Born Fabulous Podcast Blog Post #5 – “The Power of a Positive Educator”

In episode five Sandra McElwee clearly states that we should never give up on our children. Her journey with Sean, dealing with medical issues, overcoming speech obstacles, and thriving in spite of exclusion / blatant discrimination at times, shows the power of a positive attitude, grit, and determination. (Make no mistake – Sean had /has as much grit, determination, and positive thinking as his parents did!) When Born This Way won their first Emmy (they now have three), many were so happy for the entire cast and crew. And  people all over the world felt as if they too had won an Emmy. The cast was winning for everyone with a disability. The grit paid off!


Jon Gordon wrote the following: “Regardless of your profession, we can all be Positive Educators and help inspire the young minds in our lives.” I love that! I think teachers everywhere will breathe a sigh of relief that the entire job of educating and encouraging youth is not solely on their shoulders. Parents, we can and should be positive educators. Non – profit leaders and staff, you can be positive educators. Everyone in our faith – based communities from staff to parishioners, can be positive educators. Politicians and professionals can be positive educators.


Here is Jon Gordon’s Positive Teacher Pledge, which we can all follow:


  • I pledge to be a positive teacher and positive influence on my fellow educators, students and school. 


  • I promise to be positively contagious and share more smiles, laughter, encouragement and joy with those around me.


  • I vow to stay positive in the face of negativity.


  • When I am surrounded by pessimism, I will choose optimism.


  • When I feel fear, I will choose faith.


  • When I want to hate I will choose love.


  • When I want to be bitter, I will choose to get better.


  • When I experience a challenge, I will look for opportunity to learn and grow and help others grow.


  • When faced with adversity, I will find strength.


  • When I experience a set-back, I will be resilient.


  • When I meet failure, I will fail forward and create a future success.


  • With vision, hope, and faith, I will never give up and will always find ways to make a difference.


  • I believe my best days are ahead of me, not behind me.


  • I believe I’m here for a reason and my purpose is greater than my challenges.


  • I believe that being positive not only makes me better, it makes my students better.


  • So today, and every day, I will be positive and strive to make a positive impact on my students, school, and the world.


You can download a copy of the pledge here.


Why am I writing about this, for this episode? Think about the incident Sean had with his drama teacher in high school. Later on in her series,  Sandra says Sean took classes at community college that his high school would not let him take. Some of those classes were drama classes. The sad irony of a young man being denied the opportunity in high school, waiting to take those classes at his local community college, and then going on to be cast member of an  Emmy winning series, is a profound lesson for all of us. When you hear the rest of Sandra’s episodes you will hear more stories. When you hear Jeannie Harris’s episodes she too has stories of inclusion and exclusion. Laura Riggio said it best when she stated that she always felt she had to prove that Melissa was worthy to be in her general education classes. The stories of discrimination cross all boundaries and lines when it comes to people with disabilities.


To be fair, the discrimination is everywhere, not just in schools. I will always have a scar inside from the time my church’s interim priest refused to come to the hospital when my daughter, who has Down syndrome, was born. He flat out said no, and then refused to call back when my husband  I tried to ask him to reconsider many times. When it came time to baptize her four weeks later, he again said no. This time I had more strength, and made him baptize her. I wish you could have seen how he held our beautiful daughter, like she would break or give him a disease. I was not sure what scared him so much. He took a time of joy, where I was relying greatly on my faith, and caused a deep scar. He should have, and could have, been a positive educator. He could have and should have been an ally. (We did not give up on our faith, and have a wonderful priest and church family.)


People with disabilities are the most segregated people in America. Many from the time they are diagnosed in utero before they are even born. We must remember that EVERYONE is more alike than different. Speak with our youth with disabilities– they want lives with possibilities. The same possibilities as their peers. Born Fabulous celebrates and learns from those who have done that—who have achieved extraordinary success. Though this season features parent interviews, both Sean McElwee and Tim Harris fully approved their parent’s episodes. They want their parent’s perspectives of their stories out, because they know it helps others achieve a life like yours.  


Yet each person would agree that having more positive educators along their journey. more allies, would have really helped. It is not too late. We can all step up, and we should. What can you do to be a positive educator today and always?


Thank you for caring.


From my heart,


Greta Harrison


You can hear episodes 1-5, see videos, and read prior blogs right where you are: Born Fabulous Podcast is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. 

Sandra McElwee has written three books: Who’s the Slow Learner-Stories of Inclusion and Exclusion, Who’s the Slow Learner-Adventures in Independence, and My Name is Sean and I have Something to Share. You can see more about them on Sandra’s Author Page which is linked here on Sean’s page.