Oh... the middle school bus stop...
Doesn't always bring to mind harmony and joy does it?? But I saw something magical one time at the middle school bus stop.
Each morning, I walk about 2 miles throughout my neighborhood.
I am mostly lost in my thoughts of the organization of my day, my "to do" list, and problem solving little things that come up throughout the week.
If I am not tuned in to those, I am looking for wildlife, of which there is quite a bit. Alligators, turtles, deer, flocks of turkeys, wood storks, the occasional red tailed hawk, and a friendly salcuta tortoise (safely enclosed in a backyard, and she loves it when you scratch her shell).
This one particular day, as I was passing by the middle school bus stop, I noticed something different.
Usually, what I see on the days that my walk coincides with the bus arrival is this: 6-7 children, heads down, scrolling through their phones, pacing back and forth or standing quietly. There are both boys and girls, ages 11-14, some are neurotypical and some have autism.
Side bar: The only reason I know that 2 students have autism is because I did some work in their classroom when they attended the local elementary school.
On this day, however, the atmosphere was very different.
There was banter. There was laughter. Jokes and social chats and not a phone in sight. There was a light, happy quality to this little group, and I tried to be subtle as I walked past them.
As they boarded the bus and continued to laugh and enjoy each others company, if only for a moment longer, I thought to myself,
Isn't this awesome?
What was awesome about it is this:
All of these children respected each others' differences.
No one was excluded from the conversation.
There was no teasing or bullying.
There was no name calling.
But most importantly... There was inclusion. Natural social inclusion.
So let's consider this: If middle school age children can be inclusive, why can't the rest of us?
Sure, in some sectors of society and education, we are doing an amazing job with inclusion and making sure that every child is included and feels like a valued member of their community; there is an inclusive mindset.
But in some areas, we have some serious work to do. And we know it.
If I was able to capture this inclusive magic at a middle school bus stop, we can capture it anywhere.
We just have to shift our mindset.