Each month, we celebrate an individual who is instrumental in helping make this world a more inclusive place. For May 2014, we honor Molly Puryear as KIT’s Advo-KIT of the month.
Molly is the Education Director at Malashock Dance and champions for a more inclusive world.
Molly explains why she loves inclusion and how she makes it happen:
What do you love about inclusion?
I love how empowering it is for everyone involved. I see that our staff, teachers, dancers, and audience all feel a shift in their perception about what is actually possible when they see inclusion demonstrated. It empowers our teachers to think creatively about how to make activities adaptable and flexible, and it inspires dance-lovers to think of dance as a natural part of the human experience…The arts are for EVERYONE, not just an elite few!
When were you first introduced to inclusion? Why did you choose to become a champion for inclusion?
I was first introduced to the philosophy of inclusion in 2007 when I attended an on-site KIT training at Malashock Dance. I was already working with a few groups of students with disabilities, and I felt like a light bulb went on in my head. I just knew that this was a platform I had to champion. I knew that inclusive practice could change the way people see dance, as well as change the way people think about ability.
What is your vision for an inclusive world?
My vision for an inclusive world is one where the concept of “burden” no longer predominates. It is a gift to see the world through the lens of inclusion. Everyone has something to contribute. When we can recognize that without inclusion we are ALL missing out, it is natural to see that we ALL benefit from inclusive practice. I envision a culture where accessibility and adaptation are part of the creative process in all aspects of life. I would like to see a world where no one feels that it is a burden to make accommodations, and where no one feels like a burden when they need them!
Did you overcome a barrier or roadblock regarding exclusion/inclusion?
I did have a few conversations with teachers who were intimidated by the concept. They were reluctant to “buy in” to the fact that they may have students with different levels of ability in their classes. Thanks to expert training and concrete examples, it was more like a speed bump than a roadblock.
What is one of your most memorable inclusion experiences?
It honestly makes me get a little emotional just thinking about it! The first time I facilitated an inclusive performance at Malashock Dance, I was unsure about how it would be received. The dancers with disabilities were adults, and they were performing in a large theater in a program that was otherwise full of rather advanced level dancers. There were a lot of logistics to consider, and I decided that cramming everyone backstage together (the typical protocol) was a bad idea. I saved their dance for the finale, and had the class make their way up to the stage from the audience, where they were sitting with their families. The music came on, and they started filing up to the stage with the BIGGEST smiles on their faces! They absolutely came to life on that stage, under the lights, with the audience cheering them on. I saw about 30 advanced dancers peeking out from the wings of the stage, most of them with tears in their eyes. I saw parents in the audience wiping tears of joy away as they saw the massive amount of pride on their kids’ faces. When all was said and done, and they had taken their bows (to a standing ovation), one of the dancers who has very limited verbal skills looked out into the audience, opened his arms wide, and at the top of his lungs said, “this is wonderful.”
What is your top tip that you would give to someone working with children?
Behavior is communication! If you can keep these two questions in your head, you will be just fine:
1) “What are they communicating to me with this behavior?”
2) “What can I do to make them feel more successful?”
–Written by Molly Puryear, the Education Director at Malashock Dance in San Diego, CA and Kids Included Together’s Advo-KIT of the month.
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.