposes of this exercise, one specific school that you think you could really support.

So what are ways you could bring it to schools?

What resources, whether that's time, whether that's financial, whether that's people, whether that's physical resources, what resources might you need to bring in?

What barriers would you anticipate in promoting peer awareness to a particular community that you work with?

And, what are you currently doing, and what would you like to expand or improve on?

Maybe you're already doing some peer awareness work.

Is there something you're already doing that you'd like to expand on?

And the way that we're gonna do this to create an online community is to use a Jamboard to answer these questions.

So, Shelly is gonna drop in the chat here in a minute, a link to the Jamboard.

What you're going to do is open that up.

And when you open it up, there is gonna be four different pages.

You can click through the pages by the arrow at the top.

And on each page, it's going to list one of the questions that I had on that slide.

For those of you who are new to Jamboard, on the left hand side, let me do a quick screen share actually.

So, here's the question.

Up at the top, there's the arrow.

You go to the next one, different question.

What I'd like you to do is we're gonna take probably 10 minutes or so.

And on the left hand side, if you click where it says "Sticky note", you can write your response to the question.

You can choose the color of your sticky note if you want a different color, and click save.

And then we're gonna fill up each frame here with sticky notes based on your thoughts to each question.

So with that, we're going to set a little timer here for about 10 minutes and give folks an opportunity to reflect on what I've shared today, reflect on their own experiences with this work, and to fill in the Jamboard with your thoughts and reflections, then we'll come back together.

All right.

Well, feel free to keep writing your thoughts down on those Jamboards.

But what I'd like to do now is kind of come back together and start to reflect.

As you were jotting down, I was going into the Jamboard and trying to just rearrange them a little bit, make them a little bigger.

But I don't know about you, Shelly, but it was really great to see everybody's thoughts and reflections.

So, what I'm gonna do is share the screen so we're all looking at the same Jamboard frame at a time.

So let's start with just a quick recap of what folks thought around "What ways you could bring peer awareness to your school?" And again, another plug, two weeks from today, same time, same, I'll be doing webinar number two, which is really how to implement peer awareness.

But some things that I noticed here, love the idea of having students share about themselves, having students create their own class presentations.

I've done that in a whole bunch of schools, it could be super, super, super effective.

Sometimes you might hit a little bit of parent barrier, where parents just feel a little scared or uncomfortable about their kids presenting about themselves.

But if you can overcome that hump, if kids with differences share about their differences, it's incredibly empowering for that student.

And their classmates don't see it as bait for teasing, but they actually see it as a sign of bravery.

I like this idea of, what I would call voice and choice, asking students how they would like to learn about others, asking students what questions do they have.

For whatever reason, in our society, we've made it somewhat normal to talk about race as a form of diversity, but we still have created this sense of apprehension or that sense of ambivalence around talking about disabilities.

It's like taboo, like there's something wrong about talking about disability.

And so, one step of this is we have to give students a kind of the opportunity that they have the permission to engage.

They can ask questions.

It's okay.

Invited guest speakers could be really, really great.

The only thing I caution people about is you don't want the guest speaker to be a one-and-done.

You can't just have a guest speaker come.

And I've been invited to schools to do it about my own difference.

It's like, "Sam, can you come and do this speech and then leave?" And it's like, "But, how does what I share connect to anything else that's happening in the school?" So I found that if you're going to invite guest speakers in to share their life experience, really think about how do you prep it, and how do you provide post-reflection.

Videos could be great.

Like, the shortly little video that I shared with you today.

You might be thinking, "Ooh, that could spark some great conversation with my students." Love all these.

Yep, these are all great.

Yeah, it's so important that we're empowering students to take the lead, right?

This is about creating change makers within students.

Adults can't always be the ones driving everything.

Someone mentioned here about giving teachers and administrators in school, the opportunity to model that sharing and model a sense of vulnerability, that's really important as well.

So, these are all great.

Again, as I go through this, feel free to drop other things in the Jamboard, in the chat, in the Q&A.

So the next question, what resources might you need?

I'm seeing a lot in here around time as a resource.

We know that's always a scarcity in school.

So what I always encourage folks to think about is like, how can you integrate peer awareness into what you're already doing in your school systems rather than it feeling like yet another thing?

'Cause when it's yet another thing, that's where sometimes we get pushback on the time.

I love the idea of determining the needs of the school.

Every school is different.

And recognize that you're not gonna embrace everything that makes a peer awareness in one school year, right?

This is gonna take multiple, multiple years to roll out.

So really think about how might you start.

Books and videos are terrific, I'm gonna talk a lot about those in a couple weeks.

I also have a really awesome list of books that Changing Perspectives has put together, of books that focus on characters with differences, which could be a great way to spark conversation and really get the ball rolling.

Yeah, we need to make sure that we have a common understanding of peer awareness, just like the exercise we went through together on this webinar.

So, how can we work with administrators or decision makers in your schools or districts to get some time on an agenda, dedicate some time to really build out an understanding, and engage in a conversation about this work.

Community connections, yeah.

I know in the states, we have special Olympics.

But any sort of organization in your community that helps train service animals, any organization that does sports for people with disabilities, they are usually so eager to connect with schools.

So don't hesitate to connect and build a broader network within your community.

Oh, this is always the fun one with schools, right?

Like, teachers always like to say what the barriers are.

All right.

So, what barriers do you anticipate?

Common theme I'm noticing here is priorities and initiatives.

Priorities and initiatives, right?

So again, the question is how can we help leadership see that pure awareness isn't one more priority or one more initiative, but that investing in time in peer awareness is actually gonna strengthen current initiatives and current priorities.

So if there are any initiatives or priorities around social emotional learning, around inclusion, around school culture, around school climate, around equity, around diversity, right?

Peer awareness is all of those things, and that's why I love this topic so much, 'cause it's so versatile.

So again, it's how helping folks think about we're not adding something else, but how could we take what we're already focused on and how could we just tweak them, modify them, or put this peer awareness lens on them.

Students being too shy or embarrassed.

So that's why we wanna do this work in a very, very intentional way.

And again, in two weeks, I'll talk more about that.

But really thinking about, one of the tips that I give is talk about disabilities that aren't prevalent in your school before you talk about disabilities that are.

Just like we teach addition before multiplication and multiplication before division, we wanna do this work in a very scaffolding and intentional way 'cause we don't wanna students on the spot.

We don't want them to be marked the poster child for a specific difference or disability in their school or community.

I love this one around the longevity of it, goes back to the previous slide.

We don't want this to be a one-and-done.

If it's a one-and-done, it doesn't really have an impact.

So, how do you really think about peer awareness over the course of an entire academic year, right?

How do you build a pipeline for these activities?

It could be as simple as every Monday morning for the month of September.

Teachers start with a video at the beginning of the day and a brief discussion, right?

10 minutes, Monday morning, for the month of September.

Bam, you've done something the month of September.

Maybe October you bring in that guest speaker, so you have a special day at October.

Bam, you've done something in October.

Maybe during November, you do a reading challenge in your school, but the books that are on the list all include characters with disabilities.

You got something for November.

So again, how do we take this idea and embed it throughout the school year in a variety of different ways?

Yeah, mindset.

The mindset of adults, the mindset of parents, the mindset of community and understanding of empathy, biases.

Mindset is a huge barrier to this work.

I've worked with a lot of schools and districts where in the first year, all we do is a series of professional development trainings to overcome mindset barriers of adults in the building, 'cause if the adults in the building have a mindset barrier to this work, that's going to directly limit the impact that this work has on the students.

Last question here, what are you already doing that you'd like to expand on?

I love these ideas and I hope that, as learners in this community together on this webinar, that there's some things that you could take away from what others are posting here.

Few of the things that I noticed that really struck me, I love the creating more strength-based IEPs.

That's so important.

Including students in their IEP meetings is also a way to build peer awareness, I really am a fan of that.

Ooh, I like this one, "I would love to be more free to label the disability." So with that, I talk a lot about how labeling disabilities can be both empowering and disempowering, and it's really how we go about it and how we frame it.

So really making sure that when we are working with students and we choose to label a disability, we do it in an incredibly empowering way so students feel a sense of empowerment and excitement and a sense of feeling proud of this particular component that makes up their identity.

How to facilitate these conversations could be really, really hard.

It can ignite invulnerability and discomfort for us as adults.

And it can also sometimes make us a little uncomfortable if kids are bringing things up that we're worried breaches confidentiality of other students.

So, there's definitely a lot of tools and tips that we can work on together to think about how we can empower educators to facilitate these conversations with students in safe and effective ways.

So those are kind of my thoughts here.

We're gonna make sure that when the survey goes out after today's webinar, that a copy of the Jamboard and all the thoughts go out as well, because I think there's a lot we can learn from each other from those comments.

Shelly, did you have any thoughts about anything that you saw in the Jamboard, I'd love any reflections you had in terms of common themes or aha moments, or something that maybe really resonated with you when you looked at participant's thoughts and feedback and reflections?


I think as I was reading through the comments, they were definitely resonating with my experience as well, particularly when it comes to hesitancy of folks in schools to go down the road of how do we increase the awareness of peers of differences within the classroom.

Often I find that there's a little bit of nervousness or apprehension around starting to open up that conversation, for a variety of reasons, I guess, and unsure of where it may all go, and parent consent and all of those pieces.

So, I saw a lot of that reflected in the points there.

In addition to the fact that, there are so many priorities related to curriculum outcomes and assessment and all of those pieces that some things that may not necessarily fall into those priorities that we see as the typical priorities for education might not hit the radar sometimes.

And I think making this a priority and seeing the value of it for everyone, and I love the way you put the emphasis on how it's important and empowering and valuable for all students.

So it was really nice to see that reflected in some of those comments as well.

So thank you everybody, for having some vulnerability and sharing your thoughts there.

What I'd like to do is open it up and see if there's any remaining questions.

We have about 15 minutes left in our time together.

So if you have a question, feel free to put it in the Q&A box, and I'll just pause for a moment.

When you do these Zoom webinars, I'm sure some of you have let these.

There's different boxes moving around, and it takes just a moment to make sure you know where everything is.

So let me just open up Q&A and see if there's any questions that folks have.

And again, as I mentioned earlier, today's focus was really the what and the why.

So, hopefully you all have left with a better understanding of what peer awareness is.

The opportunity to...

Let me read my exact definition.

The opportunity to engage in safe and vulnerable learning opportunities to gain empathy and understanding of how others experience the world.

How we recognize that peer awareness is not advocacy.

And hopefully you have better understanding of why this work is important.

And as Shelly just reiterated how this really impacts, not just all students, but it supports resource teachers and gen ed teachers as well.

Thanks, Nicole.

Yeah, it's so true.

I've seen it done in so many instances.

It's incredibly powerful.

I worked at one school.

We had, I think he was a sixth grade boy, very visible disability, very obvious.

And he decided that he wanted to actually present to his whole school on stage, a K8 school, and share about his difference.

And it was amazing.

Afterwards, he got down off the stage and he was moving around the the gym in his wheelchair and everyone was giving him high-fives and fist bumps, the kindergartners, the eighth graders.

It was just really, really cool.

Ooh, I love it, Sally.

I love the quote of the day.

I love it when I can give these webinars and folks can really just put in the chat what's their takeaway.

And that's really my goal as facilitating this is giving everybody one takeaway that they can leave with to strengthen this work within themselves, within their districts.

Once we wait to see if there's any other questions, I will, again, just throw my email address in the chat, if you'd like to connect with me offline, more specifically about how to bring this work to your particular school or district.

Shelly, as we wait for any more questions, how can people sign up for the next training, if they're interested in that?

Yeah, for sure.

The registration for Part two, which is, again, two weeks from today, on the 27th at the same time, is open on the Apsea website.

So if you just go to, the registration should be right there under Upcoming Events.

And if you're also looking for recordings of past webinars, if you go to Professional Resources, and Autism in Education, you'll find past webinar recordings there as well, in addition to the registration for next time.

And Sam has very graciously allowed us to record this session.

So, within a few weeks, you'll see both of the part one and part two recordings from these two sessions available there as well for your reference.

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