There is never one thing that defines a challenging student, never one cause, never one life event, never one disability. If it were one thing, the solutions would be simple. One of my own teachers confronted me with this important and demanding advice: “Keep the complexity as long as you can.”
Posts by Jeffrey Benson:
The ASCD annual conference took place in Los Angeles from March 14-17, 2014. It was consistently thrilling to be among a diverse group of 12,000 educators. Everyone had stories to tell, aspirations to share, and good work to do. You just had to sit down next to anyone and say, “Where are you from? What do you do?” and an hour later you had another colleague.
This is an exhortation, a plea, a pat on the back and a push up the hill. It is meant to inspire and unsettle, and to help you find your passion and determination. It comes as a request and a challenge: Don’t plan to go into class and tell your students, “This is the boring part.”
All too often, math teachers sit in silent complicity when it is said that math is exact and linear—humanities are not. Math is about answers that are right and wrong—humanities are not. If math teachers don’t interrupt the status quo, who will? Consider sharing this narrative from an alternate universe:
Picture a school system with hundreds of teachers. Some of the teachers have been with the system long enough to be eligible for a special benefit: job security (tenure), upon completing 24-60 months of high quality work.
I wake up at nights, thinking about the General. I light a candle by my bed and watch the shadows grow thick and fuzzy. The wind rattles my window. I pull myself into a fetal position. My thoughts run like squirrels around a tree. Somehow I might have been able to do more with the General, as much as anyone citizen. I remember to breathe deeply, and to let my thoughts stream through the night.
My friend is a family therapist. She is intrigued by the ways all the people in a big family work together, given the innumerable conflicts in such a group. She encourages as many family members as possible to come to sessions, so she can see them in action. The more family members in the room, the more likely that they will behave in their typical fashions.
Atheists don’t have faith in a higher power that they cannot see. This lack of faith marks them as historical relics from three hundred years ago, when handfuls of Europeans began to want proof, proof of everything from how the planets move to how snails find mates.
Women are often pulling for us to say what we feel. When you were a little boy, you had just a few words to say how you felt: mad, glad, sad. But now you probably feel mixtures of feelings–you can be both excited and nervous at the same time, or determined and caring. When the women in your life share their many feelings, you can match them. Better yet: you can share your feelings first.
I am old enough to have been there at the beginning of special education, and fortunately, I completely missed the euphemism of “special.” I knew schools were filled with students who were disengaged, abused, overwhelmed, scared, with quirky learning difficulties that would not go away simply by avoiding the required reading and writing and math curricula.