The Joseph Maley disABILITY Awareness Program utilizes a number of different components in order to create a program that is unique, customizable, and impactful. Jane Seib, the Joseph Maley Foundation’s Curriculum Manager, has worked over the years to perfect the curriculum we use in all of our programs, including disABILITY Awareness, so that it not only meets Indiana Department of Education Standards, but remains engaging and informative for central Indiana students. For this last Disability Awareness Month blog post, we’ve asked Jane to share her experience of writing curriculum for JMF and the disABILITY Awareness Program, and tell us why she thinks our curriculum is so vital to this program.
Over the years, how has your process of writing curriculum for disABILITY Awareness and other JMF Programs evolved? What are some of the differences from when you first began to now?
Our message and voice has stayed consistent. I always tried to make everything user-friendly, fun, and interactive while delivering a clear message of acceptance, inclusion, kindness, and celebration of differences. I always had a goal of bringing materials to teachers and schools that they can implement without a lot of extra time and effort on their part. We have always tied materials to state standards and counseling standards that schools are already required to teach. I used to be a teacher, and I know how busy our educators can be. We have continued to fine-tune that.
Processes for writing curriculum have evolved. Our programs have become more seasoned after being used in more schools and with a variety of different groups. Our staff has grown and included more individuals with unique ideas and perspectives over time, contributing to our curriculum growing and becoming more robust. Checking in and collaborating with JMF managers, associates, volunteers and speakers to see how things are working and how we can adjust for ease of implementation and clarity in our message has improved our curriculum over the years. We have created multiple ways of meeting the needs of many different groups, and we have incorporated the voices and experiences of many different people. We are more equipped now to serve larger groups.
Why do you think that having JMF’s curriculum meet Indiana Department of Education standards is important for our programs?
Educators are required to meet state standards through their curriculum each school year. Standards are important because students are evaluated on their understanding of the standards, and schools, teachers, and administrators are evaluated based on test scores. This can affect school budgets, reputations, and effectiveness in different ways. Educators have so much on their plates in addition to teaching standards. They are there to meet every need their students have in a given day, day after day. Their jobs and well being are so important to the growth of children. We want JMF’s materials, activities, and events to enhance what educators are doing, to take some of their load for them, and to lift them up. An important way we can do that is to make sure what we do is in line with what they already need to do. We want to check off some of their boxes for them while engaging and motivating students in a special way.
What is the most rewarding part of writing curriculum for JMF programs?
Every part of writing curriculum for our programs is rewarding. It is absolutely my dream job. I care deeply about our mission, about children, and about the future of all of us. I want so much to contribute to putting a positive message of hope, love, and caring out into the world. Working for JMF, I do that with each hour I record on my timesheet. I love working with JMF staff. Everyone is there to help people and to do what they can without seeking personal accolades. It feels comfortable and warm. I am able to be flexible with my time and location so that I am always available for my family whenever they need me, and everyone at JMF encourages me to do that. I am currently pregnant with my fourth child, and I am excited to work on curriculum every day. I feel very fortunate.
Why do you think disability awareness education is important?
In the words of one of our wonderful disABILITY Awareness speakers, Ayden Jent, “because it’s about time.” It is about time for our world to recognize the amazing strength and value of so many people of ALL abilities. It’s about time that we all start accepting people for exactly who they are, that we start lifting each other up, and we start working together for our collective good. Each and every one of us is intrinsically valuable, important, and needed. It’s time to acknowledge that now and forever more.
How have you personally seen how the disABILITY Awareness program impacts students? Especially on a curriculum level.
I have seen the impact when kids come back and volunteer or become involved with JMF later in their lives. I have seen communities that we have served over the years that are outwardly kind to each other and happier. I am “behind the scenes” much of the time, especially since my family has grown. I work a lot with staff, but I am not at the schools consistently anymore. I hear our staff talk about seeing students’ that are really “getting it.” We get feedback sometimes from teachers and volunteers that programs and materials are impactful. And they usually include ways to tweak and adjust, so I usually focus on that part. Most of the time I trust that we are “planting seeds.” The more seeds we plant, there can’t help but be more blooms with time. I trust that our impact can only bring a brighter future in ways we will probably never really know.