Maribeth Bush is an educator from Maine who has committed her life to creating a positive difference in the lives of children by celebrating abilities - no matter what challenges children may face. Connecting deeply with The North Star themes of "navigating one's true potential" - Maribeth founded, created and runs the acclaimed Can Do! website (http://www.ucando.org), an inspiring and innovative resource for children and educators around the world. Maribeth also launched the North Star Can Do! Workshops to bring the North Star message directly to students - a program that has received tremendous response from students and educators alike. A true FableVisionary, Maribeth is helping make sure The North Star shines in EVERY corner, for EVERY child.
So make a cup of tea, sit back, and get ready to be inspired as Maribeth not only tells you about her North Star Happenings, but also shares the story of her incredible North Star journey!
I sat down, ready to write about my workshops and website for you, and suddenly decided to start by telling you about the biggest North Star Happening I've ever been part of - my life. Borrowing from The North Star itself for headings (it seemed to fit so well!), here is the story of my North Star journey!
One day she had the urge to stand... to walk
It started about thirty-four years ago when I was an infant. With a respiratory disability and other severe health problems as a baby and throughout my childhood, doing things "like everyone else" and "being" like everyone else wasn't an option for me. But as I grew up, instead of focusing on what I couldn't do, I learned to focus on what I could do... despite my challenges. I realized that I could do and accomplish a lot more if I did things my OWN way!
Some parts of the journey were very difficult
Like many kids, especially teens, I certainly wanted to be included... and I wanted to "fit in", yet I learned that I simply couldn't do everything the "same" way everyone else could - and instead of fighting that and being angry about it, I took the other path - MY path. I became excited about doing things in a different way. It fueled my ability to think creatively - outside the box. When two choices were offered, I was able to see two more that weren't, that were perhaps better for "me". This simple philosophy helped me see there are many possibilities in the world, many options, and many dreams.
She followed the signs she already knew
About ten years ago I began to deeply reflect on how happy I am, and how much I love my life, despite all the challenges I've faced since childhood. This is when I realized that the reason I'm so happy, and love my life so much, despite my challenges, is because I've always, since childhood, focused on my abilities, my own way of accomplishing goals, and my own way of living my life. Realizing this excited me and energized me... and it made me eager to share it with kids. I wanted to help kids realize and celebrate their own abilities... and I wanted to help them discover their own best ways of living life so that they could reach their goals, dreams, and true potential, despite any challenges they might face!
As my North Star should have it, I was presented with the opportunity to create, in my own vision, a disability awareness program for Maine Easter Seals, which I implemented in elementary classrooms. However, while presenting these workshops I noticed far too many kids who felt they "weren't good enough" simply because they couldn't do something exactly the same as a peer... or they couldn't do something as "good as" someone else. Their sense of self-worth seemed to be based on what they COULDN'T do, rather than what they could... and they tended to see only one "right" way of accomplishing a task, or reaching a goal. I realized I needed to shift my work to one that is fully "ability-focused"... creating a program that truly encompasses ALL kids, ALL challenges, and ALL abilities - even if disability awareness is a component of the program. I wanted to help ALL kids discover and appreciate their own best way of living life, and all the many things they CAN do.
She could hear the star... the voice sounded so familiar
And then one magical summer, in 1996, something wonderful happened - I met Peter Reynolds. He shared The North Star with me - and like many when they read the story for the first time, I was moved to tears. It touched me very deeply - it felt like an affirmation of my life. It was as if someone were nodding at me and saying that not only is the life I've led okay, but it's wonderful. I knew right away that The North Star was perfect for the work I had been doing, and the vision of where I wanted my work to be going. It complemented my mission perfectly, and it was a story and message that I knew would have a profoundly positive impact on children and educators alike... and so far, I've been right!
She looked up and noticed the star had become even brighter
With Peter's glowing support, in 1997 I began to weave The North Star messages and themes into my Can Do! workshops - creating the North Star Can Do! Workshops program. Soon after I created the Can Do! website.
The North Star Can Do! Workshops program is an "ability-focused" initiative geared at inspiring a "can-do" attitude and approach to life in all students... regardless of their challenges. During my classroom workshops, I use discussion, storytelling, brainstorming, creative problem solving, handouts, and activities to create an understanding and appreciation of individual differences and the many abilities we ALL have. Students learn how they can utilize their own abilities to reach their goals, their dreams, and their true potential. The spirit of The North Star book is woven throughout the workshops, but I also use The North Star story itself as a catalyst for workshop discussions and hands-on activities about individual strengths, capabilities, dreams, and ways of living life.
My program also offers educators, parents, and students the opportunity to continue "Can Do!" thinking and learning in the classroom or at home throughout the year through the Can Do! website - a fun, interactive, "ability-focused" web site, also dedicated to inspiring a "can do" attitude and approach to life in all people, especially kids. In the same fashion as the workshops, the web site also embraces The North Star's messages and themes... helping people discover, appreciate, and celebrate their individual abilities and strengths... despite the difficult life challenges we may face (and we ALL face challenges!)... whether those challenges are created by a disability, or some other obstacle.
And now I am an elementary school counselor too... another exciting goal I've reached on my journey... and I will, of course, weave The North Star's spirit and messages throughout my guidance program... and I will model North Star thinking and "being" for my students. After all, the best way to help foster North Star thinking and a North Star perspective in students is to model it ourselves... and believe!
Visit Maribeth's Can Do! website if you'd like to learn more about her workshops, orif you'd like to particpate in Can Do! online!