Sunday, May 25, 2008

I've been thinking lately of those children who, while brilliant, don't fit well in the current educational system. Many of them are boys, but not all. I'm thinking of boys especially, because this year my class has been all boys, and what has worked well in the past has not worked well this year, although every one of them is truly brilliant. I kid you not. Each has really amazing individual talents, interests, and perception. I feel privileged to have been their teacher, though I haven't always known how to reach them.
As I've been talking with people, some interesting stories and thoughts have been coming up. One friend, Jennifer Easly, who is a child psychologist, feels that many children born now are "Indigo" children, with sensitivities and needs that don't fit in the school system we have. They may be labeled "hyperactive" or "attention deficit", or  "oppositional". She is doing parent education to help parents with the different kind of parenting these children need. While our educational system focuses on where children fail to meet the standards, she encourages parents (and teachers) to focus on children's strengths. This is SO important!
Another friend was part of a group of parents who created an alternative program within the public school on Vashon, which he said lasted about ten years. His youngest daughter was so stubborn, he said that she refused to learn (or perhaps she refused to perform, to let on what she knew). She wasn't reading until 6th grade. In the alternative program and at Charles Wright, she was never made to feel wrong or not good enough, and so she never felt a failure. This daughter, now grown, is handling legal issues on intellectual property rights for a major firm--internationally!
Don't get me wrong. My own three sons were educated in the public schools, and I really appreciate the work their teachers did to bring out the best in them. Still, especially with the current focus on getting children to read earlier, many children do get the sense that they just aren't good enough, and never will be. As do children who have trouble sitting still, or whose minds work faster than the teacher's or the rest of the class.
I would like to invite you to add your comments to this discussion, as I have a strong interest in teaching children who don't fit perceptions of how children should learn what when, and I am interested in learning from you and your experiences.