We were lucky to host Sam Drazin as the speaker at our June meeting, where he talked about his organization Changing Perspectives. Changing Perspectives is a 501c3 nonprofit organization based in Vermont, which provides K-12 schools with disability awareness programming through a combination of curriculum materials and teacher trainings. The Changing Perspectives model has already been used in more than thirty schools, reaching more than 4,500 students.
The idea came from Sam Drazin, an educator who has struggled his whole life with a hearing loss. Sam’s experiences as both a student with a disability and as a teacher working in an inclusive classroom formed his interest in improving disability awareness and understanding. Changing Perspectives was started to provide schools with a framework for improving disability awareness and is based on an understanding of the natural curiosity of children. The ultimate goal is to help everyone recognize their own challenges and to help promote understanding, respect, and acceptance of all people.
Awareness is the foundation of empathy. For students to achieve a greater sense of empathy, they must first develop an awareness and appreciation of differences. Changing Perspectives aims to be a seed for social change. In doing so they hope to reduce bullying and social isolation in schools by teaching about differences and supporting an educator’s work to build inclusive communities within their classrooms.
While Changing Perspectives focuses on issues of disability and doesn’t explicitly address race, we felt that both the message and the tools of the program were relevant to our mission, and especially to our focus on education and the experience of students of color in Vermont schools. Several members expressed interest in including the curriculum at schools where they work or where their children attend, and we encourage you to learn more about the organization.