I had the joy of introducing my extraordinary friend Tiffany Busone to the Bayou third and fourth grade class last week following their reading of Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. The book chronicles the unique childhood of Melody. “Born with cerebral palsy, Melody, 10, has never spoken a word. She is a brilliant fifth grader trapped in an uncontrollable body. Her world is enhanced by insight and intellect, but challenged by physical limitations and misunderstandings.”

Tiffany once told me that reading the book was like reading her own autobiography. Earlier this year, I approached Kak Jarvis, my son’s teacher, regarding her interest in reading the book aloud. Afterward, I would be happy to invite Tiffany to the classroom to visit with the students. Kak readily agreed.

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Tiffany arrived with her two aides Macy (human) and Lenny (canine). Students prepared questions for Tiffany ahead of time and their time together was spent discussing those questions, as well as the many spontaneous ones that popped up.  It was so inspiring to see Tiffany’s interactions with the 3rd and 4th graders. You could observe such concrete learning as they grappled with issues of difference and disability. Their empathy for both Melody and Tiffany’s experiences was so heartfelt as they considered living in a world where one is constantly misunderstood. Tiffany expressed afterward, “It was so much fun, the kids were great! I loved all their questions and their eagerness to communicate with me. It makes me happy that kids are learning about people with disabilities at a young age.” Thank you, Kak, for opening your classroom and Tiffany for sharing your time.

by Kate Walthour, FSM parent

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Kak adds, “When Kate mentioned that she had a friend for whom this book was particularly relevant and that she (Tiffany) would be interested in visiting, I was excited. In third and fourth grade, we do include a social studies unit that teaches the students about a variety of learning differences. We hope that the students can develop an appreciation and respect for their own and other’s learning similarities and challenges.

I am proud of the Bayou students and how they were honest, respectful, and very attentive during our visit with Tiffany. She is a positive and delightful person and we hope she will visit us (and bring Lenny) again next year.” – Kak Jarvis, third and fourth grade teacher