Sunflowers and Butterflies

by Toby J. Karten

sunflowers on wallAs I painted the sunflowers on the cedar planked walls of our A-framed Vermont cabin, I smiled at the field that emerged. Broad and fine brushstrokes gave birth to each root, stem, leaf, and flower. Together they grew as I dug into the walls and feverishly painted. Some sunflowers overlapped and intertwined, some stood apart, some were taller, some were smaller, some had deeper hues and shades of ochre, cadmium yellow, and brown. Each sunflower, although different than the next, stood tall, immersed in a field of green.

As advocates, professionals use fine and broad brushstrokes to propagate seeds that reach and teach learners to grow in the “field” called life. Each student is an individual learner in a collective classroom.

My website, Inclusion Workshops offers sunflowers, along with inclusion principles, strategies, and tools that assist professionals, students, and their families to know and grow. For inclusion to be appropriately implemented, it requires: a. structure; b. awareness; c. compassion; d. collaboration, and; e. reflection. These 18 inclusion principles are applicable for all inclusion partners. As a consummate learner, you are invited to click on any of the 18 hyperlinks to find out more on how to propagate your “sunflowers.”

And last, but not least, honor butterflies. They grow in stages and pollinate “other sunflowers.” Just remember, that like sunflowers and butterflies, school professionals, families, and students evolve as we embrace the sunshine together.


Toby KartenToby Karten is an award-winning special educator, dynamic presenter, and author who is passionate in sharing her knowledge with others. She has taught students ranging from preschool to graduate level across the least restrictive continuum. Toby works with school districts across the country and internationally as a staff developer, inclusion coach and educational consultant, author and adjunct professor. Toby focuses on creative, practical solutions for helping ALL students gain not only access, but also ongoing successes in inclusion classrooms.

She has collaborated with administrators, staff, students, and their families at local, national, and international school sites. Toby has authored and edited more than 30 books and quick reference guides. Toby’s ongoing professional goal is to help learners achieve successful inclusion experiences in school and life. 

Toby will be presenting a break-out session on Inclusive Schools at the 2022 Summer Convening: The Power of Human Connection on June 21, 2022. For more information on the convening, visit the website.