Jess Thon, co-founder of TourettesHero, opened the Inclusive Practice in Action workshop with an inspiring keynote on inclusion. This one day of workshops and discussions focused on the themes of Early Years, Youth Voice and Social Justice. TourettesHero celebrates the humor and spontaneous creativity that comes from someone with this condition. The mission of this organization is to change the world one tic at a time. Jess shared how her thinking around tourettes transformed when Matthew Pountney, the co-founder of TourettesHero, described her tourettes as a crazy language generating machine and not doing something with it would be wasteful. Jessʼ tics have inspired creative thinking and visual art because her tics often combine words or phrases that spark a new way of seeing things. Examples include: "Hey Siri, butter my toast." "Bought you a helicopter and a standing ovation." "A Jedi Knight in dungarees."
This quote came from her video, Hereʼs to Laughing (her tics are in parentheses):
"Adults are often nervous about even calling me disabled. They clearly see it as a negative term. I donʼt see it that way at all. Saying Iʼm disabled acknowledges the barriers I face because of a collective failure to consider difference (biscuit). Pretending these barrier donʼt exist doesnʼt make them go away (biscuit)...As soon as we stop shying away from difference, we can start appreciating our similarities (hedgehogs, cats, biscuits)."
Jess shared five ideas to help shape the future of young people because being inclusive doesnʼt have to be difficult:
Their last two points really resonated with me: find ways to stay connected even when the program is over and help them enter this world by showing them how. In many ways, this young man addressed the importance of social and cultural capital, which Alastair Wilson and Katie Hunter at the University of Strathclyde have tried to address with their Intergenerational Mentoring Network, which supports one-to-one mentoring to improve outcomes for youth as they progress through the education system. The network draws on the knowledge, experience and networks of older adults and retirees to help students successfully access careers in which theyʼre interested.
I also had a chance to network with many professionals interested in the intersection between music education, inclusion and social justice. Katy Robinson from the National Foundation for Youth Music shared this Reports and Resource page, which includes Youth Music evaluation tools and a quality framework.
And last but not least, I met Fran Hannan, Managing Director of Musical Futures (MF). She is one of the main reasons why I am here in the UK. The work that she has done in the field of making music accessible to all students is inspiring. I am excited to take Musical Futuresʼ trainings that she and her Champion MF teachers will be offering throughout my tenure here. She also has connected me to schools throughout the UK that are implementing Musical Futures approaches in their music class. Thank you, Fran, for your generous spirit! I look forward to March when Iʼll be attending your Just Play training in Carlisle.
This is a personal blog, sharing my experiences living in the UK from January - June 2019 as a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching scholar. This blog is not an official site of the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State. The views expressed on this site are entirely my own and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State, or any of its partner organizations.