Monday, March 1, 2010

Every Child Can Learn and other Ramblings

I work in the special education department for a school district.  My job is to assess children to determine whether or not they meet eligibility for special education services, and if they do not, the information I gather can be used to determine individual interventions for that child that will help them become successful learners.

Every child can learn.  Let's just get that out in the open.  Repeat it with me:  EVERY child CAN learn.  When a child is not learning, the very first thing to do is figure out why.  That is part of what I do, but I'm at the end of the intervention continuum.  The teacher and the parents are at the beginning.  The parents are the experts on their child, if they want to be.  Unfortunately, I find that quite a few parents just want their child "fixed" or they want to blame someone for their child not being perfect or they want to use their child as a means to an end.  I'll be honest with you--I generally find myself wanting to lean over and slap those parents upside the head. 

Children are not to be fixed.  Children were not made to be someone else's version of perfection.  Children were not made to be soapboxes for anyone to stand on.  Children were made to be exactly who and what they are and they are perfect that way.  Adults need to work with the spark that makes each child special. 

And before anyone thinks that I'm advocating just letting kids run wild, I'm not.  We all need rules, boundaries and limitations, just like Cesar Millan says on his show.  Children thrive within boundaries, and they falter when there are no limitations.  School is one of the best places for kids to try and figure out these things, these rules for life.  And they all can learn.  

Good teachers figure out what each student needs to succeed and they figure out a way to give it to them. I've seen it in many classrooms.   If a student does better with pictures, they get pictures.  Hands on activities are the best way to reach other kids.  If you plan it right, then some lessons can be taught using pictures, lecture, and hands on activities.  The main thing that gets kids interested in learning is the teacher's interest in learning.  Kids take their cue from the adults--if the adult is excited about what they are teaching, then the kids will be excited about it.   I would never be a great math teacher--because I don't like math and there's no way I could muster up any sort of enthusiasm about it. ( I joke that math is a necessary evil.)  But I could go on and on for hours about history topics, and I know that I could find lots of ways to get my students interested in the subject right along with me, and I'm not even a teacher.  But I think that every adult has something positive to pass on to the next generation, and that something is whatever they are passionate about.  I just wish that teachers were paid more, so that the good teachers who had to leave the profession in order to feed their families, would be able to come back to the field. 

Think about it.  The people who taught the doctors the basics--how to read those medical books, how much medication to administer, etc.--those people get paid horribly.  Why is that?

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