As a life coach, I work with all sorts of people in their teens and 20s. I learn from all of them. One of my most powerful learning lessons came from a 13-year-old client with Autism, who allowed me to see the dangers of people in power trying to "do the right thing." I am pleased to share with you now the inner workings of one the most interesting minds I have ever met.
As much as I am passionate about what I teach, I am more passionate about the people I teach. I am more interested that they are content and happy -- that they are not under undue duress or strain; what is the point of spouting out facts and figures, as important as they might be, if the students' heart is not in it? If their belly is empty?
I found your letter and it does not fall on deaf ears. In fact, it falls on desperate ears. I need you to tell me that I can explain an assignment in three different, well-organized mediums that address all types of learners and that it's okay that there will still be a student who raises his hand and asks, "So what are we supposed to do?"
After moving when I was 16, I was enrolled in a brand new school, close to our new home. My new teacher, Mr. T, was unforgettable. What I remember now as a teacher myself was his smile. His laughter. And I remember that he saw me. There are times in our service as teachers when we set aside the habitual act of doing for the sacred work of being.
Many years later, now ensconced in the Internet software world, I have learned just how skilled young students are in the ways of mosaic plagiarism. I believe in the rule of law and the science of intellectual property law. Yet encouraging creativity in young minds should be paramount for any teacher.
Having been held hostage by the whims of the cutest sort of five-year-old juvenile delinquents and lived to tell the tale, I have given some thought to the unlimited number of things I was not taught in teacher training, so as to prepare me for these uncertain days in which I find myself now: as a real teacher.
A few years ago, I was dealing with some mysterious health issues. I was having trouble with my stomach. Having trouble with my skin. My respiratory system. My mental health. I was having trouble, and thus feeling in general like I was ten years older than I actually was. My stress levels were through the roof, and I was also having anxiety attacks. Then four words from a doctor changed my life: "Start where you are."
I have come to realize that my initial understandings about inclusive education and what it entails were wrong in that they were off-course as to the desired intent of inclusionary teaching. My initial belief was that inclusive education was okay, so long as it was equal. I now realize that inclusion doesn't need to mean pure equality.
To teach is to forever be a part of something bigger. Is to forever be a piece of that sacred puzzle which creates something profound from that which is very small. That is the beauty of the life of a child. To teach is to touch lives. To listen. To lift. To motivate. To compel. To inspire. To encourage. To enrich. And above all, to teach is to use one's life to make a difference.
Since all the blogging world is in a tailspin over Miley Cyrus and her antics on MTV's VMAs, it might be a great time to shift the focus away from Miley and the like. What kids need are adults who are invested in helping them grow their character along with their brain. Am I saying that Miley's family failed her? Not really. But I know this to be true: teachers can reach students and inspire them in ways that celebrity cannot.
Recently, I have learned about two teachers who, in different circumstances, have been restricted from teaching material they would like to teach. We ask teachers to be creative, informative, and to engage their students in thinking critically about the world around them. What message do we send when we limit what they teach? Where should we draw the line?
Our school lost a shining light this week. A little boy -- six years old. He, the lover of hockey, fishing and fun, was taken suddenly, leaving our school community grappling with life and death issues. In my classroom, I turned to the one sure thing I knew could shed some light, love and laughter on an otherwise dark cloud that hovered low. Your books.