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Introduction to Keynote at NAEHCY: Unexpected Outcomes

Posted Jan 07 2009 6:28pm

I have decided to share my keynote from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth conference to help create an awareness about homeless children and to debunk some of the myths, as well to help those of you in the Web 2.0 world to make a connection to the urgency of addressing the digital divide... starting with your schools and spheres of influence. I will be sharing it in pieces with supporting dialog to the ideas I presented. Today, is part one- my intro, next, I will share my childhood, and so forth.  I hope you will join in on the conversation through your comments here on the blog.

Click below to download or play:

Part one: Podcast : Introduction

A wise man once said... that what you are in life has not so much to do with what you have accomplished, but the obstacles you overcame in doing so.

The Intro of Unexpected Outcomes: Empowering Those Who Need it Most
In the intro to my presentation I tell a story about my son Noah and how his brush with disfluencey led me to an important life lesson, a lesson taught by an enthusiastic speech professor who just happened to be handicapped. She taught me that disabilities should be celebrated. She explained that because of being disabled she had become smarter and more creative. She said that disabilities nurture creativity and out of the box thinking in those who are seemingly (to the rest of us) confined by them. She helped me realize that in life we often measure success by time to complete the task. We even dole out degrees based on Carnegie Units of time spent in a seat in a classroom.

The problem with this type of thinking is the presumptions that are made. We presume that if you complete a task quicker it some how makes you smarter or better and that if you do the time in a classroom you will emerge enlightened. The truth is-- especially in the Web 2.0 world-- that time is irrelevant. We must realize that those with disabilities (or circumstances that have conspired against them) can do anything that an able-bodied person can do... it just takes them longer and they need to be imaginative in their approach. 

Those who overcome challenges to achieve what you and I take for granted become very astute at problem solving, adaptive expertise, and creativity in the process. Which are very marketable skills in the 21st Century, skills which those of us who haven't been faced with huge obstacles to overcome and who have been educated in public schools structured for 20th century outcomes, simply haven't developed. So in essence, it gives those we presumed to be at a disadvantage, a clear advantage once they emerge from their circumstance, and it is our responsibility as educators to make sure they indeed do emerge.

In terms of homeless children, we simply need to make sure they have the time they need to accomplish the tasks. Sure it might take them longer due to the circumstances that have conspired against them, but they can accomplish any task other children can accomplish and it is our responsibility to make certain they have more time, more opportunity, or more of their basic needs met so they can achieve.  And as those who serve children  impacted by extreme poverty it is our responsibility to  use our full creative capacity to be imaginative in how we come up with out of the box strategies for making sure they get their chance to succeed.

Homelessness Defined
When you look below at how homelessness is defined by the McKinney-Vento act, I have been homeless at several stages of my life; as a kid, as an unaccompanied youth, and as an adult.
Please take a moment to read more so you can become more informed about this controversial issue.

For those of you that need homelessness defined please take a look here :

By the mid-1980s, there was also a dramatic increase in family homelessness. Tied into this was an increasing number of impoverished and runaway children, teenagers, and young adults, which created a new sub-stratum of the homeless population.

Also, in the 1980s, in the United States, some federal legislation was introduced for the homeless as a result of the work of Congressman Stewart B. McKinney. In 1987, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act was enacted.

In 2002, research showed that children and families were the largest growing segment of the homeless in America [9][10], and this has presented new challenges, especially in services, to agencies.

Homelessness according to McKinney-Vento has been defined as such:

II. Definitions 

    Section 725 of the McKinney-Vento Act defines the following terms:
    (a) Homeless children and youth means individuals who lack a fixed,
regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The term includes--
    (1) Children and youth who are sharing the housing of other persons
due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are
living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the
lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or
transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting
foster care placement;
    (2) Children and youth who have a primary nighttime residence that
is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a
regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
    (3) Children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public
spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train
stations, or similar settings; and
    (4) Migratory children (as defined in section 1309 of the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended) who qualify
as homeless because they are living in circumstances described in this
    (b) Enroll and enrollment include attending classes and
participating fully in school activities.
    (c) Unaccompanied youth includes a youth not in the physical
custody of a parent or guardian.

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