Dennis interacts with Jordan!

Today, the Inclusion Forum in Amman, Jordan hosted by Alliance Academy Jordan came to a close.
And Dennis could not be more thrilled with the outcome!
All of the passion and planning he invested into his portion of the conference were well-rewarded by an enthusiastic and thoughtful group of leaders and educators who share the same goal of including, serving, and encouraging students with special needs and learning needs in the classrooms of Jordan.

Because he can articulate the details much better than I, please enjoy a synopsis of the event written by his own hand.

Day One
The day was a lot of fun.
The AAJ staff is so very passionate about serving all students well and they went the extra mile to put their best foot forward at this event.
The audience participation was excellent.
The country is ready to see this initiative gain traction and the Inclusion Forum served as a wonderful catalyst for providing executive-level decision makers, and, more importantly, teachers, the opportunity to hear from professors, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and parents about the important role that teachers can play in the lives of children with learning needs.
The speeches were wonderful, given by AAJ Director Nathan Greenfield and honored guests, including HRH Prince Mired Ra’ad ZZaid Al-Hussein and the Minister of Education.
I gave the keynote speech and highlighted my gross ignorance of learning needs and accommodations in my early years of teaching, and then shared that my very own children served as significant change agents in my perspective regarding those with learning needs. Caleb was the hero of the story and I always choke up with I retell the day he shined like a star at Camp Eastman on behalf of a child who had some physical and cognitive needs.
I then presented three workshops during the course of the day that featured learning need awareness and universal design principles for the general education classroom.
The teachers in the room were quite responsive and incredibly kind and thoughtful about how to best serve students. Overall, it was a stellar start and we are looking forward to more of the same tomorrow!

Day Two
The day was eventful to be sure!
Great attitude in the room and a genuine desire to learn more about serving students well.
The intent of a conference such as this one is to bring awareness and invite a catalyst for attempt- starting with the people who interact daily with the students.
When I was a young classroom teacher I really believed I was reaching all learners. My class was interactive and the students appeared engaged. Those unfortunate few who had trouble were in need of greater effort. They needed to change their practice. This glaring professional blindspot clearly revealed I did not understand the difficulties and daily burdens that each student was compelled to bear. It was also plain that my classroom practice would have to change. Simply put, a change of heart to change my daily practice.
Unfortunately, "simply stated" and "simply accomplished" are not the same.
Former president Dwight Eisenhower once said, “There are no victories at bargain prices.” This is very true when working with students. Change is sometimes painful but necessary.

The conference was more than an invitation to consider inclusion, it was about changing hearts and minds to do something about inclusion for all students in all classrooms.
This will no doubt cause disequilibrium for teachers who have employed a “one size fits all” form of a learning experience, but it is pale in comparison to the effort being made by the student who has to learn in spite of what the teacher is doing.
Jordan is a great country with big-hearted people who are generous and hospitable. It is my hope that the teachers at the conference were deeply encouraged and will use the momentum of the conference to make significant traction toward helping students with the greatest needs.
Personally, I am grateful for the opportunity to hopefully influence teachers to employ an attitude of attempt toward all learners every day.

(Dennis') Presentations at the conference:
-Keynote Address: Inclusion begins with your attitude
-1: Help me understand: Walking a mile in the shoes of a student with learning and emotional needs
-2: Creating an environment of motivation in the classroom
-3: Creating an environment of attempt in the classroom
-4: Universal design for learning: Differentiation for all learners
-Wrap Up: Atmosphere of attempt or agony: Teacher attittude in the classroom

Dennis and Micah with the Academy Alliance Jordan leadership and staff.
A tremendously gracious, welcoming, and passionate group of people!

Their hosts surprised Dennis after the conference with a quick field trip to an ancient ruin
 of a church dating back to 4,000 B.C. To quote Elsa from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
He was as giddy as a schoolboy!
This man never loses his enthusiasm for antiquities!

Thank you, THANK YOU, to everyone who prayed, encouraged, supported, and showed interest in this trip. As always, the Lord used his time in another country to challenge and shape and grow my husband in unique and beautiful ways. We love who he is when he leaves, and we love the new pieces the Lord adds to him while he is gone. Those he ministers to benefit from his expertise and sincere enthusiasm for what they are doing on behalf of students, and we benefit from the way those interactions mature and refine him as an educator, a husband, a father, a man, and most importantly, a child of God.

And thank you, to the entire leadership team and staff at Alliance Academy Jordan, for trusting Dennis to speak to the hearts and minds of the leaders and educators in Jordan. He was honored to be asked, he was honored to serve, and you made him feel welcome and wanted from the moment he stepped off the plane. You are a blessing - and we are grateful for you!