We managed the inclusive and supportive education programme at the school. There were many miracles that we saw at school over the years. By miracle I don’t mean that there was a divine or supernatural component, I am open to that kind of experience but other than being open I have no way of knowing about that kind of “miracle”.
Rather by miracle I mean that the thing that occurred ran contrary to the firm expected conviction of what was and what wasn’t thought to be possible. It is thus a worthwhile idea as a teacher and parent to believe in and work towards miracles; being open to that which might not be expected.
So how could a child in grade 9 on an individualised programme IEP, who had never been able apparently to navigate the demands of the regular curriculum, suddenly pass a regular test that all the other children had done?
The answer was that there were two miracles. Firstly he was blessed to have a teacher who knew about miracles. Jane was not cajoled by the comfortable lure of firm expected convictions, but rather saw only potential that needed to be nurtured.
The second miracle was the emergence of his self-belief and confidence from the dark recesses of acquiescence to his own and others’ low expectations of himself.
To Accommodate, To Modify, and To Know the Difference: Determining Placement of a Child in Special Education or “504”
Our philosophy as a department when we gave educational support to kids was that we were working towards increasing confidence and thereby increasing competence, in that order conceptually, but simultaneously in practice.
Our expectations were very high, and took no account of the child’s abilities, that is to say, whatever the child’s abilities (actual level of development) were our expectations for application, hard work and success were high, we worked towards generating capability (potential level of development). That does not mean that we pushed all children to attain regular externally assessed exit milestones; that again misses the point of inclusive and developmental education and reverts back to the winners and losers hegemony. To understand this we must review the conventional wisdom around the definitions of ability and of success that does not patronise, appease or simplify people’s lives and being.
Breaking the link between special educational needs and low attainment
Special Education Students Benefit from High Expectations
The child’s confidence emerged because we identified the child’s liquorice allsorts their particular being, applied technical interventions to increase or compensate for skills and supported the children, who in most cases were open and receptive primarily because the relationships between the adults and the children were real, authentic, and more symmetrical and allowed each party to be themselves safely.
Sincerity and Authenticity in Teaching
In such a space (farginen and temenos) fear and resistance slowly recedes and are replaced by a willingness to believe that certain things begin to feel possible, feel safe, because indeed they are.
The body relaxes, feelings of trust and safety trickle back in, the harsh voices move to the back of the stage; they never leave the building, we either let them be on our stage or we find ways to disavow them and then the suffering starts. The mind opens, becomes immersed in the challenge, discipline and joy of learning and begins to push towards unexplored horizons. Confidence emerges and then so does competence!
Then there was the young man who struggled terribly with regular classroom demands. After assessment he was placed on an individualised programme with exit targets that were commensurate with his abilities. As part of our policy we paid a great deal of attention to the whole child, looking to see what the child could become (Buber).
This requires that we look for and see more than the usual stuff about a pupil, interrogate the child and those who know the child, who love the child without envy….who is this person…what do they love…what actions bring them joy…what about him are we not seeing manifest in the school context…what might we see about him in another context dissimilar to this one?
We worked hard to answer these questions by seeking and gathering information about this young man who could not read to age.
Once we had a clearer picture of his gifts we offered him a placement in a mechanical workshop belonging to a parent in the community. Partnerships of this kind to support our kids were essential to the success of our interventions as we had to offer something that the school in its narrow way did not have on the menu.
The placement was designed to broaden his experience and create possibilities for his actual potential capabilities to emerge with achievement and success; something his experience had been sorely lacking to this point.
At the mechanical workshop which he attended a few times during the school week he built a go-kart, a magnificent go-kart; we brought it to the school to show off.
The other kids were enthralled; rightly so, by this child’s miracle creation, a child who couldn’t read to his age had exceptional abilities that became evident in another context. We made the effort to find that, something all schools should do with all the kids in their care.
Wooden Go-Kart Plans: How to build a wooden go kart
The Complete Kart building Website
One of the other foundations upon which our supportive education interventions rested may be summed up in the following words; educate each according to his way, (Proverbs 22:6) according to his or her human variety (liquorice allsorts). What does this mean?
In trying to make sense of these words we note that there is an etymological complication in that educate each according to his way has been translated and interpreted in various ways; amongst others:
- Start children off on the way they should go
- Train up a child in the way he should go
- Direct your children onto the right path
- Give instruction to a youth about his way
- The path especially belonging to, especially fitted for, the individual’s character
- Teachest a childe what waye he shoulde go
- Instructing them (in the principles of religion, teaching them their duty to God and man, and setting them good examples of a holy life and conversation; and this is to be done) according to their capacity
- Bring him up virtuously and he will continue so
Some thoughts on Proverbs 22:6
These interpretations are not all the same in concept and execution. I am not an expert in hermeneutics and exegesis so I concede that I am going to choose (rightly or wrongly) the interpretation of educate each according to his way I believe is right and valuable in respect of my beliefs.
Summarised as follows
- From a young age education (and parenting) needs to focus on the child’s nature, temperament, talents, abilities, predilections and propensities to help identify and actualise their particular potential and help them feel valuable in the world.
- The child needs to be studied (understood) to know what this unique nature and those abilities and propensities actually are.
- If we educate all kids in one way or in ways that are not appropriate to the child’s nature there is a risk of the child not finding his path or of something much worse.
- When you force him against his nature (with the best intentions) he will obey you out of fear but there exists the possibility over time that he will either rebel and lose belonging or will succumb and be alienated from himself.
Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe states; “it is obvious that a banana plant requires different care compared to an apple tree. If we grow a banana plant and an apple tree and we give them identical care, at least one of them will not grow well, and maybe neither one will bear fruit. The same is true for raising and educating children; it is impossible to raise all children with the same educational method. It is necessary to recognize the personal characteristics of the child and to consider them, and based on this to educate him”.
MUST SEE: See a discussion about the effect of raising two particular children the same way. http://www.kby.org/english/torat-yavneh/view.asp?id=3597
Why expend all this effort? What are the benefits of doing this? What possible outcomes are there?
Notwithstanding other variables
- The child experiences that its nature, abilities and talents are valued and mirrored and thus internalises a more secure and resilient sense of self-worth.
- The child lives his life where his inner being is congruent with his outer actions decisions and paths because he knows who he is and what enlivens and inspires him and what fuels his heart, not only allowing this to happen but demanding that it happen in his life.
- Consequently the child (psyche) has less need to defend (expend energy) itself from internal and/or external attack and conflict, naturally affiliates to others, finds and accepts belonging, experiences social support, and lives willingly as part of a shared community.
- The child become adult then parent knows and stays on his path, needing to live vicariously through his children less or not at all.
- The child now parent perhaps repeats the cycle for the next generation
- A healthier community of people who know and love themselves and value each other is built.
Our fundamental belief and guiding principle is that people live their best lives when they express and live their nature and potential (whatever that may be) in the world.
Thus the greatest act we can perform in the physical world is to teach another human being how to discover their true potential and to do this in a way that adheres to the principle of each according to their way.
It is how we help people connect with their potential that is so important to us.
Truly supportive psychological facilitation, parenting and education starts with the desire to see and love the person/child as they are for who they are by facilitating a process where the person may experience their core values and natural being more free of hindrances from within and without.