Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sink or Swim

I drive about an hour everyday to and from my school.  It gives me a lot of time to prepare for the day and reflect on it on the way home.  I had a meeting recently about a student and on the way to school that day, I was thinking of what I needed to share and I thought about my ultimate goal for the child -- independence.

One thing I always find in these meetings is that everyone involved wants what's best for the child, but may differ in what we feel is best.

I also got to thinking about how sometimes children are puzzles.  They cannot always tell us what they need, but their actions usually will give us some clues.  For some, it's that their distract-able and that impacts their learning (or lack there of).  Others, it shows that they might have cognitive impairments that get in the way. Sometimes, they spend so much time processing things, that they get overwhelmed and melt down. Occasionally, they just refuse to even start for fear of being wrong.

As teachers, it is our job to determine student needs and help meet those needs within the confines of the system we are in.  Most of the time, this is relatively easy.  Other times, especially in the area of cognitive deficits, we are tasked with a daunting task. The data suggests one way, parents another, and teacher instinct another.  How do we reconcile this?

I liken it to when I used to work in a summer daycare.  We would take the kids to the local high school for swim lessons on a weekly basis.  I did not care for this day, because inevitably one of the kids would freak out and nearly drown me.  I love water, but I have nightmares of drowning.  I have a feeling it has something to do with my brother dunking me under whenever he got the chance when we were younger.  But I digress . . . At the end of the summer, the treat for the kids that excelled at their lessons was to allow the off the diving boards.  We were tasked with "catching" them or at least making sure they came back up.  One particular time, a kid jumped off the diving board, freaked out and clung to me for dear life.  In the process, he pushed me underwater and it was difficult for me to get him back to the side of the pool without injuring myself.  I succeeded, but it took some extra effort.

Some children take that extra effort in school.  They are afraid if they are expected to be independent that they will fail (or drown).  So instead of working on their lessons by themselves, they expect us to "save" them.  It's sometimes hard to determine if they need us to catch them or to do the work with/for them.  Do we chance it and pull farther back or do we allow them to be dependent a little more than we would normally and maybe they'll "float".

Our ultimate goal as teachers is to "raise" independent young adults who can think and do for themselves.  But what about the ones that still need us to rescue them?  What service are we giving them?  Are they eventually going to be come independent?  Where do we draw the line?

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