Developing empathy in children is a crucial, yet often forgotten, obligation for teachers and parents. My experience with RedRover Readers continues to inspire me! The more empathetic a group of kids, the more likely they are to embrace students of all abilities. My interview with RedRover was published in their Companion Magazine Spring 2013.
My video interview with RedRover about the power of empathy for children to relate to one another and to animals. (Fall 2012)
Copyright 2017. SarahKesty All rights reserved.
I had the honor of being interviewed by Kirsten Milliken, Creator of PlayDHD
It goes without saying that, of course, I invited Josh to enjoy Field Day with our school. (As you may remember, Josh is my hero 6th grade student who is winning his battle with brain cancer but is on a home/hospital school plan while he finishes chemo). Josh showed up ready to jump in to the festivities, wanting to first check out the giant kites. He was welcomed by familiar neighborhood kids and new friends, disappearing into the sun-block-sticky crowd.
A common and well-loved end-of-year celebration brings teachers in tennis shoes to brave the heat radiating off the blacktop in the name of student fun: Field Day. Stations of shouting children blot the blacktop, and the school joins to celebrate summer. One word can sum up the scene: fun.
My “something” defined my life in a bad way for years and years. I was born with Charcot-Marie-Tooth, CMT, which for me meant many foot surgeries, pain, and a crazy hard time finding shoes!! I was so angry at my something that I began to blame myself for it and felt like I was cursed.
"Sarah's speaking style is genuine and relatable. You feel connected and inspired listening to her stories
and stories of her students."
"I've never seen these kids become so engaged at an assembly. She got them to talk about important things without embarrassment--what a gift to watch!"
My heart swelled watching him come to life with the other kids, bravely admitting his tumor removal when kids asked about the scar poking from below his hat, trailing down his neck. He is entirely unaware of the inspiration he brings to those who know him.
Ten minutes later came the scene I never expected: Josh tracking across the blacktop in slow, careful steps, one hand on his knee, the other wiping eyes that wouldn’t stop leaking. “What happened?” I asked.
The girls who had crowded around to help answered for him: he had fallen and hurt his knee. There was no blood. No bruise. Little more than some grass smeared across a scratch. Oh, but there was sadness…and even an icepack and some shade couldn’t stop it.
“I forgot I can’t run anymore,” he stated calmly, before a panicked sniffle escaped. We waited quietly in the office for his mom to arrive. When she did, the sadness burst into words.
“I can’t do what the other kids can do, mom,” Josh sobbed. “It’s not fair.”
And he was entirely right. It’s not fair—the tumor, the cancer, the chemo, the year away from school…none of it was fair. However inspiring his story, Josh had no choice in writing the basics of the plot; he was handed his cancer and the list of unraveling complications, which seemed to continue to be discovered, even a year after his surgery. He was thrown into the protagonist role at eleven years old...but Josh wrote the elements of his own character. His grace, his resilience, his strength—they came from within him.
“You’ll get those skills back, buddy,” his mom assured him. “You’re getting better every day. You just have to hang on.”
My eyes watered as I spoke. “Try to think of your life a year from now. You’ll be the one helping someone get through a tough time because you’ll know what it’s like. But for now, it’s okay to be sad and mad. It does really suck.”
Josh looked from his mom’s face to mine and back to the floor. He took a brave breath and stood up.
Next month, Josh will complete his last round of chemo and will begin his journey back to full childhood, a little lighter of hair and weight, and a lot more wise. His story will once again be his to write, and with a fan club as large as his, it’s bound to be a great adventure!
AND...His fundraiser for his party inspired Sacramento community members to join in the celebration!Watch his surprise live on Good Day Sacramento!
When I was little, I obsessed over becoming just like the “perfect kids.” But, I certainly couldn’t run like they did—with my funky little foot—and doing a cartwheel was more like a fumbling, sideways somersault, if that. My class would have to sit on the grass waiting for me to finish the mile run, and, let me tell you, having 34 kids watch you struggle is embarrassing and lonely. I felt I was the only one with a problem. My mom would hug me and assure that everyone had something, and I tried hard to believe her.
After teaching students with disabilities for almost ten years, I came to finally see that everyone has something. More than that, I was not alone in feeling alone! My students needed to hear that their struggles are normal (they are), that they are bright and capable kids (so true!) and that even though not all kids at school got extra help like they did, every one at school had a struggle of their own (even grown ups!) I shared this message with a few kids at first and watched their faces light up in relief and hope. Then it hit me: all kids need this message.
SPRING 2017: School visits and Author Nights! Book your school or organization now!
February 24 2017: CARS Convention, Sacramento, California
April 2017: Humane Educators (APHE) Conference in Seattle, Washington.
February 4, 2016: Webinar with Humane Society: reaching students with special needs in humane education lessons.
July 16, 2015: CMTA Webinar on supporting children with disabilities
August 6th: Sarah will teach a class on how to prevent and address bullying at Sacramento's Learning Exchange
November 2015: Empathy training with Mendocino County Office of Ed
February 2015: CARS+ conference speaking events and training. Sacramento, CA.
February 2015: Ca Institute on Secondary Transition: staff training and book signing. San Diego, CA.
October 2014: Santa Maria Bonita School District trainings and assemblies.
September 2014: CMTA conference at Stanford University. Sarah spoke about raising children with disabilities.
September 2014: Farm to EVERY Fork Summit speaker and coordinator
June 2014: Webinar on mindsets and disabilities. Check it out!
August 4th 2013: Celebrate: Josh kicked brain cancer! Sacramento event
Hardcover editions of "Everyone Has Something. Together We Can" available!
November 7th, 2013: Innovative Program Sessions at CHADD International ADHD conference in Washington, DC!
November 9th 2013: CMTA Conference in Orland, FL