I don’t consider to myself as an artistic person, I leave that up to my children, and any creativity I do possess, is certainly buried under my lists of things to get done and facts to collect. But, lately I have realized how much art has crept into my work, as I engage in the practice of taking the whole and whittle it away to its most important parts. Not one that works with wood and a knife (for that would not turn out well) but a whittler nonetheless.
Taking our current educational system and discovering how to break that down into a set of skills and concepts that supports our students who struggle to learn is just that- it is whittling. We take the whole wood block and we cut, and scrape and we look at what is working and what is not, and then cut and scrape some more, often changing the angle, and always being guided by what is uniquely intrinsic to the child, until we have a creation that is unique.
No attempt comes out the same and the one before or after, even if we use identical blocks, and knives, and that is OK because they all turn out as they were intended, even the ones that look completely different than we imagined.
Whittling challenges us to take the whole and take away the parts that are unneeded in order to release the core, central idea. This is exactly what the process of providing supportive bridges to students to struggle to learn does. The taking of the whole and scraping down to the specific need and then figuring out how to make that visible to others is an ongoing need in supporting all kids. Recognizing that their end product will look different than any other, but that it will be uniquely theirs and innately beautiful is the reward at the end of the challenge. So pick up your wood block and your knife and get started. I can’t wait to see what you create.
In our society, and certainly within the realm of Special Education circles, we have a rush to label things. Labels can be good. They can help us recognize things, know about what to expect, maybe, and help us to plan. They are intended to clarify, to develop understanding, to support, can even help us to identify trends and patterns and develop new understandings.
But what happens when they don’t? What happens when the labels that we count on for clarification actually become a deterrent or a limitation? What happens when labels are used to prevent access, opportunity, and even determine the places where people have a right to be?
This is not a new idea. We can all cite plenty of times in the history of our society that this has occurred. And the sad truth is that it is likely that the future will be full of more such instances. But for now, one of the places we find this living large is in the Special Education experience, where even something as simple as a support has be qualified as an accommodation or a modification.
Now, I am not denying that a support, or perhaps many supports might be needed, or even that in their design, delivery, and intent needs to be clarified but that, in reality, is best determined through discussion and not through a labelling. The affixation of a label, in this case, makes a determination about what the need for this type of support means and makes a pre-determination about what might be possible, and no single word or category should ever do that.
So instead of taking precious time to define what a support means, let’s skip to agreeing what is needed, how it is going to be provided, and then have confidence that when provided correctly, they will lead to a path of possibility that could not have been found without it having been in place. If we could get to that place, for all kids, then I could label that as a successful step forward.
Kristin Enriquez has dedicated her life's work to children with learning challenges and helping people work together to realize each student's potential. She is the proud mother of 4 children, one of which has Down syndrome. She is not an experienced blogger, or a professional website creator, but she does "tell it like it is," is a collector of facts, and loves sharing the amazing experiences and knowledge that have found her along the way,