Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sewing Hope

Today I'm sharing a video with you that is just under six minutes long. I figure that's probably all the time you set aside for reading the blog, so just click on it before you read what comes below. And please don't stop watching after a couple minutes because you think you "get it," because you won't yet. This isn't just a great story, but it's well told and you need to see it to the end.

This is what genius looks like: he taught himself to master this skill, driven by a desire to help sick children be happier. He has clearly inspired everyone around him. I love the interview bits in which he makes his pure, simple, inarguably true points, then smiles and nods, creating space for us to do our own thinking. It's all genius.

My friend Candy Lawerence, educator and author of the terrific autism awareness children's book Being Friends With Bodie Finch, shared this video Facebook under the following provocative framing:

I want you to imagine this boy in early childhood . . . How would he have presented? Would we, as teachers, have tried to shape him into a 'normal' boy by encouraging him to be more active, more social, more outgoing? Would we have created an environment where his kindness an artistic interests could shine and not be ridiculed by his peers or other staff or other parents? . . . These children need us to be open-minded. There is no 'normal'. There is this individual, and that individual. We have to respond to the individual, not to what's 'normal'.

Campbell is not normal. Like all children, he is extraordinary. It's our job as teachers to find the extraordinary in each of the children we teach. It's not always possible, however; often their genius is still incubating or manifests in ways that we can't fully comprehend or even causes us to cringe or grind our teeth. As Candy says, our job is not to somehow push or shape or trick them into our preconceived ideas of normal (which is what I think people are telling me each time they insist that I must get kids "ready" for kindergarten), but rather to help them create their own extraordinary place in our community. We may never fully appreciate their genius until years later, but at the very least we must avoid squashing it because the world needs more people like Campbell.

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