In the early 1970’s I had the wonderful opportunity of working with two students with special needs whose mother’s were relentless in insisting on a law in Wisconsin that would mandate a quality education for their children as well as others. Elaine Keller and Lila Kelly inspired me to look closely at the needs of their children as well as all students whether they were defined as gifted, with learning problems or were simply involved in the general education program. I always had a curiosity as to why we labeled children rather than simply focusing on their needs. Why do we brand children for failure when we know they are all different in one way or another?
Fast forward to 1985 and I was still learning, not only from parents, but from the children that need us the most. After 15 years of teaching I became the administrator of an alternative school serving the most emotionally problematic kids in the city. From them I learned several hard lessons. One was that every child wanted to learn. They didn’t necessarily want to go to school, but they wanted to be able to read and write and had a tremendous curiosity. I had previously worked with a wide range of disabilities including cognitively disabled children, autistic, physically disabled and others and from them learned that children in general learn in different ways, sometimes at different rates but they always wanted to learn. What was important was that the information learned be valuable to them and their future. I learned that it was necessary to put a strong focus on what was important including the skills necessary to continue lifelong learning on their own. Read the rest of this entry →