Blues singer Otis Spann once sang,
I tried to tell the city boy what to do,
But it looked like to me he just couldn’t learn.
‘…he just couldn’t learn.’ You might get away with saying that when singing the blues, but for teachers, we can never say a child can’t learn. It’s considered giving up or politically incorrect (i.e. career suicide). Just listen to politicians and highly paid administrators (most of whom have not spent much time in the classroom). They’ll say with great confidence, “Every child can learn.” What they don’t say (or won’t admit) is that although every child can learn, they might not learn what you want them to learn or they might not learn it as quickly as you want them to learn it (see what I wrote about Common Core). To give you a taste of what I’m talking about, let me introduce you to Bennie.
Bennie was one of my darlings from the Special Ed. class I taught.
You may remember from an earlier post that I had taken a job as a long term substitute teacher for a Special Ed. class which was labeled ‘severely disabled’ (severe autism, Tourette’s syndrome, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and more). These kids faced intense learning challenges. I was teaching these adolescents things like: how to use a stove without burning themselves, how to use a public restroom safely, or how to count – very basic life skills.