Okay, so I’m a little late on this post…
Two weeks ago (and by that I mean today…) I watched 3 different TED talk videos. I had seen one or two TED talks before, but I wasn’t really sure what TED was. After exploring the TED site today, I think it is cool – what an amazing idea. The first video I watched was “Aimee Mullens and her 12 pairs of legs.”
For my ELNG class, my partner incorporated this video into our unit plan, but I had never watched the whole thing. Basically, Aimee Mullens, an amputee, talks about her “disability,” in a way that is powerful and inspirational. She doesn’t label herself as one that is “disabled,” but one with the opportunity to create.
After finishing this video, there was a link to another TED talks of Aimee’s called “The opportunity of adversity.” This video is focused on the same theme, and is equally as powerful. Aimee talks about our words, and how they have the ability to change somebody’s perception of themselves. Children that are different can grow up believing that they are lacking or they can grow up believing, as she did, that they are “strong and powerful.” We can painstakingly “overcome adversity” or we can view “adversity as an opportunity” – how we choose to look at it will determine the outcomes.
These videos really got me thinking. Aimee is an amputee, but there are all sorts of “disabilities” out there. I have a little sister, she just turned ten last week. She was raised in a foster home until she was two and a half and then we adopted her. She is my hero. She was born with fetal alcohol effects and went through crystal meth withdrawal as a newborn. She has overcome odds that you wouldn’t believe. She was diagnosed with ADHD when she was grade one, and takes medication every day so that she can focus in school. She’s in grade 5 now, sometimes needing extra help at home, but usually keeping up with her peers. If you met her, you’d probably never guess her story.
She knows her own story though, she’ll tell you all about a mom that “couldn’t take care of her,” and that she takes pills so that she can “concentrate and think better.” Her diagnosis, by the world’s standards, means she has a “disability.” I don’t look her at her that way, to me she is the little sister that I always wanted (seriously, I had brothers and I used to blow out my birthday candles and wish for a sister.) But, I’ve always worried about how that label will affect her idea of herself or how it will be interpreted by others (at interviews the kindergarten teacher told my parents that she was certain my sister was “purposely trying to annoy” her). But watching these videos left me speechless. Aimee Mullens is a beautiful, successful, compassionate woman and has come to see opportunity in adversity. She recognizes her ability to become, rather than a “disability” that inhibits. She is truly inspirational.
At one point she said, “adults in positions of power can ignite the power in a child.” This caught my attention, not only as a sister, but as a preservice teacher. We will encounter children in our classrooms that have been diagnosed or labelled or written off… What will we choose to do? Will we reinforces those stereo types or see past them? Will our attitudes put limitations on those kids or will we ignite the power within them?
I think it’s entirely amazing that content like this is available to us all the time. There is so learning that can take place, in a few simple clicks. Media like TED talks can be used for both students and professional development. We chose the first video for our grade 10 unit plan, as a way to look at portrayal of persons with disabilities, as set out by the curriculum. However, when I watched it, I think I learned just as much if not more than students might. What an incredible and powerful tool.
I also watched Temple Grandin’s “The world needs all kinds of minds,” but this blog is getting really long. Temple Grandin also looks at “disabilities,” and it’s another great video to check out.