I have nine minutes.
But I really, really want to tell you something.
So I’m going to give it my best shot.
In nine minutes.
Make that eight and half.
OK, here goes …
The deficit model of education sucks.
The idea of focusing on what we – or our kiddos – can’t do.
Because there’s so very much that they CAN do.
And so often what they CAN do gets overshadowed, particularly in the classroom, by what they CAN’T do.
And we spend so much time trying to bolster their weaknesses, help them overcome their challenges, bring them up to speed in the areas in which they tend to fall behind, that we have none left to foster their talents, support exploration in their areas of interests, feed and water whatever it is in them that, with just a little sunlight and love and encouragement, might just blossom into something incredible.
Temple Grandin said it in this fabulous article on educating kids with autism a little while ago -
In my case, I was really good at art, but doing algebra made no sense. It is important to work on areas where a child is weak, but an emphasis on deficits should not get to the point where building the area of strength gets neglected.
Kids with autism often get fixated on one thing, and it is important to expand their fixations.
I heard about sad cases where a teacher forbids an elementary school child to draw pictures. If a teacher had stifled my art ability, I would have never become a designer of livestock equipment. Half the cattle in North America are handled in equipment I have designed for the meat plants. I think that this is a real accomplishment for a child that some people thought was mentally retarded.
Damn it, I have two more minutes.
OK, I’ll cut to the chase.
This time of year we spend a lot of time talking about our kids’ challenges. Team meetings, listening conferences, IEP reviews - they’re chock-full of discussion of what our kid’s can’t do. Where they struggle. Where they are behind their peers.
There needs to be more talk in those meetings about what they CAN do.
About what they are amazing at. Or what matters to them. Or what they seem to enjoy. Or what they could be amazing at someday with some help.
My kid struggles in math. And reading. And a whole lot of other stuff.
She taught herself Spanish.
By watching her Nick Jr shows on Univision on Demand, she taught herself Spanish.
Dora, Blue – they’re never in English anymore.
Like seriously, the kid is speaking Spanish.
She walked out of her flip-flop the other day and shouted, “Esperate! Mi zapato!”
You know what we talked about in her parent-teacher meeting yesterday?
French, Spanish, American Sign.
Her teacher speaks Greek. We asked if she’d teach her some.
She taught herself Spanish, people.
The kid who struggled so desperately to communicate – who had NO novel language for YEARS taught herself Spanish.
KInda ironic, ain’t it?
Yesterday, Landon Bryce reposted a really thought-provoking post entitled, Would the World Be a Better Place If Everyone were Like You? The post is worth reading for a lot of reasons, but the one that happened to strike me the most yesterday was this:
But once we have a complex society, we also have different roles that we need people to play. We need people to be policemen. We need people to be kindergarten teachers. A good kindergarten teacher does not need to be able to be a cop in order to have value.
Yes, there are things our kids can’t do. Lots of them. There are also things that we can’t do. Lots of those too. But if we spend all of our time talking about what they can’t do, what happens to their self-esteem? Their sense of self-worth? And not for nuthin’, but what happens to what they *could* do?
Oh dear God, I forgot about the time.
Two minutes just became twelve and I seriously have to go. So much for washing my hair. I know. Ick.
I’ll leave you with the words of the immortal Albert Einstein.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Baseball caps are in, right?