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I hope that everyone is enjoying their week. I wanted to share about my experience while speaking in front of a few second grade classes today at Downey School in Westwood, Massachusetts. This speaking experience was booked through an organization called Understanding Our Differences (www.understandingourdifferences.org).
I was scheduled to speak at 1:15 PM, but I arrived at the school around 12:00 PM. From the moment that I stepped into the school, I felt an environment of inclusiveness. There were some students who were curious as to why I looked like an adult but was their height or shorter, but there was nothing degrading that was said beyond their curious thoughts. I spent an hour in the main office, before it was time to speak to the students in the library. I happened to be sitting in the office while two second grade students came inside while the rest of their classes were outside for recess. They spent time drawing their favorite characters and had quite the imagination for stories that went along with their drawings. I had so much fun asking them questions about their stories and what made them draw what they were drawing. The moment they stepped in the office, they treated me like I was one of their peers. It was so special.
When it was time to head to the library for storytelling, I already knew the two students who were drawing in the office. I started off by asking the students if they’ve ever seen a little person before me. Surprisingly, more than half of the students raised their hands. I then started reading a book called “Thinking Big” (http://amzn.to/YYN4cL) that was read to all of the students in my elementary school classes. “Thinking Big” is the story and mindset of eight-year-old Jaime Osborn. Jaime is a dwarf, just like me. While I was reading the story to the students, I inserted some of my relatable life experiences at Jamie’s age. When the the book mentioned Jaime’s scars on her legs, I showed them mine.
After I finished reading the book, I opened up the room to questions. The students were so sharp. Most of the students were curious about how I got my clothes and shoes. Then they asked how I drive. I explained the concept of pedal extensions and how I don’t need anything like a booster seat to see over the windshield since my torso is the same height as an average height person my age.
After I answered a few questions, I wanted to have a chance to get to know each and every one of the students in the room. I gave them each the opportunity to tell me their names and what they want to be when they grow up. I stressed the point that it’s okay if you don’t know and it’s also okay if it changes over time, since school will teach them what they’re good at. I know that when I was their age, I wanted to be a doctor. Then I realized how much time I would have to spend in school and I ended up changing my concentration towards marketing. The desired occupations included artists, authors, doctors, nurses, professional athletes, teachers, and members of the service. The point of this exercise was not only for me to learn about them, but for them to realize that if they work hard towards it, they can do anything. In addition, they shouldn’t judge anyone who may look different with similar occupational desires. Anything is possible for anyone.
One of the last questions was if I could stand up without using my hands, like Jaime in the book, since we’re both double-jointed. I hadn’t practiced doing it in a long time, but luckily it was a success.
I really enjoyed spending time with the students today and I hope to speak to more elementary school students in the future. It’s a fun environment full of students with great imaginations and open minds.
Thank you, Downey School and Understanding Our Differences for making today a reality!