Between my family and my job I am constantly challenged with new opportunities that require me to “think outside the box.” As a special educator, its my job to explore different avenues that will allow my students to access the content they are being taught. As a parent, wife and friend-as-well-as-foe-proclaimed diva, I definitely have to make conscientious attempts at thinking about others and remaining aware that everything doesn’t always go my way.
In the education world we are always using the term“think outside the box.” I probably hear it used weekly, especially at those super-dee-duper department or faculty meetings all of your teacher friends rave about. As educators, we are always challenging ourselves to think beyond our norm to find ways to make the curriculum more accessible for our students with special needs, but isn’t it ironic (don’t ya think?) that the majority of these students already think outside that tiny, claustrophobic box? The reality is that we invest all this time trying to wrap our “normie” brains around ways to get these kids to fall in line and think the way we do, instead of just following their lead and finding ways to fit our educational content into the individual’s life the way it makes sense for him or her.
I bet you parents out there are thinking “Wait, wait, wait one minute… This isn’t just a teacher-student thing. Parents squash the dreams of their children too!”
Well, I’m right there with ya, sister (or brother). Let’s all take a moment to try to find a number for how many times we felt like our parents were killing our souls…
And now let’s think of how many times we’ve thought “I’ll NEVER do that to MY kids.”
Aaaaaaannnnnnd how’s that working out for all of us now? Yea.
For realsies, though? I’m just as much the culprit of “fall in line” thinking as anyone. I catch myself doing it with my students, my son… my husband. Isn’t it so much easier if everyone just does everything the way YOU do? Life would be so much more predictable… and boring.
For those of you who don’t know, teachers have their new year’s resolutions in August (new school year, get it?). This year my resolution was to allow more freedom to learn in my classroom, as well as at home with my son and, begrudgingly, my husband.
So, following this resolution, at school I have begun to allow my students more choice-making opportunities amidst a variety of occupational, academic and sensory experiences that empower them to make connections between their academic content and the real world – knowledge that they will need once the graduate from high school. So, everything we do in class is reflected upon in individual portfolios with samples of their work included. The work samples and reflections (and a little guidance from my one and only self) help the students decide if they have reached their course objectives or not.
At home, I have begun making a concerted effort to stop being one of those “helicopter parents” and let my son get a little dirty from time to time. I also got a lot of inspiration and advice from this neat-o blogger when it came to giving my little one creative license during activities. Probably the hardest part for me is not automatically assuming that he has mischief in mind. I always catch myself hearing a suspicious noise and immediately running into whatever room he is in already charged up for a showdown. While I know to take his track record into consideration (which, unfortunately, is not great) I also have to learn to stop taking all accounts of disruption so seriously.
So he dumped our HUGE change jar all over the bedroom floor… I will not cry over spilled change. Instead, we will practice our counting while we clean up.
So my dear sweet little pile-of-pumpkin has COMPLETELY disassembled his toddler bed… It’s time to make a fort!
As for my husband, I have to give him the freedom to try things and learn from them himself without being corrected. We all do this in one way or another, right? This is how it goes down in my house:
Me: “Hey Honey? The next time you load the dishwasher, make sure you (insert inane detail here).”
Esposo: “I don’t know how to load the dishwasher. You will do it FOREVER.” Dun, dun, DUN!!!
I HAVE to stop doing this. If there is any sure-fire way to get someone to stop attempting ANYTHING, it’s to correct them on minor details. Guess who the only person in the house who loads the dishwasher is now? Yeppers! Moi. And only because of my silly inability to let the little things slide.
So, in closing of my first-ever blog post, for which the only greater accomplishment will be if I get a second one posted, “thinking outside the box” can be as simple as following instead of leading. What’s that old saying? “The best leaders are great followers” or something like that? Sometimes if we just give others a little freedom, they can lead us to the most unexpected places: places of true accomplishment, true creativity and true housework.