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A message from Maria Neira, NYSUT Vice President
The remarkable students serving on Connect-Ability’s editorial board always have a surprise for me when I visit their writing workshops held at Headquarters in March and August every year. I enjoy being welcomed into their writing activities and having them share with me what they are learning about disabilities. Their communication skills are unusually good, but they are always searching for new ways to tap into each member’s ability to contribute.
Expecting the unexpected from them, I was still baffled by the sounds coming from the auditorium at Headquarters shortly after their arrival this past August. Peeking in the door, I was greeted with a circle of students each holding a large plastic bucket and two drum sticks. One of them handed me a long wooden box, pointed to a chair and invited me to join their circle. Knowing I am not very musically talented and lacking confidence, I started to shake my head and said I preferred to listen to them, but they wouldn’t take no for an answer. I had just returned from a trip to Africa where drumming is a part of life so I sat down next to Isabel, one of our youngest board members. Then I was asked to start the drumming circle off with a beat of my own making. I tentatively began to drum and what fun it was!
My initial doubt about a connection between drumming and disability instantly disappeared. I immediately felt what each of the students was feeling. We were a team, sharing our unique voices, including everyone in our circle, listening to one another “speak.” Eye-hand coordination, large and small muscle skills, creativity, self-expression were all part of our drumming experience. Every one of us was fully engaged in making music together. As different individuals were called upon to “lead,” we all realized we were leaders.
As we followed one another’s lead, we all experienced the value of teamwork. Barriers to communication were reduced as we listened to one another. Our drumming circle made a good learning environment. In this issue of Connect-Ability, teachers and students will find an addition to the disabilities awareness toolkit started last year. We have added drumming circles which can be used effectively in classrooms and communities to help foster a better understanding of inclusion and improve our ability to appreciate what each individual student has to offer to the team. Thanks to the Connect-Ability editorial board members for inviting me into their circle. Let us know if you start a circle of your own.
We need your help
We are looking for students in grades 7-12 who are interested in writing essays, articles, personal stories or poetry related to disability. We need student artists, as well.
We want this newsletter to connect students with and without disabilities so that we can learn from one another, make friendships and participate in an inclusive environment.
An annual issue of Connect-Ability goes out to schools across New York State. High school students who serve on its editorial board edit it. Add your voice to ours and send us something you have written or created.
If you or a student you know would like to learn more about how to participate in this exciting project, contact Catharine McHugh at (800) 342-9810 or 518-213-6000 X6522 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.