Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!~ Abraham Lincoln 1863
The word “success” has become so relative that even experts have agreed to disagree in some areas, specially in settings where special needs come to play.
Students with learning difficulties have always presented a taxing challenge to educators like me. To an extent, success in my profession can be gauged based on the success rates of my students. The word “success,” however, has become so broad that it can’t be defined by an all-inclusive academic parameter.
It’s the examination season in school again. That time of the year when we’re suppose to give tests that are suppose to “measure” the aptitude of our students. I have had conversations with my colleagues on how exactly do we determine “success” amongst our students with Special Needs? The answers weren’t instant, but deep inside I knew that even the most seemingly trivial improvement in my students’ skills, is already a dose of success.
Lincoln’s notable phrase “unbroken success“ speaks of our inordinate fascination of earthly things. In the academic arena, unbroken success has been the epitome of straight A’s, and high grades. Teachers have always been encouraged had to excel in their craft by innovative teaching styles, altered classroom environments, and even discovering new teaching tools that are meant to raise the cognitive abilities of their students. These, however, still often result in low grades – low grades that get equated with “unsuccessful” students, and in some cases, even “unsuccessful” teachers.
As teachers, we should not quantify our worth, or our student’s worth for that matter, against “unbroken success.” Our strengths lie in the face of instilling hope, and initiating change. The way we channel optimism in seemingly hopeless parents is a feat on its own. Teaching the value of independence and acceptance to both the parents and their child should slowly become an imperative. This simple paradigm will surely change the landscape of special education for both gifted children, and those who have learning difficulties.
Honing the Craft
Children with special education needs do not belong to a specific demographic. They differ in age, race, cultural norms, family backgrounds, and socio-economic status. This is why teachers strive to come up with techniques that will work best for most students, while simultaneously addressing their individual needs.
Training students to have realistic and positive expectations of themselves is paramount. As teachers, we help them accumulate small tokens of achievements that will enable them to be well-rounded, ethical, and dignified individuals. When they feel appreciated and understood, they develop good foundations of self-esteem and mutual respect. As teachers, acknowledging both minor and major accomplishments, will initiate a feeling of self-worth.
When we are able to look beyond the straight A’s and the high grades on academic report cards, that’s when we can finally say that we have redefined the meaning of “successful learning.” After all, as educators, we owe it to our society to draw the very thin line between “schooling” and “education”.
This is when we can claim our own success story.